Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed a strategy document outlining the country’s nuclear deterrent policy, amid rising tensions with the United States over a nuclear arms control accord.
The document allows Moscow to use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional strike targeting the country’s critical government and military infrastructure, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Tuesday.
The new document appears to send a warning signal to the United States by including a non-nuclear attack as a possible trigger for Russian nuclear retaliation.
It also reflects Moscow’s concerns over the development of prospective US weapons, including space-based ones, labeling the creation and deployment of anti-missile and strike weapons in space as one of the main military threats to Russia.
The document offers detailed descriptions of situations that could trigger the use of nuclear arms, including attacks that “threaten the very existence” of Russia.
The document states that Russia could use its nuclear arsenal if it gets “reliable information” about the launch of ballistic missiles targeting its territory or its allies.
The United States has unilaterally pulled out of one nuclear arms treaty with Russia — the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — and is flirting with the idea of not renewing another.
President Putin has previously warned that yet another arms race would be inevitable if Washington did not renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
The New START accord is the last major nuclear arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington that puts a limit on the development and deployment of strategic nuclear warheads of the two countries. It can be extended for another five years, beyond its expiry date in February 2021, by mutual agreement.
Under the New START, signed in April 2010, the US and Russia agreed to halve the number of their strategic nuclear missiles and restrict the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550.
Russia has also repeatedly voiced concern about the installment of US Patriot missiles and the deployment of American ground troops in the Baltic countries, as well as NATO drills near the country’s borders.
The buildup of conventional forces near Russia’s borders and the deployment of missile defense assets are among the threats identified in the new document.