The Pentagon’s planned revamp of the U.S. nuclear arsenal appears to have sent Russian leaders into a frenzy, with some worried the Obama administration just ratcheted up U.S. nuclear posture.
“It is not only their over-the-top Russophobia, which has unfortunately become of late a norm for public speeches by representatives of the outgoing administration,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry Thursday, as reported by the TASS news agency, a Kremlin-backed outlet. “[We have] serious concern over the mentioned readiness to use their nuclear potentials in case of an armed conflict with participation of Russia with an aim to prevent our country from a possibility to use nuclear weapons to rebuff aggression.”
The foreign ministry’s hyperbolic reaction appears to be the result of a statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter which centered on increased Russian military aggression.
“Across the Atlantic, we’re refreshing NATO’s nuclear playbook — to better integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence, to ensure we plan and train like we’d fight, and to deter Russia from thinking it can benefit from nuclear use in a conflict with NATO,” said Carter during a speech Monday while traveling to North Dakota and New Mexico to announce the update to the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Carter noted that “any attack on America or our allies will be not only defeated, but that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response.” His statement was essentially a rehash of decades-old U.S. nuclear policy, but Russia appears to have interpreted it as a veiled threat.
“Carter’s statement means that if Russia comes under attack from U.S. allies, the Americans will be ready to back it and threaten to use their nuclear weapons against us,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement released Thursday. “We would like to think that Washington understands the meaning of such statements and their possible consequences for international security and stability.”
The ministry said Carter’s claim that Russia is engaging in “nuclear saber-rattling” is a misinterpretation of Russia’s policy of only using nuclear weapons to counter a conventional force which presents an existential threat to the Russian homeland. Despite the stated policy, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made threatening statements to the contrary that suggest he would authorize a nuclear strike against an adversary.
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