The Duck of Minerva

The Russians have NUKES! and they’re willing to use them!

21 January 2008

OK, so things are tense between Britain and Russia these days. But this breathless headline from the BBC is really over the top: “Russia warns of nuclear defence“.

The meat of the article is only a little less hysterical:

Russia’s military chief of staff has said Moscow is ready to use force, including pre-emptively and with nuclear weapons, to defend itself.

Under what conditions would Russia use nuclear weapons?

In a speech to a military conference broadcast on state-run cable TV, Gen Baluyevsky said there were potential threats to Russia from international terrorism or countries seeking global or regional hegemony.

“We do not intend to attack anyone, but we consider it necessary for all our partners in the world community to clearly understand … that to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia and its allies, military forces will be used, including preventively, including with the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.

Now, where have I heard this before?

Oh, right:

The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The document, written by the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.

OK, so the Pentagon document doesn’t mention “territorial integrity” (which means that this statement may be a veiled warning to Georgia to cut out the hanky panky in the Caucasus). But, as we all know, the value of a nuclear deterrent rests on one’s willingness to actually use the nukes in the circumstance you want to deter–what’s the point of a Doomsday Device if you keep it a secret?