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Will the U.S. Change Its Nuclear Posture?

March 23, 2022 (EIRNS)—That was the question that was broached by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan at a briefing yesterday previewing President Biden’s trip to NATO headquarters. Ostensibly, this issue was brought up by the warning President Putin gave that Russia’s nuclear forces were being put on alert with the increased military build-up on its borders in Eastern Europe. A reporter asked Sullivan whether, given Putin’s statements, the Administration had “concerns about the use of nuclear weapons, including possibly smaller nuclear weapons?”

Sullivan replied:

“It is something that we do have to be concerned about. Based on our current analysis, we have not changed our nuclear posture to date. But we are constantly monitoring for that potential contingency. And of course, we take it as seriously as one could possibly take it,” he said. “We will be consulting with Allies and partners on that potential contingency, among a range of others, and discussing what our potential responses are.”

While the brouhaha on nuclear weapons refers to Putin’s statement, which clearly was taken with consideration of a possible attack by the West along the entirety of its western border, with the tremendous NATO military build-up in eastern Europe, it had nothing to do with the use of “smaller nuclear weapons” in Ukraine, although some pundits in the West are fabricating the possibility that Russian could “go nuclear” in Ukraine if their conventional forces get bogged down.

The response from the Russian side has been unequivocal. Speaking to Russian TV on March 22, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that Russia displays a responsible approach to matters related to nuclear weapons, and never escalates anything.

“I believe that everything that was said on this topic, everything we’ve published, confirms an obvious thing: The question of potential use of our military nuclear potential is completely tied to the corresponding clauses of the Russian military doctrine and corresponding points of the basics of state policy on nuclear deterrence. We have an extremely responsible approach to this matter, and we never escalate anything.”

Russian nuclear doctrine says that Russia will not use nuclear weapons unless it is faced with an “existential threat,” for instance a large-scale conventional invasion. Prior to 1993, the Soviet Union had a no-first-strike doctrine, but this was changed in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union, and made explicit in the 2000 Russian military doctrine.

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