The emerging trend of exaggerating the role of nuclear weapons in ensuring Russia's military security carries with it serious threats. There are many forms of military aggression against which nuclear weapons are powerless. Without powerful, numerous and well-equipped general-purpose forces based only on nuclear deterrence, Russia’s security cannot be ensured.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the sphere of military policy, there was a dangerous tendency to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. The reforms led to such a reduction of strategic nuclear forces (SNF), which became clear - in the response nuclear strike, Russia was no longer able to cause unacceptable damage to the aggressor. Therefore, it abandoned the principle of non-use of first nuclear weapons, but still undertakes not to use them against non-nuclear states.
Continuous reforms continued, and by the beginning of the 2000s, it became clear that in regional conflicts the Armed Forces would not be able to resolve them on acceptable conditions without nuclear weapons. The economy, mobilization potential and capabilities of the Armed Forces made it possible to count on the success of the general-purpose forces (CPF) only in local wars. Also, once again lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. It was found that in local conflicts Russia will manage with general-purpose forces, and in regional ones it will use tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. The task of the strategic nuclear forces to contain the nuclear threat from the United States and NATO and to strike back was preserved.
The reforms initiated in 2008 under the leadership of then-Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov and with the approval of President Dmitry Medvedev, led to the further degradation of the CPA. Even in local wars, they became unable to ensure the security of the country. In the most favorable scenario, they will be able to resist aggression in a maximum of two conflicts. The threshold for the use of nuclear weapons again lowered. It was accepted that it can be used against any enemy in local wars, if the expected outcome threatens sovereignty and territorial integrity.
This was spoken by top officials, in particular Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev. The new principle is enshrined in the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation adopted in 2010: “... in response to the use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, as well as in the case of aggression against the Russian Federation with conventional weapons, when the very existence of the state is threatened. ” Such a broad interpretation of the criteria leads to the fact that you can launch a nuclear missile at any time by the decision of the political leadership. In response, states - potential adversaries can also move on to an extended interpretation, which means a sharp increase in the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.
An analysis of the statements of senior officials, politicians, experts and ordinary citizens about the country's security mechanisms shows that nuclear weapons are seen here almost as a panacea. As an example, they cite North Korea, which is calm under the protection of its Tephodon. More economically and militarily, Iraq and Libya were attacked, crushed and occupied, their leaders killed.
But is nuclear weapons a guarantee of protection against possible military threats to Russia? Is it permissible to ensure security without having developed non-nuclear general-purpose forces, as Sergei Brezkun suggests in his article “Inexpensive and angry”? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to figure out what factors limit the use of nuclear weapons, to evaluate their real effectiveness in various military conflicts.
First of all, it should be noted that nuclear weapons are a tool of the last frontier, the last argument of kings. Its use because of the huge civilian casualties and the emergence of large radioactive contamination zones should be properly justified in moral, ethical and legal terms. This is an exceptionally dirty weapon, both ecologically and morally. Its use in limited conflicts, if it is decided by the Russian Federation in the face of military defeat, will inevitably be regarded by the majority of the population of the Earth as a monstrous crime against humanity.
Global obstruction and indignation will lead to the isolation of Russia, the transformation of leadership in rogue states and even international criminals. The possible euphoria from a nuclear strike is unlikely to last long inside the country, if at all. Most citizens will eventually realize that the use of nuclear weapons is not a sign of strength, but of the weakness of the country's leadership, which has brought the Armed Forces to such a state that they are unable to resist the enemy even in limited conflicts. Skepticism to the authorities, together with the inevitable international sanctions, will cause an increase in the social instability of such strength that the collapse of the ruling elite can become a matter of time.
Understanding the consequences, even the most resolute and political elite that is independent of external forces will find it extremely difficult to decide to use nuclear weapons in low-intensity conflicts. Recall that Hitler's Germany had enormous reserves of chemical weapons, but even in agony did not dare to fight them.
The current Russian leadership in terms of freedom of choice of funds is not like the Soviet. It is very seriously connected with colleagues in other countries and transnational capital, largely depends on them, having large real estate abroad and tangible assets in banks. Therefore, it is unlikely that anyone will want to lose all the gigantic benefits accumulated during the "years of overwork." The Russian elite does not possess enough determination to use the tool of the last frontier. After all, until now the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 all over the world is considered to be one of the worst and barbaric acts in stories humanity.
Probably, the military itself will seriously object to the use of nuclear weapons in local and regional conflicts. There is one more reason. A country that has decided to open military aggression against Russia will most likely not act alone. Most likely, it will be in the composition of a whole coalition, or at least under the auspices of some states that have military potential at the level of Russia or are superior to it. Recall: even the US never fights on its own and facing the threat of another war, the first thing their administration does is to make allies. So it was against incomparably weaker countries like Libya and Iraq.
So if the aggressor itself is a non-nuclear state, it will be necessary, given the status of Russia, to be supported by the major powers. This means that a blow to the aggressor of nuclear weapons is fraught with counterparts with similar or larger scale actions. Losses from a defeat in a local conflict may turn out to be less noticeable than from retaliatory nuclear strikes, so the use of nuclear forces loses meaning.
This meaning is only in large-scale wars against powerful coalitions, if the enemy with general-purpose forces has already inflicted huge losses on the civilian population, destroyed half of Russia, and organized a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe. Only then will limited nuclear strikes be a natural stage in the development of such a war. Moreover, they are justified from a moral and psychological point of view as an act of fair retribution.
Supporters of nuclear weapons as an absolute factor of national security point to the exceptional power of these weapons, which guarantee victory or non-admission of military conflict. Is it so?
Undoubtedly, the destructive potential of nuclear weapons is great when striking cities and towns, military bases, airfields, large enterprises and stationary areal infrastructure facilities. It is well demonstrated strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But will it be just as effective against enemy groupings? Will the very fact of its use in armed confrontation allow for their defeat, if not supported by appropriate actions by sufficiently powerful general-purpose forces?
In accordance with the existing views on the use of strategic and operational groups, nuclear strikes on enemy troops are only a stage of the operation, the results of which allow it to achieve its objectives by the actions of the troops (forces) during the subsequent stages. That is, in itself, a nuclear defeat does not allow to solve operational and strategic tasks. Yes and the use of tactical nuclear weapons is not always possible, and the strategic nuclear forces in the theaters of operations are not used.
If nuclear strikes involve the threat of a military defeat leading to the loss of territorial integrity, this means that enemy forces are already operating in Russia. Then, beating its groups, especially those located in populated areas, means destroying, first of all, its own civilian population, conducting radioactive contamination of its territories, like in Chernobyl, making them unfit for habitation and depriving the surviving citizens of their homes and food. The use of nuclear weapons against groups of special operations forces and irregular formations operating by guerrilla methods also does not make sense. And today it is one of the most effective tools for waging war.
Another consideration. Under field conditions, formations and units of the ground forces have good security. The radius of destruction of a typical tactical nuclear munition of concealed manpower or armored vehicles is less than three to four kilometers. Accordingly, in order to suppress or destroy a division, several such munitions will be required. And in order to achieve an operationally significant result against the corps or the army, dozens of units are needed. At a strategic level, even more ammunition will need to be consumed - up to a hundred or more. Radioactive contamination of the area from such a massive impact will be huge.
Even more doubtful is the expediency of using nuclear weapons against groups of ground forces advancing in dispersed military formations, which is characteristic of modern warfare. Relatively little gives a blow to nuclear weapons of naval targets. Modern missiles, having warheads in conventional 300 – 500 kilograms, are guaranteed to incapacitate or destroy almost all classes of warships (excluding aircraft carriers) on the first hit. The aircraft carrier must hit up to six or seven warheads, depending on its size.
Modern ship formations, usually in the event of danger, are rearranged into anti-nuclear warrants, which exclude the possibility of defeat of two ships with one ammunition. Under these conditions, the firing of nuclear missiles at cruiser class ships and less does not make sense. And strikes against aircraft carrier connections also do not lead to a significant increase in combat effectiveness, since in order to avoid missiles being hit in nuclear equipment, it is necessary to significantly increase the scale of the salvo, which in turn significantly increases the capabilities of the naval air defense system. That is, the increase in the missile capabilities of the missiles is offset by a decrease in the probability of reaching the goal.
Nuclear weapons will be very effective for punching holes in the air defense system and suppressing aviation the enemy at the airfields. However, here it should be used only if the results consolidate the assault actions of aviation. It should be borne in mind that the objects, forces and means of nuclear attack will always be for the enemy the objectives of priority destruction and will be affected in the first place. Without highly effective means of defense, nuclear weapons cannot be used at all, they will be destroyed with lightning speed.
In addition, ammunition is stored in separate specialized arsenals. Submission to the troops will be 100% in the face of opposition from sabotage groups from the special operations forces of the enemy. And if you deploy nuclear arsenals in advance in combat areas, without providing adequate protection by general-purpose forces, disrupting delivery to the troops can be solved even more effectively. In general, the conclusion is the most important. NW in general and especially the SNF in particular is an important factor in the defense of the state, it has always restrained large-scale aggression against our country. However, without powerful, numerous and well-equipped general-purpose forces, the sovereignty and security of Russia cannot be ensured.