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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 13, February - March 1997

Russia Said to be Pondering Nuclear Use Options

On 22 January, the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaaya Gazeta published what it claimed to be the draft proposals of the Defence Council for reforming military doctrine and strategy. The proposals apparently included adopting a position of first-use of nuclear weapons in the advent of conventional attack.

In an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta on 11 February, the Secretary of Russia's Security Council, Ivan Rybkin, defended the need for a new hard-line on nuclear-use policy:

"All people should know that in the event of a direct challenge our response will be fully fledged, and we are to choose the means...including nuclear weapons. ... Of course, we are not speaking of a preventive nuclear strike, but if an aggressor starts a war against us using conventional weapons, we might respond using nuclear ones... We talk about this [possibility] so that military adventurers do not get tempted by the fact that at this stage our armed forces are being reformed and do not have the might they used to have."

The same day, a spokesperson for President Yeltsin, Sergei Yastrzhemsky, said that Mr. Rybkin was not in a position to announce any change to Russia's "strategic position".

Reports: Russian Defence Council proposes using nukes, Navy News & Undersea Technology, 3 February; Draft Russian military plan covers use of nuclear weapons, BMD Monitor, 7 February; Russia has not given up right to nuclear first strike - Rybkin, Agence France-Presse International News, 11 February; Kremlin backs off advisor's threat on Russia's nuclear first strike, Agence France-Presse International News, 11 February; Russia may use nuclear arms in conventional war, Reuter News Reports, 11 February; Moscow hints at nuclear retaliation, Financial Times, 12 February.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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