James Jay Carafano
Russian threats have spurred Western concerns about the threat of nuclear use or, worse, an expanding war and nuclear escalation. Based on years of study and assessment of Soviet and Russian nuclear weapons activities, consultation with other experts and reliable sources, and the current situation on the ground in Ukraine, there are some facts that ought to inform our understanding of the Russian threat. Here is what the experts I trust know and don’t know.
Can Russia employ nuclear weapons? Yes. Russia has a large arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons—far larger in fact than those of the U.S. and NATO: an advantage over the U.S. and NATO in non-strategic nuclear weapons of 20:1 in Europe and 10:1 overall. Russian doctrine allows for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in defense of Russian interests and territory. It also indicates that Russia may believe it can employ nuclear weapons at the lower levels of the escalation ladder to compel the U.S. to back down rather than respond. Russian forces train for the use and employment of tactical nuclear weapons.