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The nuclear doctrine: Army chief Gerasimov explains that Moscow reserves right to fire nukes if enemies use them against Russia

The nuclear doctrine: Army chief Gerasimov explains that Moscow reserves right to fire nukes if enemies use them against Russia
Russia has the right to use nuclear warheads in response to the use of weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies, and may even deploy them against conventional weapons if “the very existence of the state is threatened.”

That's according to Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia's armed forces, speaking to the Moscow Conference on International Security on Wednesday. Gerasimov has been in his post since 2012 and was sanctioned by the EU in 2014 for allegedly “threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine.”

“The country's nuclear policy is purely defensive in nature,” Gerasimov explained. “[However], Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies, and in cases of aggression against Russia using conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is threatened.”

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He also emphasized that the conditions for using nuclear armaments are very limited and are strictly regulated.

Gerasimov's statement comes three weeks after President Vladimir Putin signed a decree approving the country's policy on nuclear weapons as a deterrent. The document notes that Russia should keep its atomic potential at a “sufficient level to ensure deterrence” as a means to guarantee the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state.”

“Russia views nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence, and the use of which is an extreme forced measure,” the policy says.

During the same speech on Wednesday, Gerasimov addressed the New START Arms Reduction Treaty, which was prolonged by Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden earlier this year. According to the army chief, New START is the “only international agreement” on arms control that still exists, and noted that its five-year extension has helped with strategic stability.

“Both sides are interested in predictability when it comes to the development of the other side's nuclear forces. Control measures ensure this predictability,” he said.

New START, initially signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, imposes limits on Russia and the US regarding their allowed number of deployed missiles, bombers, and nuclear warheads. It also places restrictions on intercontinental ballistic missile and submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers.

Outside of Russia, Gerasimov is most famous for the eponymous ‘Gerasimov doctrine’, coined by a British ‘Russia Watcher’ in 2013, based on a mistranslation by US state-affiliated media.  It was later hyped by Western mainstream media as a system of comprehensive hybrid warfare by non-military and military methods. Ironically, in the original Russian version, Gerasimov was actually discussing Western use of such methods, not Russian.

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