Russian experts issue collective rebuke to call for preemptive nuclear strike
It is extremely irresponsible and dangerous to call on Russia to carry out a preemptive nuclear strike in order to gain the upper hand in its standoff with the West over Ukraine, more than 20 experts from an influential Russian think tank have warned.
The joint statement released by members of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy on Thursday is one of the recent responses to the debate within the Russian expert community about the use of nuclear weapons, which was prompted by a controversial op-ed written last month by Sergey Karaganov, an honorary member of the council’s presidium.
Karaganov made the case for lowering the threshold for the first use of its nuclear arsenal, arguing that, at some point, Moscow should consider striking targets in Europe.
Without mentioning Karaganov by name, a group of fellow think tank members said they “unequivocally condemn” such reasoning. “It is beyond irresponsible to assume that one can manage a limited nuclear conflict and stop it from spiraling into a global nuclear war,” they warned, adding that, within this scenario, “tens and perhaps even millions” of lives would be at stake. “It is a direct threat to humanity as a whole,” the statement said.
It is unacceptable to use pseudo-theoretical arguments and talk show-style emotional statements to stoke sentiments in society that could push one towards catastrophic decisions.
The think tank, also known by its Russian acronym, SVOP, is a co-founder of the Valdai Discussion Club, whose annual sessions President Vladimir Putin attends.
Karaganov’s approach was criticized by other noted experts, including Fyodor Lukyanov, the chairman of the SVOP’s presidium and editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, who argued that the damage from “the game of nuclear peek-a-boo is a gamble” would be “multiples worse than any hypothetical benefits.”
Putin said last month that Moscow would resort to nuclear weapons only when faced with an existential threat.
According to Russia’s Nuclear Doctrine, which was revised in 2020, the country reserves the right to use its nuclear arsenal if it comes under attack with nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. It may also use the nuclear option when attacked with conventional means, but only if “the existence of the state as a whole comes under threat.”