No, Molly, Russia doesn’t believe in ‘nuking their own people’
After Hawaiians scrambled in panic due to a false nuclear launch alert Saturday, pundit Molly McKew argued on Twitter that the Russian nuclear doctrine “explicitly states that a nuclear weapon could be used to ‘de-escalate’ a conflict, including by nuking their own people in order to stop the perceived loss of territory in an invasion etc.”
Russian nuclear doctrine, for example, explicitly states that a nuclear weapon could be used to "de-escalate" a conflict, including by nuking their own people in order to stop the perceived loss of territory in an invasion etc /2— Molly McKew (@MollyMcKew) January 13, 2018
There’s only one problem with this: It’s not true.
This was pointed out by none other than Aric Toler, a lead researcher at Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, outfits that could hardly be called sympathetic to the Russian viewpoint, much less “Kremlin agents.”
“The Russian ‘information warfare expert’ is waging really crappy info war on Russia by [completely] inventing sections in the Russian nuclear doctrine,” Toler tweeted.
The Russian "information warfare expert" is waging really crappy info war on Russia by completing inventing sections in the Russian nuclear doctrine. Here's the Russian military doctrine -- find anything that you could even creatively interpret like this. https://t.co/gPWTzpVThvpic.twitter.com/3qwTBW7GpS— Aric Toler (@AricToler) January 15, 2018
Instead of actual Russian military doctrine, McKew is relying on a 2015 article by Russian historian Sergei Brezkun, published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.
“You can't take a Russian historian's quote from an article he wrote and say it is now part of the the Russian nuclear doctrine,” Toler admonishes. He later offers a link to the actual Russian military doctrine, on the Kremlin’s official website.
In sum: "Russian information warfare" expert Molly McKew cites an op-ed from a WW2 historian in a newspaper literally called "Independent Newspaper" as official Russian nuclear doctrine. pic.twitter.com/75cvBXdiVM— Aric Toler (@AricToler) January 15, 2018
“I'd reply to these if I could, but McKew blocked me months ago so I can't,” Toler concludes. “Anyways, all of her sources are in English, and I still haven't seen any actual Russian nuclear doctrine in a primary Russian source backing any of her claims.”
McKew’s “expertise” on Russia consists of a one-time consulting job for the disgraced Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, best known for chewing his tie on national television after starting a war with Russia in August 2008.
That hasn’t stopped her from pitching all sorts of outlandish takes about Russia in the mainstream US media, from blaming Kremlin for racism in America to accusing whistleblower Chelsea Manning of being a Kremlin stooge.
McKew is also known for peddling the nonexistent “Gerasimov doctrine” of hybrid warfare, a popular myth among Western Russia-watchers that has no basis in observable reality.
She once called American power “the only escape from Putin’s corrosive vision of a world at permanent war.” As part of her thread on Russian “nuclear doctrine,” she also said that “Russian madness is the spark of madness driving the world mad because we've decided not to confront it.”