Possibility of nuclear war increases even if clash is local
Yesterday in Moscow, international experts tried to understand the strategic thinking of US President Donald Trump's administration and its implications for peace and Russian-US relations. For this purpose they analyzed the documents of the strategic planning of the US administration - the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Doctrine, approved in December 2017 - February 2018.
The director of the IMEMO Center for International Security, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Arbatov, expressed the opinion that after arrival of Donald Trump to the White House, the attitude of Russia and the United States towards nuclear weapons has become much more symmetrical: "Under the administration of the previous US President, Barack Obama, there was a very big asymmetry in its and Russia's attitude to nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence. After arrival of the new administration, positions were brought closer but still we are on different sides of nuclear deterrence. We deter the US, first of all, and it deters Russia, but our approaches have become more symmetrical."
Arbatov explained his position "Under Obama, the US declared that they were trying to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, set a goal of achieving a nuclear-free world, offered Russia deep cuts. Russia refused, saying that the US is trying to devalue Russia's nuclear deterrence, the basis of Russia's security and world status. The US focused on missile defense systems and high-precision long-range non-nuclear weapons. Now the United States is focusing on nuclear weapons - this is the subject of the doctrine. Its smaller proportion is for missile defense systems and non-nuclear equipment."
Comparing nuclear components of the military doctrines of Russia and the United States, Arbatov noted that of all the purposes for which nuclear deterrence is intended, there is only one significant difference left between Moscow and Washington: "The United States intends to use nuclear weapons if their allies were attacked by general purpose forces, that is, conventional weapons. While Russia does not intend to use nuclear weapons if our allies were attacked by general purpose forces.
According to the expert, the core of the new US nuclear doctrine is the selective, limited use of nuclear weapons in response to the selective, limited use of such weapons by Russia: "Previously, this was not emphasized, but now it says that Russia has a concept of escalation for the sake of de-escalation, and in response to this the United States will create systems and means to impress on Moscow that any escalation of the usual conflict will not force the West to surrender. This is the most dangerous innovation that lowers the nuclear threshold. It creates the possibility of nuclear war and escalation even in the case of a local, non-nuclear military clash, whether in Syria, whether in the Baltic or Black Sea area."
The vice-president of the Russian Council on International Affairs, vice president of the Center for Political Studies, Lieutenant-General Yevgeny Buzhinsky, does not see any threat of a nuclear arms race: "Our triad (strategic naval forces, strategic missile forces, strategic aviation weapons) is being modernized as planned ... Americans do not exceed any quantitative parameters. I do not see any prerequisites for starting any build-up of our arsenals."