“If Russia believes they have escalation dominance, Putin might get it into his head to launch a surprise attack.”
Russia is far more willing to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield than NATO, a study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies has suggested.
Tactical nuclear weapons are small but powerful munitions that can be used to destroy large concentrations of troops, armour or even target enemy headquarters. NATO sees these weapons as a last resort, but it seems Russia does not share that view, according to William Alberque, the director of strategy, technology and arms control at the IISS.
“If Russia believes they have escalation dominance, in other words in a conflict they are always willing to go slightly further than the United States and the NATO allies are willing to go, then Putin might get it into his head to launch a surprise attack,” he said.
“Russian reliance on nuclear weapons in the current era is no longer really about the tiny battlefield,” he added.
“Now it’s about the theatre, now it’s about striking NATO targets in depth, it’s about hitting command headquarters, it’s about reaching far and deep into the NATO lines, to destroy NATO capabilities.
“It is also to prevent the United States from being able to reinforce because you know right now if the there was a war in Europe the US would have to move a huge number of troops from the continental United States to Europe.
“The Russian strategy would be to prevent those troops from landing by destroying the airports and seaports that they would need to enter.
“For that you’d really need a relatively small nuclear weapon, probably the size of the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bomb, on the tip of a ballistic or cruise missile with incredible accuracy.”
According to the study conducted by the IISS, Russia is believed to have up to 3,500 tactical nuclear weapons, whereas NATO has only 200.
In addition to its numerical superiority with such weapons, the IISS says Russia might also try to push for “escalation dominance” – meaning Moscow would be willing to go further with its threats in comparison to the West.
However, nuclear weapons are unlikely to be used in Ukraine due to the lack of suitable targets on the battlefield and the manoeuvrability of Ukrainian forces, meaning there are very few large concentrations of troops which would justify the use of a small nuclear bomb.
– British Forces Net