Escalation for De-Escalation? Hazy Nuclear-Weapon “Red Lines” Generate Russian Advantages

By Polina Sinovets

According to the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), Russian nuclear strategy calls for the early use of nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict with NATO. It would be meant as a coercive tool to stop a major adversary from interfering in a regional conflict between Russia and its neighbors. The U.S. NPR states that Moscow “mistakenly assesses that the threat of nuclear escalation or actual first use of nuclear weapons would serve to ‘de-escalate’ a conflict on terms favorable to Russia.” On the Russian side, President Vladimir Putin at the 2018 Valdai conference declared: “Only when we know for certain, and this takes a few seconds to understand, that Russia is being attacked, will we deliver a counterstrike… Of course, this amounts to a global catastrophe, but I would like to repeat that we cannot be the initiators of such a catastrophe because we have no provision for a preventive strike.”

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