Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- Russia’s new defense policy is a response to US interest in long-range conventional missiles and the stationing of missiles close to Russia’s borders.

Russia’s official military newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda, quoted top Russian military officials, saying they would consider all conventional ballistic missile fire as nuclear missiles in the future, and respond like a nuclear attack. “Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead,” the article said. “The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation.”

The argument reflects Russia's longtime concerns about the development of weapons that could give Washington the capability to knock out key military assets and government facilities without resorting to atomic weapons.

Russia argues that they can’t determine the warhead on an incoming ballistic missile, as a way to explain the new policy. Almost certainly a factor is that the US has been developing long-range non-nuclear missiles for the future.

Since Russia already had taken the position of possible retaliation to conventional attack with nuclear arms, this might have always been a potential Russian response to a missile strike. Formalizing it may be designed to warn against such specific attacks.

It is also a warning to US allies that if they allow US missiles to be stationed on their territory, they are exposing themselves to huge risks of nuclear retaliation.

Equally the article makes it clear that attacks on Russia’s allies could also trigger nuclear retaliation by Russia.

The article follows the publication in June of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy that envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to what could be a conventional strike targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.

The policy document offered a detailed description of situations that could trigger the use of nuclear weapons, including the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or its allies.

In addition to that, the document states for the first time that Russia could use its nuclear arsenal if it receives “reliable information” about the launch of ballistic missiles targeting its territory or its allies and also in the case of ”enemy impact on critically important government or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the incapacitation of which could result in the failure of retaliatory action of nuclear forces."

Russian officials have said that the U.S.-led missile defense program and its plans to put weapons in orbit is a major threat, arguing that the new capability could tempt Washington to strike Russia with impunity in the hope of fending off a retaliatory strike.

The Krasnaya Zvezda article emphasized that the publication of the new nuclear deterrent policy was intended to unambiguously explain what Russia sees as aggression.

“Russia has designated the ‘red lines’ that we don’t advise anyone to cross,” it said. “If a potential adversary dares to do that, the answer will undoubtedly be devastating. The specifics of retaliatory action, such as where, when and how much will be determined by Russia’s military-political leadership depending on the situation.”

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