Vladimir Putin ordered exercises with tactical nuclear weapons. What does this mean? (BBC analysis)

The Russian Defense Ministry, by order of President Vladimir Putin, has issued a “non-strategic” use of DMK nuclear weapons, or tactical nuclear weapons, in relation to future exercises of the Southern Military District’s (SMD) missile systems and naval forces. BBC.

The ministry said the exercises were being prepared in response to “provocative statements and threats by Western authorities” and would take place “soon”. The message does not specify exactly which reports it refers to. The venue of the exercises has not been announced.

On Monday, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the French president was referring to “statements by Mr. Macron, the British delegation” and “deputies of the US Senate” about their intentions to send armed groups. Ukraine.

“This is a new round of rising tensions. It is unprecedented and requires special attention and special measures,” the Kremlin representative was quoted as saying by Interfax.

In late February 2024, the Financial Times reported that it was able to access classified Russian documents related to Russian tactical nuclear weapons.

From an analysis of these documents, Russia’s range of use of this type of weapon is actually much lower than what Russian officials have publicly stated.

Military observer Pavel Aksenov told the BBC’s Russian-language service: “Tactical nuclear weapons are dangerous because politicians and military personnel may have a false sense of ‘limited’ effect”:

Conducting exercises with nuclear weapons cannot be an alarming fact – Russia constantly conducts maneuvers of various types of strategic nuclear forces, practicing various stages of the use of weapons – from deployment to intercontinental ballistic missile training. And strategic nuclear weapons are far more powerful and terrifying.

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The conditions and circumstances, as well as the consequences of the use of strategic nuclear weapons, are clear to all.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons Strategic nuclear weapons are dangerous because politicians and military personnel may have a false sense of the “limited” effect of their use.

A single tactical nuke or missile cannot destroy a country, and not even a large, modern city off the face of the earth. Such a “limited power” perception may lower the threshold for the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

But on the other hand, the fear of nuclear weapons in the world is very high, even if it is a tactical warship, their use can lead to very serious political consequences.

Despite the fact that Russia has been waging a destructive and bloody war in Ukraine for more than two years, it maintains partnership or friendly relations with many countries, including China or India. The use of nuclear weapons, even during training, would greatly complicate these relationships.

Nuclear weapons are primarily intended as a deterrent. So to refer to nuclear weapons, even tactical ones, is to use them for the purpose for which they were designed – deterrence.

Russia has already threatened tactical nuclear weapons during the war in Ukraine – in the spring of 2023, it deployed tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus in response to Western military aid to Ukraine – highly effective armor-piercing projectiles with depleted uranium cores.

The exercises, just announced, are linked to statements by the leaders of France and Britain about their countries’ involvement in the war in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

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This signal is very dangerous, the BBC notes, however, while it sent tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, it did not stop supplying foreign equipment, including shells.

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