Moscow: In a fresh warning to the West, Russia has said that any incoming ballistic missile launched at its territory will be perceived as a nuclear attack that warrants a nuclear retaliation. The warning from Russia came in the form of an article published on Friday.
The warning in the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) is aimed at the United States, which has been working to develop long-range non-nuclear weapons.
According to Washington Post, the article mentioned a previously published piece on 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 Krasnaya Zvezda article quoted several top-ranking officers of the Russian military's General Staff, Maj-Gen Andrei Sterlin and Col. Alexander Khryapin as saying that there will be no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and so the military will see it as 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,’’ it added.
''The argument reflects Russia's 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,'' the article stated.
In line with Russian military doctrine, the new nuclear deterrent policy reaffirmed that the country could use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack or an aggression involving conventional weapons that threaten Russia's existence.
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.
It is to be noted that relations between the US and Russia are currently at the post-Cold War level over the Ukrainian crisis, the accusations of Russian meddling in the US 2016 presidential election and other issues.
Russian officials have dubbed the US-led missile defence programme and its plans to put weapons in orbit as a top 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.