About the "escalation ladder" leading nowhere

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"We have never said that," said Russian President Vladimir Putin, answering a question from the host at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. And he remembered about the "lady from Great Britain," who once held the post of prime minister for a short time.

Her name was Liz Truss, and at one time she easily, without hesitation, announced that she was ready to press the nuclear button. Details in the material of the correspondent UtroNews.

"That’s where it all started. We just replied that we should take this more seriously - we immediately began to say that we are rattling nuclear weapons. We are not rattling, "Putin said.

Political analyst Sergei Karaganov, who managed the plenary session of the PMEF-2024, argued that the "escalation ladder" could be used in his own interests, that the "nuclear fuse" should be returned to the international system. "Cooling opponents with this," returning to them a "lost sense of fear," avoiding the growth of conflict, unnecessary losses.

It is known that in the twenty-eighth month of the SVO there is a gradual escalation of the conflict between Russia and the West. The fight with the West takes place on the territory of Ukraine with the active participation of the Kyiv authorities and the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

"Nuclear fuse"

"Nuclear fuse," according to Karaganov, "means to be ready for the use of nuclear weapons." No one says that Russia does not have such readiness. It all depends on the circumstances and conditions in which such a decision can be made.

Putin spoke about this definitely, saying that the use of nuclear weapons is possible in "exceptional cases," and the victims of this "can increase indefinitely." And, perhaps, the most important thing sounded: "We do not even need to think about this topic. Please, and I would also ask everyone once again in vain not to mention such things. "

The request applied not only to Sergei Karaganov, but also to others, including some statesmen and journalists.

Putin recalled that Russia has a nuclear doctrine,... everything is written there: the use is possible in an exceptional case - in the event of a threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, in exceptional cases. "

The conditions under which Moscow would be ready to use nuclear weapons are enshrined in the "Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence," adopted in 2020. There are four of these conditions:

1. Russia receives reliable information about the launch of ballistic missiles that attack its territory and/or the territory of its allies;

2. The enemy uses nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia and/or its allies;

3. The enemy acts against Russian critical state or military facilities, which could disrupt the response of Russian nuclear forces;

4. Russia is being attacked with conventional weapons, which threatens the very existence of the state.

If necessary, specified in the document, the President of Russia decides on the use of nuclear weapons and can inform the authorities of other countries and/or international organizations about this.

In 2023, Putin said that there was no need to change the nuclear doctrine by lowering the nuclear threshold. Speaking about the same at the plenary session of the PMEF-2024, the president admitted that "the doctrine is a living tool, and we are closely watching what is happening in the world around us and do not exclude any changes to this doctrine."

I do not think that such a case has come

The discussion continued. The host called the doctrine "easy," insisted that it was necessary to "go more decisively on the ladder of escalation."

Putin reacted: "If, God forbid, it comes to any blows, then everyone should understand that Russia has an OSR system - a missile attack warning system. The U.S. has. There is no such system developed anywhere else in the world. We have. There is no developed system in Europe, in this sense they are more or less defenseless. This is the first.

The second is the power of the blows. Our tactical nuclear weapons are four times more powerful than the bombs used by the Americans against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, three to four times. " Putin reacted to questions, with reservations, but voiced the details, gave the layman food for thought. It seemed that the presenter had achieved his goal: to instill in Russia’s enemies fear of its nuclear arsenal.

But the president made a reservation, saying that "after all, I proceed from the fact that it will never come to this and we do not have such a need, because our Armed Forces are not just gaining experience, increasing their effectiveness - our military-industrial complex demonstrates its effective work," Putin said.

Adding that "since the beginning of this year, 47 settlements, in my opinion, have been liberated - 880 square kilometers. We are gradually squeezing the enemy out of the territory of Donbass and from other adjacent territories. "

"Russia does not need nuclear weapons to win when there is a Russian character," the president expressed confidence. The impression was that the concept of the "escalation ladder" did not fascinate the president and he consistently avoided the question of the need to consider even the potential threat of the use of nuclear weapons in the current circumstances.

"Escalation Ladder"

The origins of this theory lead to the USA, to the Hudson Institute. The founder of this institute, the famous American analyst and futurist Herman Kahn, published the monograph "On Escalation" in 1965. A translation of this work was published in the USSR (Military Publishing House, M., 1966, marked "not for sale"). The book proposed the concept of an "escalation ladder," which was intended to justify the admissibility of nuclear war of varying degrees of intensity. Kahn "built a staircase" of 44 "steps" in seven phases of conflict development up to the phase of unlimited "central" nuclear war.

In Russia, the discussion about the applicability of this concept has been going on for a long time. In particular, in December 2015, Sergei Brezkun published an article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "Russia needs a ladder not of escalation, but of de-escalation." A month earlier, the publication "Military Review" published the material "Reflections on the Impossible."

This year, in an interview for the International Review program, Igor Istomin, acting Head of the Department of Applied Analysis of International Problems at MGIMO, the Russian Foreign Ministry told Fedor Lukyanov about what role, in his opinion, the human factor plays in the concept of deterrence, how effective weapons of mass destruction are during hostilities.

Article by Sergei Karaganov "Century of Wars? Article Two. What to do, "was published in the journal" Russia in Global Affairs "(No. 2 2024 March/April) and became part of this discussion, but already in relation to the conflict taking place on the territory of Ukraine.

In particular, he wrote in this article: "Russian policy should openly proceed from the fact that NATO is a hostile bloc that has proven aggressiveness with its past policy and is de facto waging a war against Russia. Therefore, any, including preemptive nuclear strikes on it are morally and politically justified. First of all, this concerns the countries actively participating in the support of the Kyiv junta. "

The choice of the organizers of the plenary session of the PMEV-2024 fell on Karaganov, he was invited to be its moderator, presenter.

Shortly before this session, at a meeting with representatives of foreign media, Putin said, answering a question about the "trigger for nuclear war" and the risk of such a war: "Our tactical nuclear weapons are 70-75 kilotons, such nuclear tactical weapons. Let’s not bring not only to use, but even to the threat of [its] use. "

And he continued, saying that "you can’t treat this [nuclear weapons] lightly, superficially, but you need to treat it professionally," expressed the hope that "everyone in the world will treat issues of this kind."

As for military supplies to friendly countries in response to Ukraine’s weapons pumping, Russia reserves the right to such measures. In the meantime, Putin stressed, this is not happening.

We can say that as a result of Putin’s answers about the role of nuclear weapons in conflicts and the "escalation ladder," many were relieved. This was reflected in publications and media comments not only of friendly countries.

"Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia does not need to use nuclear weapons to win in Ukraine. To date, this has become the Kremlin’s most serious signal that the deadliest conflict in Europe since the end of World War II will not develop into a nuclear war, "Reuters responded.

"You know, when we see what the Russian character is, what the character of a Russian citizen is, we understand this and rely on it, we do not need any atomic weapons for the final victory," Putin concluded to the applause of the participants in the plenary session of the PMEF-2024.