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Influential Russian think tank proposes a ‘demonstrative’ nuclear explosion

Influential Russian think tank proposes a ‘demonstrative’ nuclear explosion
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A senior member of a Russian think tank whose ideas sometimes become government policy has suggested Moscow consider a “demonstrative” nuclear explosion to cow the West into refusing to allow Ukraine to use its arms against targets inside Russia.

The proposal, by Dmitry Suslov, a member of the Moscow-based Council for Foreign and Defence Policy, was issued a day after President Vladimir Putin warned the West that Nato members in Europe were playing with fire by proposing to let Kyiv use Western weapons to strike deep inside Russia, something he said could trigger a global conflict.

Ukraine’s leadership says it needs to be able to strike Russian forces and military targets inside Russia with long-range Western missiles to be able to defend itself and prevent air, missile and drone attacks, a view which has found some support among some Western countries but not yet with Washington.

Russia, which possesses the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, has warned it would view such a step as a grave escalation that would pull Nato and the countries concerned into a direct conflict with Moscow, increasing the risk of nuclear war.

Russia’s missile forces during tactical nuclear weapons drills. Photo: Russian Defence Ministry via AFP

Suslov, a member of the Council for Foreign and Defence Policy, a think tank praised by Putin who has said the authorities sometimes pick up its policy ideas, said Russia needed to act to dissuade the West from crossing a red line.

“To confirm the seriousness of Russia’s intentions and to convince our opponents of Moscow’s readiness to escalate, it is worth considering a demonstrative (i.e. non-combat) nuclear explosion,” Suslov wrote in business magazine Profil.

“The political and psychological effect of a nuclear mushroom cloud, which will be shown live on all TV channels around the world, will hopefully remind Western politicians of the one thing that has prevented wars between the great powers since 1945 and that they have now largely lost – fear of nuclear war.”

Suslov is the latest Russian security expert and lawmaker to argue that Moscow should test a nuclear bomb to intimidate amid the Ukraine war, fuelling fears among Western security experts that Russia may be inching towards such a test.

Such a move, if it did happen, could usher in a new era of big power nuclear testing.

There was no immediate comment on Suslov’s proposal from the Kremlin, which has said Russia’s nuclear policy remains unchanged while signalling its displeasure with what it cast as increasingly aggressive Western rhetoric on arming Kyiv earlier this month by ordering tactical nuclear weapons drills.

Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers. Photo: AFP

Suslov suggested Russia also initiate strategic nuclear exercises, warn any country whose weapons are used by Kyiv to attack Russia that Moscow reserves the right to strike that country’s targets anywhere in the world, and warn it could use nuclear weapons if that country then retaliates conventionally.

Putin in November signed a law withdrawing Russia’s ratification of the global treaty banning nuclear weapons tests, a move he said was designed to bring Russia into line with the United States, which signed but never ratified the treaty.

Russian diplomats said at the time that Russia, which has not carried out a post-Soviet nuclear test, would not resume nuclear testing unless Washington does.

The Soviet Union last tested in 1990 and the United States in 1992. Only North Korea has conducted a test involving a nuclear explosion this century.

Russia warned Britain this month that it could strike British military installations and equipment both inside Ukraine and elsewhere if British weapons were used by Ukraine – with London’s blessing – to strike Russian territory.

It issued the warning after British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Kyiv had the right to use UK-supplied weapons to strike targets inside Russia.

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