Is a Nuclear War with Russia Possible? Belarusian military forces have begun training to use nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced via its official Telegram channel on Wednesday. According to the posts, Belarusian crews have been training with Russia’s Southern Military District since early April, and have been instructed in the use of the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles, which are capable of delivering low-yield nuclear weapons, Newsweek reported.
“During the training, special attention was paid to the further improvement of practical skills in preparing the missile system for use, training in its deployment, as well as conducting combat training launches,” the Telegram post read.
The reports follow comments made by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who on Tuesday warned in an address that the likelihood of nuclear weapons being employed in combat is growing by the day. This is hardly the first time that Medvedev, a staunch supporter of current Russian President Vladimir Putin, has saber rattled about the use of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Threat from Russia
While discussing climate change via a video link to participants in the Znanie (Knowledge) educational marathon, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council said the world shouldn’t be concerned with slight temperature rises given the threat of nuclear war.
“Do you really care about the climate to such an extent? In my opinion, this is nothing compared to the prospect of being at the epicenter of an explosion with a temperature of 5,000 Kelvin (scale), a shock wave of 350 meters per second and a pressure of 3,000 kilograms per square meter, with penetrating radiation, that is, ionizing radiation and an electromagnetic pulse,” Medvedev warned.
Yet, he also was the one that could be accused of turning up the heat on the issue, when he later made clear that Moscow could be forced to use nuclear weapons if its “existence” is threatened by conventional or other weapons. In his video address on Tuesday, he cited paragraph 19 of Russia’s nuclear doctrine.
“It explicitly states that nuclear weapons can be used when aggression is carried out against Russia with the use of other types of weapons that endanger the very existence of the state. It is essentially the use of nuclear weapons in response to such actions. Our potential adversaries should not underestimate this,” he added.
In his opinion, speculation to the effect that Russia would never use nuclear weapons or is merely scaring everyone with nuclear weapons is not worthy of attention.
“Western analysts and Western commanders, both military and political leaders, should simply assess our rules and our intentions,” Medvedev noted, and spoke about Russia’s willingness and readiness to use such weapons. “I can tell you as someone who is in the know. I can tell you frankly: If you have a weapon in your hands – and as a former president, I know what it is like – you must be ready to use it in a given situation, no matter how awful and brutal this may sound. All these factors should not be underestimated by our potential adversaries, the countries that we now quite appropriately call enemies.”
How Close to War?
Under its nuclear doctrine, Russia may use nuclear arms if the enemy uses these or other types of weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies; if there is reliable information about the launch of a ballistic missile attack on Russia and its allies; and if the enemy attacks facilities crucial to retaliatory actions by its nuclear forces; as well as in cases of aggression against Russia with conventional weapons that endanger the very existence of the state.
It was in January that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the metaphorical “Doomsday Clock” up 10 seconds from where it had stayed for the past two years, citing the escalation in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022.
It now stands at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been.
“Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict by accident, intention or calculation is a terrible risk,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, per ABC News. “The possibilities that the conflict can spin out of anyone’s control remains high.”
The Federation of American Scientists currently estimates that roughly 12,700 nuclear warheads now exist in the world. The United States and Russia each maintain nuclear triads, as they have for decades, with the potential to launch mere minutes after a certified command, The Atlantic reported.
Just last month, the head of the United Nations’ disarmament affairs warned that the risk of nuclear weapons use is now higher than at any time since the Cold War. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and increased saber-rattling from the Kremlin were key factors.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.