Domestic and international considerations are behind Russian president’s remark that Moscow has developed several advanced weapons, including intercontinental underwater drones and nuclear-powered cruise missiles, according to Turkish analysts.
Vladimir Putin’s statements made on March 1 had caught the attention of the world and were mostly criticized by western leaders and nuclear analysts.
But Istanbul-based MEF University’s Political Science and International Relations Department Dean Prof. Mustafa Kibaroglu said: “It is not a coincidence that Putin’s statements about the development of new nuclear-powered long-range missiles, which could leave the most advanced counter-missile air defense systems useless, were announced a short while before the elections.
“It aims to influence the Russian public opinion as well.”
He added the statements had not been made for domestic audience only. It is also to draw the world’s attention to Russia’s nuclear power.
“Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the veiled military operations in eastern Ukraine, military maneuvers and political statements threatening the Baltic states, have made Russia’s relations with the West very strained,” Kibaroglu told Anadolu Agency.
“Recently Pentagon set out its ‘Nuclear Posture Review 2018’ under President Trump’s directive. The targets set out in the document speaks of usage of nuclear weapons even in low-level conflicts.
“It would also weaken the nuclear disarmament regime embodied with the ‘Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’ [NPT], as well as push more and more countries to develop these kinds of weapons,” he said.
“The nuclear arms race began essentially between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and got accelerated till the middle of 1970s. Later on, they understood that their arms could have destroyed each other and the whole world several times.
“Along with the high cost of producing these weapons, there were multiple challenges created by storing it in safe environments. As a result, a number of treaties have been signed between the two superpowers to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenal.
“Anybody who knows the impact of the nuclear weapon, would not want to take the risk of usage of it. Eventually, the threat or political will of the country possessing nuclear weapon should be taken seriously. Whether it’s a nuclear weapon or a firearm, if a weapon was produced, there is a possibility that one day it might be used.
“No one can guarantee that populist leaders such as Kim Yong Un, Trump and Putin will not enter an adventure that could involve the use of nuclear weapons.”
Putin’s remarks on nukes
On March 1, Putin addressed the Russian parliament, declaring that Moscow had developed several advanced weapons, including intercontinental underwater drones and nuclear-powered cruise missiles. But added that Russia does not violate arms treaties and does not plan to attack anyone.
“There can be two reasons that can make us use nuclear weapons: an attack against us with nuclear weapons or an attack on Russia with conventional weapons.
“But the second case is only if it threatens the existence of the Russian state,” Putin said.
“Russia may potentially use nuclear weapons only in the event of an impending nuclear attack, or if there is a threat to the country’s existence,” he said in an interview with the NBC broadcaster on March 3.
Putin also said he had offered to collaborate on the joint improvement of missile defenses with the U.S. but it had been rebuffed, so he had to act in Russia’s best interests.
American President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have expressed concerns during phone calls over the Russian leader’s statement on nuclear weapons development, the White House said in a statement on March 2.
“The leaders shared their serious concerns over Putin’s recent statements on nuclear weapons development, which they agreed detract from productive discussion of a range of issues between Russia and the West,” the White House said.
‘One-sided’ advantage unacceptable
Prof. Mesut Hakki Casin, head of Istanbul’s Istinye University International Relations Department, said: “As I understood, Mr. Putin actually says that ‘U.S. wants to get one-sided military advantage and dictate it to Russia, we can’t accept that’.
“Secondly, he says ‘we don’t bluff’. Thirdly, the U.S. and NATO missile shield project is useless and impractical. Putin adds they will fail to surround Russia.
“Lastly, he urges: ‘We don’t threaten anyone and we aren’t prepared to attack anyone’,” he said.
Casin said deterrence was the most important concept of the Cold War era.
“The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] resolutions seem to have taken sides away from a nuclear war. According to a Russian proverb, ‘if there is a gun on the wall, it can explode, be careful’.
“With the end of the Cold War, the number of weapons dropped. Nowadays, Russia and the U.S. each have around 9,000 active nuclear weapons. About 1,500 of them have intercontinental distances.
“Therefore, even in case if these two countries would no more develop any single nuclear weapon for decades, the threat caused by the presence of existing weapons will be felt for a longer period of time. Moreover, China, U.K., France, India, Pakistan and the North Korea also possess these weapons,” he added.
There are approximately 15,000 estimated nuclear warheads in nine countries. While Russia has over 7,000 warheads, the U.S. has about 7,000; France 300, China 270, U.K. 215, Pakistan 120, India 110, Israel 80 and North Korea 10.
Moreover, the United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status — ready to be launched within minutes of a warning.
Officially, there are five nuclear-weapon states in the world: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. These are officially recognized as possessing such weapons by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
This treaty acknowledges and legitimizes their arsenals, but they are not supposed to build or maintain them forever. Indeed, they have committed to eliminate them.
There are also four other countries that have nuclear weapons: Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea. These countries did not sign the treaty, and together possess an estimated 340 nuclear weapons. But it is Russia and the U.S. that have by far the most in the world, dominating all other countries by collectively sharing 88 percent of the world’s arsenal of stockpiled nukes.
According to the UN website, the NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by nuclear-weapon states.
Opened for signature in 1968, the treaty entered into force in 1970. On 11 May, 1995, the treaty was extended indefinitely. A total of 191 states have joined the treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon states. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty’s significance.