U.S. Working on 'Neutralizing' Russia's Nuclear Weapons—Defense Officials

A Russian defense ministry publication has claimed that the U.S. is working towards using strategic non-nuclear weapons to neutralize Moscow's atomic capabilities.

The magazine Military Thought said that the U.S. plan was to try to impact a significant part of Russia's nuclear potential before Moscow decided on a retaliatory strike.

The article was widely reported by Russian media and said how in the "medium term, the United States seeks to possess strategic non-nuclear weapons with a short flight time to the target" that were not subject "to any bilateral or international restrictions."

 Russian Iskander-E missile launcher
A Russian Iskander-E missile launcher on display at the International Military Technical Forum 'Army 2022' on August 17, 2022 in Patriot Park, outside of Moscow, Russia. A Russian military publication has said that the U.S. is looking to neutralize Russia's nuclear capabilities. Getty Images

An article on RIA Novosti, with a headline saying the U.S. "is creating the means of neutralizing Russia's nuclear weapons," reported the theory of deterrence among NATO and the U.S. has been replaced by "the theory of preemptive forceful actions."

It said the U.S. wanted to conduct "strategic offensive missions that ensure the destruction of a significant number of Russian nuclear forces before a decision is made by the Russian armed forces supreme commander to deliver a retaliatory strike."

The publication concluded that this would have "an extremely negative impact" on Russia's security and required its leadership "to actively counter the emerging threats." Newsweek has contacted the Pentagon and the Russian defense ministry for comment.

The article follows hints from Russian President Vladimir Putin over whether he might resort to nuclear weapons in his invasion of Ukraine.

In September, he accused the West of engaging in "nuclear blackmail" against Russia as he announced a partial military mobilization.

In the address in which he mentioned Russia's "weapons of destruction," Putin said he would "use all the means available to us" to defend what he termed his country's "territorial integrity."

Russia has around 6,257 nuclear warheads, while the U.S has 5,550, according to a January fact sheet by the Arms Control Association.

However, in a sentiment echoed by experts, Putin said on October 27 there was "no point" either politically or militarily in using nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, intelligence agencies have seen no signs that Russia is preparing for a nuclear strike, which would serve little strategic purpose, although the Biden administration was reportedly alarmed by nuclear weapons talk from Russian military officials.

Pavel Podvig, who runs the research project Russian Nuclear Forces in Geneva, recently told Newsweek that tactical nuclear weapons would have to be taken out of storage and shipped to a frontline unit for use, a visible step.

But he said that the dispersed nature of the war meant that there was no one suitable military target. "The only kind of conceivable use of nuclear weapons would be exactly strategic," he said. "One could think about kind of shocking Ukraine into surrender.

"But the problem with that is that for that shock to be kind of a shocking enough it would have to literally kill tens and maybe hundreds of thousands of people," he said. "I hope, in a certain way, that is a pretty high bar to clear."