Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed a policy on Tuesday that would allow the country to use nuclear weapons in response to a non-nuclear attack on it or its allies.
The nuclear deterrent policy allows Russia to use nuclear weapons in response to aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the state.” It also reaffirms the nation’s right to respond with nuclear weapons if it attacked with one, the Associated Press reported.
Additionally, Russia could use its nuclear arsenals if it gets “reliable information” that it or an ally is the target of a ballistic missile attack. The policy also allows Russia to use nuclear weapons in the case of “enemy impact on critically important government or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the incapacitation of which could result in the failure of retaliatory action of nuclear forces.”
The policy appears to act as a deterrent to the United States, if it ever decides to attack the country, a weapons manufacturer or a military site, according to the AP. Tensions between the United States and Russia have risen in recent years with Putin threatening in August to build more nuclear weapons if it has information that the United States has begun to do the same.
“If Russia obtains reliable information that the United States has finished developing these systems and started to produce them, Russia will have no option other than to engage in a full-scale effort to develop similar missiles,” Putin said, according to Reuters.
“In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity,” he added.
Russia has also been developing a nuclear-equipped submarine for the past few years, and was expected to be commissioned by September.
Additionally, Iran, Russia, and China participated in a joint war-game to send a “message to the world.”
“The purpose of the war game is to ensure collective security and help strengthen security in the northern region of the Indian Ocean, which is witnessing incidents such as piracy,” Iranian navy commander Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi said in a statement in December.
Russia was also subject to a highly scrutinized effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, with limited evidence it was successful.
Both the United States and Russia withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year.
The last remaining U.S.-Russia arms control pact, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will expire on Feb. 5, 2021, 16 days after either President Donald Trump or his successor takes office. If it isn’t extended, the United States and Russia would no longer have any legal restrictions on nuclear weapons for the first time in nearly half a century.
Before re-signing the agreement, Trump has been pressuring China to sign the agreement as well, given that it is expected to double the size of its nuclear arsenal in the next decade.