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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the media after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 1, 2018.

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Analysis & Opinions - Russia Matters

Putin’s Remarks on Use of Nuclear Weapons Are Confusing, But Unlikely to Constitute a Shift in Nuclear Posture

| Nov. 28, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eschatological talk of nuclear Armageddon at this year’s Valdai forum has stirred up heated debates on how well his description of Russia’s potential use of nuclear weapons matches the country’s official military doctrine. However, a close look at Putin’s Oct. 18 remarks and Russia’s 2014 military doctrine reveals that, while Putin deviated from the language in the doctrine, he did not lie on the first use issue. Nor did he seem to be hinting at a shift in Russia’s nuclear posture. More likely, he was signaling to Washington that the existing nuclear arms control treaties need to remain in place for the sake of ensuring strategic stability in the U.S.-Russian nuclear dyad and avoiding an accidental war between the two countries.