April 06, 2018

Russian Strategists Debate Preemption as Defense Against NATO Surprise Attack

By Alexander Velez-Green

Russian military and civilian leaders have long debated what to do in the face of a NATO surprise attack. One group of authoritative military strategists believes that, in the near future, defensive operations alone will be unable to stop such an attack; consequently, they are arguing for Russia to adopt a doctrine of preemption to protect its territorial integrity and vital interests. This doctrine would authorize the first use of strategic nonnuclear or limited nuclear attacks on NATO military or civilian targets once an attack on vital Russian interests seemed imminent.

The Kremlin has apparently rejected calls for preemption thus far, excluding it from the country’s successive unclassified military doctrines. But if NATO’s offensive strike forces continue to outmatch Russian defenses, or are perceived to do so, then it is this author’s view that Moscow may well pivot toward preemption, significantly increasing the risk of major war—including nuclear war—between NATO and Russia. U.S. and NATO policymakers should act now to dissuade a possible shift toward preemption by enhancing the alliance’s force resilience in Europe, cyberspace and outer space, but doing so in a way that is unlikely to exacerbate Russian fears of a NATO surprise attack.

Read the full article at Russia Matters

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia