Russian parliamentarian Vyacheslav Alekseyevich Nikonov loudly told media that if the United States or NATO would decide to enter Crimea, or attempt to take it from Russia, that the country will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons to settle the score.
“On the issue of NATO expansion on our borders, at some point I heard from the Russian military — and I think they are right — If U.S. forces, NATO forces, are, were, in the Crimea, in eastern Ukraine, Russia is undefendable militarily in case of conflict without using nuclear weapons in the early stage of the conflict,” Nikonov said.
He also said that Russia’s leaders have had meetings and talked about the possibility of using nuclear weapons as a method of defense for Crimea.
DefenseOne.com has more:
Nikonov’s threat might sound startling, but it’s in keeping with the current state of Russia’s ever-evolving policy on the use of nuclear weapons. While the Soviet Union maintained a policy against the first use of nukes, Putin’s government turned away from that strict prohibition in 2000 with the signing of a new military doctrine that allows for the limited use of nuclear weapons “in response to large-scale aggression utilizing conventional weapons in situations critical to the national security of the Russian Federation.”
Putin has also shown a growing willingness to invest in nuclear-weapons technology. In March, he vowed to put more money into new intercontinental ballistic missiles, so-called “strategic” nuclear forces, and to prioritize those military investments “above all” other areas.
But the type of nuclear weapons that Russia would use to defend its stolen territory in Crimea might be far smaller: sub-kiloton tactical devices dwarfed even by the roughly 15 kiloton Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. These small warheads have emerged as a big concern for U.S. military leaders.
The Russians “maintain their tactical nuclear stockpile in ways that we have not,” Maj. Gen. William Hix, the Army’s director of strategy, plans, and policy said in March at the Booz Allen Hamilton Directed Energy Summit.
Still, a growing nuclear arsenal doesn’t mean that Putin is itching to stage a sneak attack.
“There is little indication that Russia plans to use nuclear weapons at the outset of a conflict, before it has engaged with conventional weapons, even though Russia could resort to the use of nuclear weapons first, during an ongoing conventional conflict,” Amy Wolf, a nuclear weapons specialist with the Congressional Research Service, wrote in February. “This is not new, and has been a part of Russian military doctrine for years.”