Russian lawmaker warns Moscow may change timing for use of nuclear weapons

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Moscow may change the timing for use of its nuclear weapons if threats against Russia increase, the RIA state news agency cited Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the Russian lower house’s defense committee, as saying on Sunday.

The former general’s comments follow recent warnings by President Vladimir Putin that Moscow may change its nuclear doctrine, which lays out the conditions in which such weapons could be used.

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“If we see that the challenges and threats increase, it means that we can correct something in (the doctrine) regarding the timing of the use of nuclear weapons and the decision to make this use,” the agency quoted Kartapolov as saying.

“But of course, it’s too early to talk about specifics now.”

Russia’s 2020 nuclear doctrine sets out when its president would consider using a nuclear weapon: broadly as a response to an attack using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, or conventional weapons “when the very existence of the state is put under threat.”

Russia and the United States are by far the world's biggest nuclear powers, holding about 88 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Both are modernising their nuclear arsenals while China is rapidly boosting its nuclear arsenal.

Putin has also said Russia could test a nuclear weapon, if necessary, though he saw no need to do so at the present time.

Pressure from hardliners

Theightened rhetoric on nuclear weapons comes as both Russian and US diplomats say that Russia’s war in Ukraine, launched against its smaller neighbor in 2022, is in the most dangerous phase yet.

But he also said he did not rule out changes to Russia's nuclear doctrine. The was viewed as a nod to pressure from hardliners in the Russian elite who believe that Putin should be able to act more swiftly on nuclear escalation and reduce the threshold for use.

Putin said again last week that the nuclear doctrine might have to be changed because Russia's adversaries were developing ultra-low-yield nuclear devices.

Both Moscow and Washington made heavy cuts to the number of their weapons as the Soviet Union crumbled, but the Cold War arms control architecture has crumbled and many diplomats say they now fear a new arms race.

The United States may have to deploy more strategic nuclear weapons in coming years to deter growing threats from Russia, China and other adversaries, a senior White House aide said this month.

Russia says it is interested in discussing arms control with the United States, but only as part of a broader discussion involving European security and the future of Ukraine.

The US 2022 Nuclear Posture Review says that Russia and China are both developing their nuclear arsenals so that by the 2030s “the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries.”

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Putin says Russia to develop its nuclear arsenal to preserve global balance of power

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