A Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine: How likely is it?
The threat of Moscow nuking Ukraine is virtually zero – but irresponsible actions by NATO may increase the nuclear danger to Europe俄罗斯对乌克兰的核打击:可能性有多大?

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet unx as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

作者简介:斯科特·里特是前美国海军陆战队情报官员,也是《蝎王:从罗斯福到特朗普对核武器的自杀式拥抱》一书的作者。他曾在苏联担任1987年《中程核武器条约》的执行检查员,在海湾战争期间担任施瓦茨科普夫将军的参谋,并在 1991 年至 1998 年期间担任联合国武器监督检查员。

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, made headlines recently while answering questions from reporters about the threat posed by Russian nuclear weapons within the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. “Given the potential desperation of President [Vladimir] Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” Burns said.
Burns’ statements were derived from a fact-set being promulgated by Ukraine, the US and the Western media which holds that Russia has suffered serious setbacks in Ukraine and is desperate to salvage the military situation on the ground. Russia disputes this assessment, holding that what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine is proceeding according to plan, having transitioned into its second phase, which focuses on the destruction of Ukrainian military forces in and around the Donbass region.
Burns himself was unable to provide any concrete evidence to back up his claims about the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. “While we’ve seen some rhetorical posturing on the part of the Kremlin about moving to higher nuclear alx levels, so far we haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence of the kind of deployments or military dispositions that would reinforce that concern,” Burns said. “But we watch for that very intently, it’s one of our most important responsibilities at the CIA.”中央情报局局长威廉·伯恩斯最近在记者关于俄罗斯核武器在乌克兰持续冲突背景下构成的威胁这一问题时的回答登上了头条。“鉴于弗拉基米尔·普京总统和俄罗斯领导人可能陷入绝望境地,鉴于他们迄今为止在军事上面临的挫折,我们谁都不能轻视俄罗斯可能诉诸战术核武器或低当量核武所带来的威胁,” 伯恩斯说。

Burns’ exaggerated and unfounded concerns were put front and center on the international stage by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when answering a question posed by a CNN reporter about the potential for Russia using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. “We shouldn’t wait for the moment when Russia decides to use nuclear weapons,” Zelensky replied. “We must prepare for that.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was dismissive of Zelensky’s analysis of Burns’ remarks. “[Zelensky] says many things,” Lavrov said, speaking to a reporter during his recent visit to India. “I cannot comment [on] something, which a not very adequate person pronounces.”
Lavrov noted that the US and Russia had, during the June 2021 Summit between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, reiterated the Cold War-era understanding that “there could be no winners in a nuclear war,” a statement which was adopted by the Permanent Five members of the Security Council (Russia, the US, China, France, and Great Britain) in January 2022. Lavrov emphasized the fact that this statement remained in full effect, and that Russia would only use conventional weapons in Ukraine.乌克兰总统泽连斯基在回答美国有线电视新闻网记者就俄罗斯在乌克兰使用核武器的可能性提出的问题时,将伯恩斯的夸大和毫无根据的担忧置于国际舞台的中心。“我们不应该等待俄罗斯决定使用核武器的那一刻,”泽连斯基回答说。“我们必须为此做好准备。”
拉夫罗夫指出,美国和俄罗斯在2021年6月美国总统乔·拜登和俄罗斯总统弗拉基米尔·普京举行的峰会上重申了冷战时期的理解,即“核战争不可能有胜利者”,该声明通过2022 年 1 月安理会五个常任理事国(俄罗斯、美国、中国、法国和英国)联合发表得以通过和确认。拉夫罗夫强调,这一声明仍然完全有效,俄罗斯只会在乌克兰使用常规武器。

The statements by Burns and Zelensky, magnified as they have been by a Western media more interested in creating sensational headlines than understanding the reality of the situation regarding Russian nuclear posture, is part and parcel of an overall public relations strategy designed to paint Russia.
Russia, and in particular its leader, Vladimir Putin, has left no doubt as to the reality of Russia’s nuclear deterrent capability. Indeed, Putin, when announcing the start of the operation, raised the specter of Russia’s nuclear power status when warning the US, NATO, and the EU not to intervene directly in Ukraine. “Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history.”
Putin followed that statement up with a more pointed response to what he termed the “unfriendly” actions of “Western countries” in response to the Ukrainian operation. “Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members have made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said during a meeting with his top officials. He then directed that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and the chief of the military’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, place Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”伯恩斯和泽伦斯基的言论被西方媒体放大了,他们更感兴趣的是制造耸人听闻的头条新闻,而不是了解俄罗斯核态势的现实情况,是旨在抹黑俄罗斯的整体公共关系战略的重要组成部分。

While anti-Russian pundits in the West jumped on Putin’s directive as an order to elevate the operational readiness of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, the reality is far different – Putin’s orders most likely simply increased the communications capability of the various command and control functions related to Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, with no change in the operational readiness of any frontline nuclear units.
The ability of the West to overact to any news about Russia’s nuclear arsenal displays a deep-seated lack of understanding as to what Russia’s posture is, and under what circumstances its nukes might be used. While such uncertainty may have been understandable in the past, on June 2, 2022, Russia – for the first time in its 30-year history – released to the public a document, “Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence,” which explains Russia’s nuclear war fighting policy.
The Russian “Basic Principles” make clear that nuclear weapons are viewed “exclusively as a means of deterrence,” the use of which could only take place as “an extreme and compelled measure.” Russia’s strategic nuclear forces are organized so that there is “the inevitability of retaliation” in the event of nuclear attack on Russia and that these forces were designed to inflict “guaranteed unacceptable damage” on any potential adversary – in short, any nation on the receiving end of Russia’s nuclear arsenal would cease to exist as a modern state with a functioning society.虽然西方的反俄权威人士将普京的指令视为提高俄罗斯核武库战备状态的命令,但现实却大不相同——普京的命令很可能只是加强了与俄罗斯核武库相关的各种指挥和控制职能的通信能力。战略核力量,任何前线核部队的战备状态都没有变化。
西方对任何有关俄罗斯核武库的消息反应过度的能力表明,人们对俄罗斯的姿态以及在什么情况下可能使用其核武器存在根深蒂固的缺乏了解。虽然这种不确定性在过去可能是可以理解的,但在 2022 年 6 月 2 日,俄罗斯在其30年的历史上首次向公众发布了一份文件,《俄罗斯联邦关于核威慑政策的基本原则》,”这解释了俄罗斯的核战争政策。
俄罗斯的“基本原则”明确指出,核武器“仅被视为一种威慑手段”,使用核武器只能作为“一种极端的强制措施”。俄罗斯的战略核力量在对本国遭到核攻击的情况下“不可避免地要进行报复”的前提下组织的,并且这些力量旨在对任何潜在的对手造成“有保证的不可接受的损害” ——简而言之,任何遭到国家俄罗斯核武库攻击的国家被终结,无法再作为一个具有正常运转社会的现代国家存在。

The nuclear posture document details Russia’s “launch on warning” posture, noting that Russia would launch its nuclear weapons if it received “reliable data on a launch of ballistic missiles attacking the territory of Russia and/or its allies.” Russia would also retaliate if nuclear weapons were used against Russia and/or its allies.
The document also outlined two non-nuclear scenarios where Russia would retaliate using nuclear weapons. The first involves an attack by an adversary against critical governmental or military sites of Russia, the disruption of which would undermine nuclear force response actions (i.e. a so-called decapitation strike against the political and military leadership). The second involves any aggression against Russia with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.
As Sergey Lavrov pointed out in his statement to the Indian press, none of the conditions set forth in the “Basic Principles” document apply to the current situation in Ukraine.核威慑文件详细说明了俄罗斯的“警告发射”态势,指出如果俄罗斯收到“关于袭击俄罗斯或其盟国领土的弹道导弹发射的可靠数据,俄罗斯将立刻发射核武器。” 如果对俄罗斯或其盟国使用核武器,俄罗斯也会进行报复。

This does not, however, mean that the Ukraine conflict has not resulted in elevating the nuclear temperature in Europe – far from it. In Sweden, support for joining NATO is growing, and Finland could be filing an application for membership within weeks. If the US-led bloc expands to these two countries, it may be a case for a potential military response by Russia – or at least a boosted build-up of Russian forces. According to Dmitry Medvedev, a former president and prime minister who currently advises President Putin on national security matters, if either Sweden or Finland were to join NATO, “it will no longer be possible to talk about any nuclear-free status of the Baltic – the balance must be restored.”
Medvedev noted that “Russia has not taken such measures and was not going to,” but added that “if our hand is forced, well… take note it wasn’t us who proposed this.”
The talk of Sweden and/or Finland joining NATO comes on the heels of a concerted effort by the bloc to deploy nuclear-capable F-35A fighters. “We’re moving fast and furiously towards F-35 modernization and incorporating those into our planning and into our exercising and things like that as those capabilities come online,” Jessica Cox, the director of the NATO nuclear policy directorate in Brussels, declared recently. “By the end of the decade, most if not all of our allies will have transitioned” to the F-35, Cox said.
瑞典以及芬兰加入北约的对话是在该集团一致努力部署具有核打击能力的 F-35A 战斗机之后进行的。布鲁塞尔北约核政策局局长杰西卡·考克斯最近宣布:“我们正在快速而猛烈地向现代化的F-35迈进,并将其纳入我们的计划和训练以及类似的事项中,因为这些能力已经上线。” 考克斯还表示:“到本世代末,我们的大多数盟友(如果不是全部的话)都将过渡到F-35。”

The F-35A was certified as a nuclear capable aircraft in October 2021, having been tested using B-61 nuclear bombs. The US maintains a stockpile of some 150 B-61 nuclear bombs at various depots throughout Europe. These weapons are intended to be used by both the US and so-called “non-nuclear” members of NATO. Indeed, Cox had specifically noted that other NATO allies currently operating the F-35, such as Poland, Denmark, and Norway, might be called upon to support NATO nuclear sharing missions in the future. Finland has recently announced that it intends to purchase 60 F-35A fighters, a move that can only be seen as worrisome by Russia considering Finland’s stated desire to join NATO.
The extensive use by the US and other NATO air forces of the F-35A in support of the so-called “Baltic air policing” operation ongoing over the skies of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, is seen by Russia as representing a serious threat, given that every F-35A in the air must be treated as a potential nuclear-armed threat.
Jessica Cox and the other proponents of the F-35A fighter – including Finland – would do well to reflect on the fact that the Russian “Basic Principles” list the “deployment of nuclear weapons and their delivery means in the territories of non-nuclear weapon states” as one of the scenarios “to be neutralized by the implementation of nuclear deterrence.”
Russia may not be preparing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. However, NATO’s irresponsible posturing may result in increasing the potential for Russian nuclear weapons to be used in Europe.F-35A于 2021 年 10 月被认证为具有核打击能力的飞机,并已使用 B-61核弹进行了测试。美国在整个欧洲的各个仓库中储存了大约 150 枚 B-61 核弹。这些武器旨在供美国和北约所谓的“非核”成员使用。事实上,考克斯曾特别指出,目前运营 F-35 的其他北约盟国,如波兰、丹麦和挪威,将来可能会被要求支持北约的核共享任务。芬兰最近宣布,它打算购买60架 F-35A 战斗机,考虑到芬兰明确表示希望加入北约,这一举动只能被俄罗斯视为令人担忧。
美国和其他北约空军广泛使用 F-35A 来支持在拉脱维亚、爱沙尼亚和立陶宛上空进行的所谓“波罗的海空中警戒”行动,鉴于空中的每一架F-35A 都必须被视为潜在的核打击力量,俄罗斯认为这是一种严重威胁。
杰西卡·考克斯和包括芬兰在内的其他 F-35A 战斗机的支持者最好反思一下俄罗斯“基本原则”中所列出的“在非核国家或地区部署核武器及其运载工具这一事实”将被作为“通过实施核威慑来中和”的情景之一。