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Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons Behind Russian Consideration of Changes to Its Nuclear Doctrine

Before he ended his visit to Vietnam on June 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin specified in a meeting with Russian journalists that the issue behind the reconsideration of Russia’s nuclear doctrine is the West’s development of low-yield nuclear devices for combat use. “In particular, ultra-low-power nuclear explosive devices are being developed, and we know that expert circles in the West are entertaining the idea that such weapons could be used, and there is nothing particularly terrible about it,” he said. “It may not be terrible, but we must be aware of this. And we are.”

In covering Putin’s remarks, Sputnik notes that American proponents suggested that their use would not lead to an all-out nuclear retaliation due to their limited impact. “If conflict crosses the nuclear threshold, lower yields would signal a clear interest in limiting its intensity,” claimed Lieutenant Commander Alan Cummings, U.S. Navy Reserve, in an article for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings in April, in which he argued the case for placing nuclear-armed cruise missiles aboard U.S. Navy attack submarines.

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