Sergey Karaganov: Here’s why Russia has to consider launching a nuclear strike on Western Europe
This month, there has been an active debate in Russia about the possibility of Moscow preemptively using nuclear weapons. Which would be at variance with the established doctrine. It began after the publication of an article by Professor Sergey Karaganov, which prompted a wide response from the domestic expert community.
While Karaganov has been advocating relaxing the rules, others have different opinions: for example, Fyodor Lukyanov thinks the West cannot be 'sobered up' by using the bomb, and Ilya Fabrichnikov believes Russia should not 'take NATO's bait' and unleash the ultimate weapon.
This is Karaganov’s follow up response to his critics.
During over seventy years of mutual deterrence, atomic weapons have saved the world. People just took this for granted. However, now we see that things have changed and the unthinkable is happening: the West is responsible for a major war in the underbelly of a major nuclear power.
The official history of the creation of these weapons is known, but in my opinion there is also a higher power at play. It is as if the Lord God saw that a large part of humanity had gone mad, having started two world wars in a generation, and gave us these nuclear weapons, which are weapons of the apocalypse. He wanted them to be, to be in the front of our minds, at all times, and to scare us.
But now people have lost their fear.
Over the last few decades in the United States, Western Europe and even partly in Russia, what I call “strategic parasitism” has spread: the belief that there can never be a major war and that there will never be a major war. People are accustomed to peace, and it is on this basis that modern Western ideology has grown. In addition, there is now an unprecedented amount of propaganda around, to an extent unprecedented even during the Cold War.
People are simply being fed lies, and they are afraid to say what they really think. As a result of more than 70 years of peace, the public's sense of self-preservation has become dysfunctional, and it is further stifled by the extraordinarily virulent agitprop, part of which claims that Russia would never be able to attack Western Europe.
Official Western propaganda pumps the idea that the West can do anything it likes and Moscow will just put up with it. This has now become very clear and vivid.
In recent years, Russia has begun to strengthen its nuclear deterrent, but the steps taken so far are woefully inadequate. We, too, became complacent at some point, following Western theories and recklessly overestimating the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, which the West is now exploiting, and not by accident either. The little bureaucrats there keep saying: no, the Russians will never use nuclear weapons.
They do not want to hear anything different under any circumstances, as they don’t want to interrupt their desire for an endless war in Ukraine. Because their military-industrial complex is greater than ours, they just want to wear us down.
I hope we never use nuclear weapons, but the fact that we refuse to allow their use in all situations except in the case of mortal danger to the state itself seems to me to be reckless.
The US is tying Russia's hands in this way, hoping that in the long run this long war will cause an internal implosion. And, as a result, this would radically weaken its main rival, China, which will be left to fend for itself.
This is a strategic plan that is absolutely clear.
At the same time, having already thrown the Ukrainian people into the furnace, the Americans are pushing the Western Europeans into the same place, destroying the status they have held for five centuries. This policy also solves another problem – it destroys the Old World as a strategic player and potential competitor. In turn, the captured West European elites are driving their countries and peoples into the ground.
We would like to believe that our adversaries will come to their senses. Because if they don't, Russia's political-military leadership will be faced with a terrible moral choice and the need to make a hard decision. But I believe that our president must demonstrate his willingness to use nuclear weapons at some point.
But the question is who could and should be the target of such an attack. The Americans, as we all know, have been shamelessly lying when they say that we are preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Ukraine. This is monstrous nonsense, absolutely malicious, because of course the Ukrainians are a miserable, deluded people who are being driven to slaughter. But they are still our people, and we are not going to hit them.
If there are to be nuclear strikes, they should be aimed at countries in Western Europe that have been most supportive of the mercenary regime in Kiev.
Fortunately, we have begun to take steps up the ladder of nuclear deterrence. But we need to move faster and more decisively, even though their use would be, of course, a monstrous step and should be avoided if possible. But as the vector of development of the West, its elites and society – and its movement towards anti-human and post-human values show – all this clearly indicates an objective drift to an eventual thermonuclear war. We have to interrupt this process and save the world – avoiding, of course, super-violent actions if possible.
We have time, but we must realize that it is rather short. We have to use these few years to solve the problem of the West, to make it step back and mind its own business, because now, to distract from its own internal issues, it is trying to start wars all over the world.
Launching the current military operation was an important – and certainly correct – step, although in my view it should have been taken earlier. There are a number of other moves that can be made. In particular, it is worth making it clear to everyone in the West that any attack on Belarus will be equated to a blow to Russia and will have similar consequences.
Possible Russian measures could also include missile redeployments, tests of our strategic missiles at close range, as well as psychological actions and even the severing of diplomatic relations with those countries that play the most active Russophobic roles. Also possible is a measure such as warning all Russian speakers, all citizens of the former Soviet Union, and all people of goodwill to leave places that are potential targets of a nuclear strike. This too could be a potentially powerful tool of deterrence. And all these people do not have to go to Russia: let them go to other states that do not have military facilities and do not help the Kiev regime and do not supply it with weapons and money - there are many such countries. People should return to Russia not out of fear, but out of their own free will.
When discussing a hypothetical atomic attack on Western Europe, the question arises: how would the US answer? Virtually all experts agree that under no circumstances would the Americans respond to a nuclear attack on their allies with a nuclear attack on our territory. Incidentally, even Biden has said so openly.
Russian military experts, however, believe that a massive conventional retaliatory strike could follow. It could be pointed out that this would be followed by even more massive nuclear strikes. And they would finish off Western Europe as a geopolitical entity. Which, of course, would be undesirable because, after all, we are to some extent Europeans and, to use Dostoyevsky's words, the old European stones are not alien to us.
When discussing such scenarios, the subject of China and its position inevitably comes up. Our strategic goals are the same, but our operational goals differ, of course. And if I were Chinese, I wouldn't be in a hurry to end the conflict in Ukraine, because it diverts US and Western attention and military power away from them and gives Beijing an opportunity to accumulate strength.
It's a perfectly normal, I would say respectful, position. And of course I do not want nuclear weapons to be used. First of all, for moral and ethical reasons: I think the Chinese and I agree on that.
And secondly, because the Chinese still have a small nuclear capability, it is undesirable for them to start a military and political competition in this area right now. In ten years' time they will have a first-class nuclear capability (and even in five to seven years' time their situation will change), and then the best option to prevent a major thermonuclear war will be to have a more powerful China in the front line, with Russia supporting and covering it, as the Chinese are supporting us now.
I fully understand the moral anguish of people who say: under no circumstances is the use of nuclear weapons conceivable or acceptable. To which I reply: my friends, I respect pacifists, but they exist and live in this world only because soldiers fight and die for them, just as our soldiers and officers are fighting now in Ukraine.