In mid-June, I published an article titled “Nuclear weapons use can save humanity from global catastrophe” in Profil magazine. It was posted in Russian and in English almost simultaneously on the Russia in Global Affairs journal’s website.  It was widely reprinted around the world, sparking a tsunami of responses, objections, and debates, tens of thousands of reactions. There was also no shortage of words of support, either.
I took the criticism coming from some of my compatriots calmly and with a healthy dose of humour. With joy and interest, I welcomed the feedback from my opponents. As a patriot of Russia and a responsible citizen of humanity, as well as an international scholar, I experienced a sense of satisfaction from the awareness that I was successfully performing my moral and professional duty.
However, the work is just beginning.
Beginning the discussion
One of the intermediate goals of this article — which is to revive the discussion of the role of nuclear deterrence in preventing a major thermonuclear war, and a major war in general — has been partially achieved. The professional strategic community and the thinking public in general have started to move away from the lethargic slumber of “strategic parasitism.” This lethargy was induced by three-quarters of a century without a major war, which has led — primarily in the West, but even here in Russia — to a habit of peace, an assurance that everything will remain as is, and a dulled sense of self-preservation among a significant portion of the world’s elites. Actively opposing the threat of a major war, which almost inevitably would escalate into a nuclear Armageddon, has started to feel awkward and outdated.
Later on, I will discuss another reason for the urgent need to step up nuclear deterrence which is the unfolding of a new phase of the arms race, which is potentially much more costly and dangerous than the one we saw during the years of the previous Cold War.
I stand by every word written in the June article. I will reinforce certain arguments and introduce new ones that I did not raise last time in favour of a policy of intensifying nuclear deterrence/intimidation, and sobering up the adversary. But first, I will address the criticism.
Responding to everyone, especially certain Russian voices, would be out of place. They do not warrant attention, particularly the outcry that I and those who agree with me were calling for the use of nuclear weapons.
In my heart, I partly understand the criticism coming from the people who say it cannot be, for it is too terrible to contemplate. But my mind rejects it. Pacifists, including nuclear pacifists, are able to live comfortably, sit and chat in cafes only because warriors fight for them and die. Just like our soldiers and officers are doing now in the fields of Ukraine.
I am well aware of the theory that nuclear weapons, if used, would inevitably lead to global escalation and the demise of human civilisation. Such a possibility does exist, and it should by no means be underestimated. However, without strengthening nuclear deterrence and restoring the fear of nuclear war, including a credible threat of limited use of nuclear weapons, a global war, given the trajectory of global developments, is practically inevitable.
Yet the automatic escalation from limited nuclear weapon use to a global thermonuclear conflict is a myth. It certainly contradicts the actual plans for using nuclear weapons, as well as official doctrines. In the past, this myth was quite useful. Like other experts, I consciously participated in its creation during the Cold War. Inflating these ideas was intended to prevent any major war between nuclear states, although it would seem to contradict the logic of actual doctrines for the use of nuclear weapons. But this crucial function of nuclear deterrence — preventing any major war especially against major nuclear power – did not work. The West has effectively unleashed one.
The reaction of officials and semi-officials and experts in the United States was almost appalling. They continued to grossly downplay the likelihood of Russia using nuclear weapons. They keep saying, “No, they won’t use them.” “Their (our — S.K.) doctrine (sic) does not provide for the use of nuclear weapons except in response to an attack against the territory of the Russian Federation or its allies or when the very existence of the state is under threat.” And such a situation doesn’t seem to exist. Our frivolous, if, alas, not irresponsible, nuclear doctrine which was written in a different era in line with prevailing strategic theories (usually coming from the West), and apparently driven by a lingering desire from the past to please others, is being used as a pretext to wage an endless war against Russia to the last Ukrainian. Statements by the President, indicating the possibility of using nuclear weapons, are either silenced or ridiculed, and presented as hollow. It is absolutely clear that efforts are underway to politically and psychologically denuclearise Russia and to virtually deprive it of its nuclear weapons, since they failed to do so physically. Westerners are trying to make their latent economic advantage pay political dividends, to wear Russia out, and to provoke an internal split. I don’t pretend to be on the same level as the President, but even my modest article has been labelled as propaganda. It is not. It is an invitation to reflection.
The downplaying of the threat of nuclear war to justify reckless policies and impose defeat on Russia has reached absurd proportions. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken ranks fourth in the presidential line of succession in case of the president’s death or incapacity to perform his duties. He had the following to say on 30July: “The potential threat of nuclear war is no more dangerous than the existential problem of climate change and there is no hierarchy in this regard.” I was stunned. But it doesn’t end there. Speaking in Vietnam on September 10, President Biden said, “The only existential threat humanity faces even more frightening than a — than a nuclear war is global warming going above 1.5 degrees in the next 20 — 10 years…There’s no way back from that.” 
As a fellow citizen of the Earth, I am also concerned about climate change. Humanity will have to painfully adapt to it. But when this change is considered worse than a nuclear catastrophe which will destroy hundreds of millions of lives and undermine our species’ habitat, you understand that we are dealing with a dangerous… I will refrain from using the most fitting term. After all, we are talking about the leaders of a major nuclear power. The fear of nuclear weapons, or of nuclear war in general, must be restored without any further delay.
Such statements strongly reinforce my arguments about the rapidly deteriorating Western elites’ need for a rude awakening. “Nuclear parasitism” and the declining sense of self-preservation can be clearly seen in what the Westerners are doing and saying with regard to the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant. The Kiev junta is bombing it, and we are repelling the attacks, but we see no protests, to say nothing of mass protests. They hope that if any of these attacks succeeds, small leaks and some casualties will ensue, but they will be able to blame Russia again; the world won’t collapse, and they will be able to go on with their insane policies. They no longer fear radiation, even though it was the most feared consequence of nuclear weapons in the public consciousness.
A poll conducted by the supposedly reputable Pew Research Center in March showed that the Americans considered cyberattacks, fake news, China and Russia in general, global economic issues, infectious diseases, climate change, and only then nuclear war to be top threats.
The unconcealed aim of the Americans and other Westerners to give us our own “Vietnam War” or “Afghanistan squared” is understandable. The Ukrainians are of no value to them and they are eager to degrade, or better yet, disintegrate Russia in order to later halt or even reverse China’s victorious march. What remains unclear is the fury coming from our armchair strategists who insist that any threat of using nuclear weapons is unacceptable. Are they planning to fight “to the last Russian soldier,” endlessly taking out the best, bravest, most energetic and patriotic men among us?
I understand that the fervent critics of active deterrence or any threat of the use of nuclear weapons against countries pursuing hostile policies toward Russia may include defeatists who have not yet fled Russia but who nonetheless hate the country and any government in it. However, I refuse to understand the logic, or lack thereof, in other colleagues whom I do not wish to suspect of this way of thinking.
I understand our leaders’ desire not to overly alarm the public. But this relaxed attitude is not lost on the adversary who refuses to believe our statements that a war with the West in Ukraine is existential for us, or our determination to win, including, in the worst case, through the use of the most severe measures. Acting that way, we unwittingly play into the hands of those who hope to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia, undermining the credibility of nuclear deterrence, and ultimately increasing the likelihood of descending into full-scale World War III.
It is necessary to make our partners and, of course, adversaries understand our determination to “respond in full” to the continuation and escalation of their aggressive actions. (Not a single drone, despite the demonisation of North Korea, has ever struck Pyongyang because its adversaries have no doubt in its determination to respond violently, and not necessarily with nuclear weapons).
One of the most important functions of nuclear deterrence is to save resources on much more expensive en masse conventional weaponry. This is exactly what Western countries did during the previous Cold War when the threat, albeit a bluff (but that is a separate issue), of using nuclear weapons in the event of the Soviet forces’ victorious march towards the English Channel allowed them to save on conventional forces. It was a reasonable part of NATO’s military policy. Soviet leaders and generals, influenced by the syndrome of June 22, 1941, but also due to the lack of any pressure from below to curtail their outlandish spending on armaments, did not share this logic. They engaged in an arms race in both nuclear and conventional weapons and maintained a gigantic army. As we know, the Soviet Union had more tanks in service than the rest of the world combined and more nuclear warheads than the United States. This parallel arms race coupled with the erosion of the then-national idea of communist internationalism and inefficiencies in agriculture, shattered the country. Do we want a repeat?
I am aware of the fact that Soviet infantry generals and marshals, as well as a number of the defence industry leaders, loathed nuclear weapons. And not just for pacifist reasons. It rendered the maintenance of a gigantic army and orders for astronomical amounts of conventional weaponry meaningless. During exercises simulating the use of nuclear weapons, all military plans fell apart, and requests for new weapons and allocations lacked credibility.
Have we forgotten this lesson? Rebuilding conventional forces, which have been shamefully neglected since the late 1980s, is necessary. Clearly, while conducting military operations to push back the West and to denazify and demilitarise Ukraine, we need to continue to build up our military production.
It is also clear that putting a quick end to the special military operation is not possible, and perhaps even not necessary. Time is needed to finish nationalising the elite, ridding it and the minds of the Western-centric and Westernising compradors of their peculiar way of thinking, and restructuring of the economy and the country for successful development amid the geopolitical and geo-economic earthquake that will likely last for the next decade or two.
Continuing the military operation is also necessary in order to try to force the West to come to its senses, step back and withdraw its support for the Kiev junta, and to agree to denazify and fully demilitarise the state entity that may remain within Ukraine’s borders. If the West refuses, we will need time to convince our society and our international partners of the lack of alternative to active nuclear deterrence, up to and including use.
This time must also be used to convince everyone of the truth that is plain to me — the lack of any alternative to increasing reliance on active deterrence in order to keep from sliding into a Third World War, and to finally free countries and peoples from the remnants of the “Western yoke.”
The special military operation has initiated the process of transforming society into a nation, developing its new/old identity, and strengthening traditional values such as collectivism or national unity. It has also reinforced such wonderful features of our people as internationalism, lack of racism, and cultural openness. People see firsthand how Russian nationals of different ethnic backgrounds – Russian Russians, Russian Tatars, Russian Buryats, Russian Dagestanis, Russian Chechens, Russian Yakuts, and so on — are fighting as one. This lays the foundation for renewing the stagnant elites with new ones who have proven their dedication to the Motherland, namely, warriors and civilian volunteers who are helping the front.
We are concluding our 300-year plus journey to the West, which has yielded many benefits but has long since outlived its usefulness and even become detrimental, given the trend toward moral decay and economic stagnation in the West. The accelerated development of the defence industry has initiated a new phase of technological renewal. This is the only way forward for our country, which is historically built around defence. The Western experience, where a significant portion of innovations originates in the civilian sector, cannot be replicated in Russia.
The long-awaited return to true meritocracy as a national priority has begun. This concept was pushed aside and even destroyed by the failed policies and philosophies underlying the reforms that started in the late 1980s when it was openly said that “money conquers evil.” This meritocracy includes the engineers, military, scientists (especially natural scientists), educators, skilled workers, medical doctors, and business philanthropists who see business not only as a path to personal enrichment but also as service to society and the country.
The process of educating a new type of government official has begun where proactive service to the cause, the country, and the highest authority is primary, and individual wealth is secondary. This is reinforced by the intensified fight against corruption, which is especially unacceptable during times of war. Hopefully, this will also lead to a battle against the philosophy of consumerism, especially conspicuous overconsumption. Requiring government officials to use Russian-made cars is an overdue move, but better late than never.
Westerners and the experts who adopt their viewpoint, as well as everyone else who still lives in the past century, tend to focus almost exclusively on the nuclear component when it comes to the arms race. However, from a societal perspective, in terms of preserving the people, stability, and societal development, a race in non-nuclear arms could potentially prove much more dangerous. Such a race is unfolding worldwide. In the medium term, prolonged armed conflicts and a conventional arms race may be less advantageous for a country with relatively limited economic and demographic potential. While time is currently on our side, the United States and its allies have significant reserves for expanding defence production. If an endless conflict ensues, time will start working against us.
Furthermore, it is essential to conserve our best men, those who are fighting and giving their lives for the Motherland. Otherwise, there won’t be anyone to replenish the governing class, and the genetic strength of the nation will weaken. This is particularly important considering the suffering Russia endured during the 20th century.
Assuming that the West, given its deep and multi-level crisis and its relatively more vulnerable democratic political system, will be the first to falter in an arms race is not a sound strategy.
Moreover, in the long term, a conventional arms race may be more favourable for countries with greater economic and demographic potential than ours. This reinforces the argument for enhancing the role of nuclear deterrence in national strategy and international relations in general. Additionally, such a race would divert not only our country but all of humanity from addressing global issues such as climate change, food and energy shortages, and inevitable new epidemics.
As a reminder, making victory impossible in conventional warfare and, accordingly, blocking a non-nuclear arms race was among the most critical functions of nuclear deterrence.
In the event military actions become protracted, even if we achieve victory in Ukraine and return traditionally Russian territories, complete the denazification and demilitarisation of the remaining Ukrainian territories, and have the West withdraw and cease inciting war, this victory, as I mentioned in my previous article, could turn out to be Pyrrhic. We would be exhausted and weakened and hampered to successfully defend our positions and interests in the future, at least in a highly competitive world. Moreover, we would be burdened with the task of restoring not only traditionally Russian territories but also, at least partially, territories that were demilitarised and denazified. This would continue to divert us from the more promising parts of our country, such as the Urals and Siberia, and turn our focus to the dead-end Western areas instead.
We won the last Great Patriotic War at enormous cost and effort, but we were unable to fully capitalise on that victory and largely lost the peace. Now, it’s essential to win both the war and the peace.
Now, let us turn our attention to the main challenge. The crisis surrounding Ukraine is a symptom of a much more dangerous disease afflicting the global system. For many years now, I have written about the growing threat of the third, and perhaps the last for human civilisation, world war. The threat is growing even without the Ukraine crisis, which has escalated and brought it closer.
The primary sources of this threat reside in the moral, political, intellectual, social, and economic multi-level crisis plaguing the bulk of the collective West, which has been imposing its interests and rules on the world over the past five centuries.
A massive realignment of global power, unprecedented in intensity and speed, is underway. The West is engaged in a desperate final battle to preserve its dominance which allowed it to exploit the rest of humanity and suppress other civilisations.
The turmoil will continue for a long time, if and when it becomes possible to stop the aggressive resistance of the West and to make it start addressing its domestic issues without resorting to external aggression as a diversion.
The emergence of new sources of friction and conflicts is inevitable. We must, already now, erect a psycho-political barrier to prevent them from escalating into military conflicts, and reinstate the fear of nuclear war that saved the world during the Cold War. The rivalry structure in a multipolar world, which will also be a nuclear multipolar world, will be far more complex. We must incorporate safety mechanisms into these systems, with the main one being fear of nuclear Armageddon, which can dissuade and civilise elites.
Unintentionally, we are allowing the global situation to deteriorate in the worst possible direction. In Ukraine, we have finally stood up to the United States/West, but we have so far let them grab the initiative in matters of escalation. They continuously expand and deepen their aggression by supplying increasingly deadly and long-range weapons. We are allowing them to convince themselves that escalation can go unpunished. They are the aggressors, but without setting firm limits to them, we are appeasing them.
For a quarter of a century, due to either helplessness or the illusory hope of reaching an agreement, we did not set a firm limit to NATO expansion, which inevitably led to war. I have been saying so all these years. I did not want my predictions to come true this time, either.
The situation is further aggravated by the evident degradation of Western elites. Even Henry Kissinger, the living embodiment of this elite and an American patriot, acknowledged this degradation and sounded the alarm in his most recent book Leadership.
I said it in my previous article and I will say it again. It will only get worse in the foreseeable future. Each new call from Western leaders is more foolish, reckless, and ideologically charged than the previous one, making it more dangerous for the world. They are consciously fuelling the disintegration of their societies by promoting anti-human values. Any recovery, if and when it occurs, will likely be beyond the horizon and probably come to fruition only after a catharsis.
I do not see any chance to awaken a sense of self-preservation in the West and the global elites other than through an escalation of the nuclear threat, hopefully without having to take that to its conclusion in reality. However, the adversary must be aware of our leadership and society’s unwavering commitment to take this step in case of utmost necessity. We need to restore belief in hell for those who have lost it. The awakening of the Western elites and societies from their current state would benefit the majority of its citizens who are being dumbed down, corrupted, and ultimately driven to the slaughter by the transnational globalist elites who have been driven mad by their failures.
I have mentioned before that politically the West is steadily moving toward a new form of fascism and perhaps even towards a “liberal” form of totalitarianism. Incidentally, the West has been the source of both totalitarian ideologies: the brutally inhumane German Nazism and the more humane Communism that proclaimed equality for all but came at a high price for our and several other nations. All European (Western) dreams are utopias, and these ideal societies were, in fact, totalitarian in nature.
Objectively, the systemic crisis that emerged in 2008 is pushing the world toward a big war. It is plaguing modern globalist capitalism that is devoid of moral foundations and is based on the unending growth of consumption that is destroying the planet. The resulting depletion of many resources, environmental pollution, climate change, growing social inequality, and erosion of the middle class, as well as the growing dysfunction of the political systems in the developed countries are discussed extensively but very little is being or can be done as they are confined by the dogmas of democratic liberalism and globalism. Tensions are mounting right before our eyes. It is becoming increasingly difficult to divert attention from unsolvable challenges by using a COVID pandemic or sowing hostility towards outsiders (blaming “authoritarian” Russians or “totalitarian” Chinese for everything), or fueling what are essentially regional conflicts (Ukraine). The pimples are coming to a head.
The danger of a major war is exacerbated by the development of military technologies and more deadly systems that are increasingly controlled by artificial intelligence. It is good that we have made headway in hypersonic technology, and we need to keep on working. But soon, others will catch up, and many countries, including nuclear ones, will have the capability to deliver nearly instantaneous strikes. Nervousness, the likelihood of errors and suspicion will intensify.
A new revolution in the military field has begun. Just look at the mass production of relatively cheap drones. A mere five years ago, in 2018, a drone attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia looked exotic. Now, it’s commonplace. Besides everything else, drones are almost perfectly suited for terrorist attacks, even ones involving weapons of mass destruction which, amid rampant mistrust, if not hatred, could easily trigger a big war.
Mutual demonisation — which we are using as a tit-for-tat response — lowers moral barriers that obstruct the use of force. Even now, to fight the hated Russians, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are being sent to their graveyards. Clearly, many more are dying from the collapse of infrastructure and healthcare. These victims are either completely forgotten or deliberately downplayed. Obviously, there is an even worse attitude toward demonised Russians. Russophobia has reached almost unprecedented proportions, perhaps comparable to how the Nazis viewed Slavs and Jews. Indeed, what we now feel toward not just the leaders but the residents of Western countries as well is, at the very least, disdain.
Modern information technology and the internet have led not so much to the rise of mass enlightenment, as was hoped, but to increased opportunities for manipulation and, in all likelihood, to a widespread intellectual degradation. This is particularly true of the public elites, which we can observe.
The overall result is an almost unprecedented level of mistrust and suspicion among major powers that have of late become open rivals. This is happening against the backdrop of a broken dialogue system and the collapse of the arms control system, which, while not always useful and sometimes even harmful in the past, at least provided channels of communication between leading military powers.
To reiterate, the most obvious development is the unprecedented rapid redistribution of global power from the West to the Global Majority, with Russia has been designated by history as its military and political core.
Humanity is facing an existential challenge to prevent the inexorably approaching catastrophe of the Third World War within the next ten years by forcing the West, primarily the United States, to step back and adapt to the new reality. To achieve this, we need to compel their deep state to refresh, as much as possible, the ruling elites, whose ideological drive, irresponsibility, attachment to an era of globalist-liberal democracy that is objectively on its way out, and, most importantly, whose low quality does not meet the challenges facing humanity today. The falling West may drag everyone down with it, including its deep state.
Rising great China does not seem to be ready yet to take on this challenge. They have relatively little experience in global diplomacy, including military power diplomacy. So, it is a question of “who, if not us?”
It appears that preventing a global disaster and liberating countries and peoples from hegemony and hegemons, defending state sovereignty and the human and divine being in each person is the mission of our multiethnic people in modern world history. It is the external component of our national and state cultural programme, the “Russian dream and idea” we are still either searching for or fearing to formulate for ourselves and the world.
If we manage to avoid a global disaster, two decades from now, the world will establish a new balance of power and a much fairer, multicolored, and multicultural international system. If not, we can not only fall into exhaustion from the confrontation with the West on the fields of Ukraine but also get ourselves and everyone else a world war in the end.
However, even in such a potentially fairer world, there will be need to strengthen the “fuse,” the reliance on nuclear deterrence. New giants will enter the stage, and they will inevitably engage in a competition. The intensification of the nuclear factor with the terror it instils is necessary to prevent the inevitable rivalry from escalating into hostilities. Therefore, if nuclear weapons will have to be used (God forbid), the strike should be of a sufficiently large proportion. This is why I mentioned “collective use” in my previous article.
If nuclear weapons are used on a small scale, with a yield of several kilotonnes, it could potentially win us a war but would modernize the fear that had preserved relative peace for three-quarters of a century. Nuclear weapons would become “usable.” I am aware that I am joined by some colleagues in the West in my fear of limited nuclear exchanges between India and Pakistan in this context. The world would not collapse, but the sacrosanct fear of nuclear weapons would disappear. Fear would be restored if it were to be used in Europe, since it still plays the key role in the global media agenda. But, to reiterate, heaven forbid that ever comes to pass.
Practical steps to consider
I don’t see any other way to prevent a global war and, before that, an exhausting and costly military operation in Ukraine, except by strengthening reliance on nuclear containment-deterrence-awakening. This may include not only the threat of retaliation against the territories of US allies but also, if necessary, against US bases (we have almost no bases abroad). Washington’s hawks and US society must understand that retribution for their reckless and aggressive policy is inevitable. To achieve this, it is necessary, first, to promptly lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons in our doctrine, which was blithely if not irresponsibly raised, and second, to cautiously but decisively move up the ladder of escalation-deterrence, convincing both ourselves and the adversary of our readiness — if it does not work, and the West does not retreat or revise its policy — to resort to the use of a few nuclear weapons against several countries in Europe that are most aggressively involved in supporting the Kiev junta. To reiterate, this is a terrible moral choice, and I pray to God that we do not have to make it. But the alternative is hopelessly worse.
A fitting, albeit belated, step up this ladder would be to finally expose NATO for what it really is. Born to suppress dissenters — then Communists, the only force that fought back in Europe after its surrender to Hitler and had significant chances of coming to power in some countries due to the authority it had gained — NATO became a military alliance, thanks to Kim Il-sung who started the Korean War, and Joseph Stalin, who approved this move. Before that, NATO had no military command, doctrine, or armed forces. Until 1999, it still was a defensive alliance that thrived on sowing enmity. In the 1990s, it sensed it could get away with anything and went haywire, committing the military and political gang rape of what remained of Yugoslavia. By absorbing Eastern Europeans with their historical inferiority complexes, it became even more bellicose. In 2003, the vast majority of its members carried out an unprovoked act of aggression against Iraq, killing almost a million people and wreaking havoc in a vast region. In 2011, there was the aggression against Libya, which destroyed that country and undermined stability in the Sahel. Then, the bloc used its Ukrainian cannon fodder to wage a war against Russia. For some reason, we never mention that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty is a bluff and does not provide for any automatic guarantees. Studying the documents, I was amazed to read how American senators in the late 1940s insisted, successfully, that there be no automatic guarantees. By joining NATO, its member countries have signed up with a criminal organisation that has committed a series of aggressions, making it morally illegitimate, and also have turned themselves into prime targets for a nuclear strike. Had we started talking about this earlier, the ruling circles of Finland or Sweden would have thought twice before taking a step potentially bordering on suicide. Strengthening reliance on nuclear weapons should bolster the failing function of deterrence and help purge brainless adventurers from the decision-making circles of nuclear countries.
Moving up the ladder of escalation-deterrence will trigger a propagandistic outcry. It can be heard loud and clear already. But this movement will change the balance of power, including for potential talks.
The Westerners will soon offer and even try to impose a ceasefire to buy time and to provide political cover for rearming the Kiev puppets, boosting defence production and continuing to wear Russia down. Negotiations will probably have to be held. I am not sure about our actual military and economic capabilities, but I can assume that ceasefires may have to be concluded as well. At the same time, clearly, this war, like the impending global war, can only be ended or prevented by imposing strategic retreat on the West. It should be as dignified as possible. A humiliating retreat may breed revanchism.
They will propose talks to discuss arms limitations as cover for their policies and a way to legitimise rearmament programmes. An international claque of professional disarmament advocates, who are nostalgic for the important work they were doing during the Cold War, will be in favour of these talks. Negotiations have been of limited utility at best in the past, and now they are entirely meaningless or even harmful if we aim to achieve concrete results. The existing and prospective arsenal of weapons essentially precludes the possibility of reaching meaningful agreements: it is unclear what to swap for what. And the information warfare surrounding them amid the West’s media dominance in this field may legitimise Western rearmament programmes or disparage us. However, in the medium term and as part of the efforts to achieve a new balance, if the West understands the suicidal nature of its current policies (which lead either to a humiliating defeat on the battlefield for it and its puppets, or, heaven forbid, to a nuclear strike and the destruction of Europe) and begins to develop a new modus operandi, “disarmament” talks can be useful for exchanging information and rebuilding the lost habit of dialogue and cooperation.
For the time being, in the next year or two, we should focus on an offensive strategy in Ukraine (no war has ever been won by defensive operations), hard work within the country to renew and modernise the elite’s mindset, accelerated reformatting of the economy, imposing new/old values on ourselves, shifting the centre of growth to the Urals and Siberia, strengthening the country, and turning society into a nation. As I mentioned earlier, the special military operation helps with all that. But we cannot allow a drawn-out and exhausting war with significant losses on our side, or war fatigue.
Our internal work should also contribute to strengthening deterrence and preventing a global catastrophe. The people should be aware of the real challenges and be ready to support the government if it is forced to take extreme measures. This readiness alone will enhance the credibility of nuclear deterrence and serve as a powerful factor in preventing nuclear and, more importantly, global war.
I will not delve too deeply into describing the escalation-deterrence ladder. It is a delicate topic. I have earlier suggested some steps toward this end. Another step that is widely discussed in the open press and behind the scenes involves a demo nuclear explosion. Prior to that, we would withdraw from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States has not ratified. I am not sure about the wisdom of our Foreign Ministry’s recent statement to the effect that we will refrain from resuming tests if the United States does the same. This suggests a relapse into the defensive posture that did no good and was tying our hands. However, the most important part is the corresponding efforts that are not discussed but are usually the most persuasive concrete steps in the military-technical field. Given the abysmal quality of US leadership, we need to activate early warning systems and visibly increase the level of readiness of our strategic deterrence forces.
Discussing specific scenarios for using nuclear weapons is clearly above my paygrade, since I am not even familiar with our capabilities or those of our adversaries, including potential ones. However, the path forward is clear. If the massive military support for Kiev continues, after the warning signals, there will be a tit-for-tat response involving pre-emptive and preventive use of nuclear weapons against targets in several European countries. Of course, concurrently with these threats, we should also offer a way out without shame or escalation. We must do everything possible and reasonable not to use the “weapon of God” even against those who so brazenly disregard the Ten Commandments and ordinary human morality and common sense. Let’s hope that He will restore their reason to them. But as they say, “trust in God, but keep your powder dry.” We are facing an unusual challenge. Should we continue to leave nuclear weapons off the table, but rather exchange gunfire and protests? Of course, there should be no knee-jerk reaction.
A high nuclear threshold clears the way for the use of cyber weapons, as well as new types of biological and genetic weapons, delivery of which has become more affordable and accessible. As we now know, after dozens of US biological labs have been exposed, the United States is clearly preparing for such wars. The adversary must know that his aggressive actions will be met with a devastating, even disproportionate, strike.
By raising the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons unacceptably high, we have not only paved the way to large non-nuclear wars and more mass death, but have also partially nullified our immense investment in our nuclear capacity. Do we really need it only to prevent an unlikely massive nuclear strike on our territory? Are we not committing a grave sin against previous generations of our compatriots who lived in poverty and mass hunger, and died from radiation at uranium enrichment plants in order to create a nuclear shield for the homeland? But such a shield is meaningless if we do not have the sword and are not prepared to use it to save our people and humanity from a global calamity.
In the emerging fierce competition among great powers, the blurring of boundaries — from both ends — between conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, the primary goal will be not just to prevent a nuclear war but war in general, especially between major nuclear powers, which will continue to grow in numbers over time.
If, as some high-ranking Western experts are bluffing (and their arguments are being echoed by our experts), the US/West attacks the Russian armed forces with nonnuclear means “in retaliation” to our preemptive use of nuclear weapon, the adversary must be warned privately through corresponding military-technical channels and publicly that a second wave of nuclear strikes against the European countries will follow. If, as some of our experts believe, the Americans can forget and sacrifice their allies and continue the aggression, then Washington must be warned that nuclear strikes will follow against US bases in Europe, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of American servicemen. Americans, who have deployed their bases worldwide, are two orders of magnitude more vulnerable in this regard than we are. And they must understand that we are aware of it. Such strikes should officially or unofficially become part of our doctrine of nuclear deterrence-awakening to deal with enemies who are losing their minds. Let the Euro elites who have dragged their countries into NATO and allowed it to degrade into becoming an outright aggressor answer to their peoples. Let’s hope that the latter will wake up.
If strikes — any strikes — are carried out on our territory or the territory of the Republic of Belarus, Americans and their allies should be aware of the fact that, of course, limited retaliatory strikes will follow on the territory of the United States and those countries that dare to attack. But, as I have made it clear many times, including in the previous article, only a madman sitting in the White House who hates his own country, along with a military willing to carry out such an order (which means they also hate their homeland), would risk condemning hypothetical Philadelphia, Boston, or Los Angeles to nuclear fire to confirm the bluff of “security guarantees” for hypothetical Poznan, Klaipeda, Frankfurt, or Bucharest. I hope there are still no madmen in Paris and London. But what do their experts mean by threatening a massive strike on Russian armed forces?
However, considering the trajectory of the evolution of Western elites, we may eventually see such madmen at the helm. This trajectory needs to be arrested soon before it is too late, and humanity plunges into a Third World War.
Moving up the escalation ladder to stop a fire that is about to break out and prevent it from becoming a global catastrophe can be compared to creating firebreaks; if they fail to stop the fire, it may be necessary to set a counter fire. This metaphor is particularly fitting now as wildfires are raging all over the planet, partly due to the damage caused by irresponsible and beastly modern capitalism that is based on the unlimited growth of consumption.
Naturally, in parallel with increasing the credibility of nuclear deterrence and strict measures to strengthen security, a peaceful alternative should be offered. Offer a dignified solution to the Ukraine issue for the United States. However, this solution must fully align with our interests. There should be no hostile state entities left within the borders of present-day Ukraine. Otherwise, relapses of hostilities and a divisive question will inevitably occur: what did we fight for and what did our comrades die for?
We need to finally put forth and promote an attractive Russian idea and dream, and to make actual efforts to build Greater Eurasia, which will have a place for many European countries if and when they wake up from the globalist “liberal democratic” utopia or dystopia that has led them into a blind alley. The expansion of BRICS+ should become the basis for modernising the United Nations. We have not yet started the increasingly urgent project to develop an alternative to the modern globalist Western capitalism which is devoid of moral foundations and is based on the cult of boundless consumption, which destroys humanity and nature. There are numerous pressing and uplifting peaceful tasks. We need to start pondering ways together to achieve a new stable balance of power and a free multicoloured and multicultural international order of the future for every country and people. But there is an even more urgent task which is to use tough measures, including the measures proposed and implied in this and previous articles, to ensure that this future comes to pass and the world does not plunge into all-out war.
In a step or two, if and when they come to their senses, we will be able to talk about a mutually beneficial international order that includes the West and is not directed against it. In the meantime I pray that our adversaries come to senses and we together with the countries and people of the Global majority stop the slide towards World War III.
The discussion on risks of nuclear escalation is available via this link.
 See the article and surrounding publications on my website: www.karaganov.ru.(SIC) I’m grateful to my colleagues who participated in the discussions of the early drafts of this article and helped me in many ways to clarify and strengthen it.///Статью и окружавшие ее публикации см. на моем сайте: www.karaganov.ru.(SIC) Благодарю коллег, участвовавших в обсуждениях первых версий этой статьи и немало помогших в ее уточнении и усилении.
 “Remarks by President Biden in a Press Conference” The White House, 10 September 2023, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2023/09/10/remarks-by-president-biden-in-a-press-conference-2/
 S. Schmemann. Something Is Missing From Americans’ Greatest Fears. It’s the Bomb. / The New York Times, March 13, 2023. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/13/opinion/international-world/putin-ukraine-nuclear-weapons.html.
 Kissinger, H. (2022). Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy. United Kingdom: Penguin Books Limited. PP. 195-409.
 Vyacheslav Rybakov, an outstanding Russian sinologist medievalist, political philosopher and fiction writer, covered it brilliantly. See Rybakov V. Carving on the ideal: essays. — St. Petersburg, 2018. — 544 p. Especially pp. 249-287 ./// Об этом блистательно писал выдающийся российский китаевед-медиевист, политический философ и писатель-фантаст В.М. Рыбаков. См. Рыбаков В. Резьба по идеалу: эссе. – СПб., 2018. – 544 с. Особенно с. 249-287.
 About the new understanding of strategic stability as “international strategic stability” aimed at preventing any, not just nuclear, war, see S.A. Karaganov, D.V. Suslov. New understanding and ways to strengthen multilateral strategic stability: report. Moscow: Higher School of Economics, 2019. 55 p. URL: https://globalaffairs.ru/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/doklad_strategicheskaya-stabilnost.pdf /// О новом понимании стратегической стабильности как «международной стратегической стабильности», нацеленной на предотвращение любой, а не только ядерной войны см. С.А. Караганов, Д.В. Суслов. Новое понимание и пути укрепления многосторонней стратегической стабильности: доклад. М.: ВШЭ, 2019. 55 с. URL: https://globalaffairs.ru/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/doklad_strategicheskaya-stabilnost.pdf