Calling Russia's nuclear bluff - Russian nuclear doctrine & the Ukraine war

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I survived COVID, let's talk about nuclear war.

Russia's nuclear threats, and warnings of potential nuclear war growing out of the Ukraine invasion, make for great headlines - but how much substance actually sits behind those threats?

Nothing triggers fear quite like the prospect of a world ending nuclear exchange, but that doesn't make the hype true. While we can't relax entirely (the risk isn't zero), I think we can afford to stop hyping the risk of WWIII quite so much, at least for now. So if you'd like some reverse clickbait where I explain why you probably shouldn't be that afraid, let's get into it.

In this video, I take a look at what Russia's been doing that has caused so much concern around the world, both in terms of demonstrating new weapons and issuing warnings and threats. Then I dive into Russian doctrine around nuclear weapons use, as well as the reality of the nuclear taboo, in order to determine how great the actual threat of Russian nuclear weapon use is.

Finally, I talk a bit about what other nations can do if they're determined to avoid any breach of the nuclear taboo, and keep Russian warheads locked up in their storage bunkers where they belong.

A caveat as always that I am not a nuclear strategist by trade, but there are a number of good talks and articles out there if you would like to know more. I come at this from the perspective of someone who has studied and written on cold war era.

I rely on a number of documents in this piece, a few key ones are listed below:

US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

The Russian Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence - a number of sites host English translations

I found "Nuclear Signalling Between NATO and Russia" by Rear Admiral John Gower, former Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Nuclear & Chemical, Biological) to be an easy read among the papers I looked at preparing for this presentation - though admittedly his work predates the 2020 basic principles.

The Perun Gaming Channel (I will aim to start shifting and publishing new content there this weekend):

Patreon:

Timestamps:
00:00 Introduction
01:02 Nukes and the media
02:09 But hold up a moment
02:28 What am I going to cover?
03:33 TLDR
04:40 Caveats

05:28 WHAT IS RUSSIA DOING?
05:34 Capability demonstration
06:21 Rhetoric
07:10 Capability development
10:21 So who is the audience?

11:50 DOES NUCLEAR COERCION WORK?
12:02 Historically? No
14:30 Nuclear taboo
16:34 A simple example

18:59 RUSSIAN NUCLEAR DOCTRINE
19:08 Doctrine and declaratory strategy
20:03 Why should we care?
21:34 Lavrov quote
21:58 Putin the nuclear warmonger?
25:32 Historical perspective
28:17 The 2020 statement
29:39 The four reasons
32:11 "Escalate to de-escalate"

33:48 SO WILL THEY USE NUKES?
34:10 No doctrinal use case
35:03 Russian media control to the rescue
36:15 No military utility
37:14 Likely response

39:24 WHEN MIGHT NUKES BE USED?
39:39 Nuclear use case?

42:03 HOW DO YOU PREVENT USE?
42:11 Signal and deter

44:30 KEY TAKEAWAYS

47:33 CHANNEL UPDATE
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Комментарии
Author

“The economy does better when everyone is not dead”[citation needed]

nonsquarepixels
Author

For me, the stark number was the amount Russia and the US spend on the maintenance of their nuclear arsenals. Apparently, the US spends something like 50 billion, while Russia spends 5 billion. Granted, Russia can probably do most things cheaper than the US. I don't want to sound conspiratorial, since we don't have much info on that, but I am curious how well-maintained the Russian arsenal is.

KingsandGenerals
Author

"Australia probably would've benefiterd from a nuclear weapons program to counter some of the greater and more threatening examples of our wildlife, the reality is that we never erally went down that road". 10/10

zsfekete
Author

With respect to the Suez crisis: it's worth pointing out that the US was more-or-less on the same side as the USSR there, which means it was _both_ nuclear super powers that cowed the French and British. And many credit that incident for pushing the French to develop their own nukes three years later.

boobah
Author

Russian officials giving a whole new meaning to "tactical n-word"

jermania
Author

Only Perun could have made us excited for a PowerPoint presentation 👍

FreddyRangel
Author

"They'd have to be stupid to launch nukes"
They'd also must have been stupid to invade Ukraine. In the mud season. After letting them militarize for 8 years.

apoth
Author

The lightbulb finally went on for me during this video. Russian nuclear statements and actions have been very carefully calibrated and are highly logical. Scaring the crap out of Ukrainians and the citizens of NATO countries = WIN. Scaring the decision-makers who control US/UK/FR nuclear arsenals = LOSE. While those decision-makers are also some of the most important decision-makers when it comes to making decisions about aid to Ukraine and sanctions, they are all also highly vulnerable to pressure from their own citizens and from the leaders of non-nuclear allies. Thus, the winning Russian strategy is to rattle that nuclear sabre hard, while at the same time making sure that the truly well-informed (the leaders of the Western nuclear powers) *know* they are bluffing.

kotorfanatic
Author

Would love to see a PowerPoint presentation from Perun on "Why Australia should have adopted a nuclear program for use against its own wildlife"

fraserbuchanan
Author

Perun's history:
1945: Hiroshima and Nagisaki nuked
1946: Russia builds nuclear arsenal
1947: in a final stand against the Emus and giant spiders, Australia sends a final goodbye to the nations of the world and declares itself radioactive hellish wasteland...then nukes itself.

kaseyfreudenstein
Author

I think the Russian's are starting to tone down their nuclear saber rattling as they are realizing that it is 1) Did not or atleast is no longer disuading the Wests arms shipments and 2) It is actually making their conventional forces look weaker as they are admitting that their conventional forces are not up to the job.

kennethferland
Author

32:12 For the gamers out there, this is actually the situation that leads to the Fallout universe. The US and Red China got into a conventional war, the US ended up invading mainland China and was in spitting distance of Beijing (and was clearly on the verge of victory) when China launched every nuke in it’s arsenal at all their pre-selected targets, which prompted automated response from the US, which prompted automated responses from the Soviet Union, which prompted automated responses from the remnants of the European Commonwealth, etc, until the only not nuked nation left was Australia. Because the Aussies have it bad enough with the native fauna so they don’t need irradiated mutants.

alexander
Author

Beat me to the Punch Perun, was thinking of covering the Nuclear War angle. Outstanding as always mate.

AnimarchyHistory
Author

Another note to be made on the 'specialness' of nuclear weapons is that, unlike almost all conventional options, retaliation will likely immediately attack command and control. Given that leadership is standing in command and control, that's a much larger risk for a politician or a general to stomach than sending some teenagers off to die and seeing their poll numbers go down 8%.

soorian
Author

"A reverse clickbait video." This sir, is why I love this channel so much.

traumateaminternational
Author

Loved the "random" selection of the 2 countries that might be in a nuclear situation: a small country wanting to join a "blue" coalition, a big nuclear neighbour yelling not to do that as they might use their nuclear weapons :))

FlorinArjocu
Author

“The economy does better because not everyone is dead.”

noneofyourbusiness
Author

This reminds me of a quote from Agent Kay from Men in Black: "There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!"

lakobause
Author

Something missing is a discussion about the "red button". People have somehow got it in their imagination that Putin just pushes a red button a missiles starts flying, when the systems are more complicated and involve people who are not terminally ill.

TWFydGlu
Author

This is the sort of content that I like best--people just talking over slideshows for more than 10 minutes vs fancy cameras, "YouTube personalities", overly edited edutainment. You actually make valuable content. Thank you, and congratulations on your well-deserved trophy thing!

kyarimaresuki