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Factbox-What is the chain of command for potential Russian nuclear strikes? -Breaking

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© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Alexander Shokhin, head of Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs in Moscow on March 2, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

(Reuters). Russian President Vladimir Putin declared at the weekend his country’s nuclear force should be placed on high alert. There are fears that Russia could invade Ukraine and cause a nuclear escalation.

Below is an example of Russia’s hierarchy of command in the case of a nuclear-weapon launch.

WHO DECIDES TO RUSSIAN NUCLEAR WAPONS LOADING?

A 2020 document https://archive.mid.ru/en/web/guest/foreign_policy/international_safety/disarmament/-/asset_publisher/rp0fiUBmANaH/content/id/4152094 called “Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence” says the Russian president takes the decision to use nuclear weapons.

The Cheget is a small, briefcase that connects the President to Russia’s command and control network for strategic nuclear forces. It does not have a nuclear launch button. Instead, the Cheget transmits order to the General Staff.

WHAT HAPPENS IF PUTIN GIVES NUCLEAR ORDER TO PUTIN?

The Russian General Staff file:///C:/Users/8011323/Downloads/FOIR1588.pdf has access to the launch codes and has two methods of launching nuclear warheads. The General Staff can issue authorisation codes to specific weapons commanders who will then carry out the launch procedures. Perimetr also exists as a back up system. This allows the General Staff directly to launch land-based rockets without having to go through any commands.

DID PUTIN’S HIGH ALERT ORDER MAKE A LAUNCH LOSER?

Putin declared that nuclear weapons should be kept on alert during the weekend. Russia’s defense ministry stated the following day that it had placed its nuclear missile force on an “enhanced combat duty”.

Russia does not use the phrase “enhanced, special combat duty”, leaving experts in military science unsure what this might refer to.

Pavel Podvig is a Senior Researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, Geneva. He stated on Twitter (NYSE 🙂 that Russia might have activated its nuclear command and control systems, thereby opening up communication channels for any possible launch orders. He also suggested that it could have meant the Russians increased staff at their nuclear facilities.

ARE THE RUSSIANS ABLE RULES ABOUT NUCLEAR LAUNCHES

Four scenarios could be presented by the 2020 doctrine that might justify using Russian nuclear weapons.

— Use of nuclear weapons, or weapons of destruction against Russia and its allies

Data showing missile launches aimed at Russia or its allies

— Attack on key government and military locations that will undermine the country’s nuclear force response actions

— Russia’s use of traditional weapons “when its very existence is threatened”

RUSSIA HAS WHAT NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES

The Federation of American Scientists https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces estimates that Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads, more than any other country. 1,588 of these are currently deployed and available for use. These missiles can also be launched from land or by submersibles. Putin presided over a test of Russia’s nuclear force on February 19, shortly after he ordered troops to enter Ukraine.

HAS RUSSIA USED NUCLEAR WAPONS IN WAR?

No. The only nuclear weapon used in conflict to date was the one that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Japan, after the Second World War.

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