Small Wars Journal

Russia adopts the Bush Doctrine on Steroids

Small Wars Journal has featured the U.S. Army's new Capstone Concept, the Army's top-level doctrine for how it will prepare for conflict over the next two decades. The Army Capstone Concept calls for full-spectrum capability. But it also emphasizes the need for "high touch" skills, the language, cultural, historical, population, and personal skills required to be effective in low-intensity and irregular warfare environments.

It seems as if Russia's military doctrine is going in exactly the opposite direction, if a recent article from Defense News is any indication. Some excerpts:

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the powerful security council, said the conditions under which Russia could resort to atomic weapons are being reworked in the main strategy document and will be reviewed by President Dmitry Medvedev by the end of the year.

"The conditions have been revised for the use of nuclear weapons to rebuff an aggression with the use of conventional weapons, not only on a massive-scale but on a regional and even local level," Patrushev told the Izvestia newspaper.

"Variants are under considerations for the use of nuclear weapons depending on the situation and potential of a would-be aggressor," he said.

"In a critical situation for national security, a preventative nuclear strike on an aggressor is not ruled out."

One could call "a preventative nuclear strike on an aggressor" the Bush Doctrine on Steroids.

Russia is finding itself resorting to a nuclear-centered military doctrine because it is finding it more and more difficult to maintain adequate conventional military capabilities. 20 years ago Soviet conventional forces were massive and frightening -- it was the U.S. and NATO that required a large inventory of tactical nuclear weapons to deter the Soviet armored behemoth in eastern Europe. Today, the situation is reversed -- it is Russia that needs its remaining nuclear weapons to compensate for its conventional weakness.

Naturally, any country that has a declared or undeclared "no first use" policy can instantly drop that policy during a stressful moment. The problem with Russia's doctrine is that it is doctrine -- it is what Russia will plan for, prepare for, train for, and as a result, make more likely to occur.

President Obama (as did President Reagan) dreams of a world free of nuclear weapons. Strategically, no country would benefit more from this dream, at least at this moment in history, than the United States. That is the single most powerful reason why this dream will not come true.


Ryan Brus - Fo… (not verified)

Mon, 10/26/2009 - 10:35am


I spoke with an official at the Directorate of Training, Doctrine and Combat Development (DTDCD) here at Fort Knox regarding your question about what the Armor School teaches as it relates to Soldiers in armored vehicles being hit by a nuclear blast.

While I dont have all the information due to security reasons, I learned that Soldiers are instructed to close their eyes, keep their heads down, leave their helmets on, and cover their mouths with a cloth or similar item to protect against inhalation of dust particles. If a Soldier is in the hatch of an armored vehicle, he should immediately drop down inside.

Soldiers are also taught to remain down until the blast wave passes and debris stops falling.

If Soldiers must drive their armored vehicles through a radiological contaminated area, they should cross the area quickly by the shortest route that exposes them to the least amount of radiation, while keeping mind other considerations, such as their mission, enemy and terrain.

DocOfMicro (not verified)

Thu, 10/22/2009 - 3:32pm

In open form, the book "Atomic Soldiers" goes through US determination of infantry capabilities in tactical nuclear engagements. Infantry can dig a foxhole (but it better be deep) 1/4 mile from a 20 kiloton bomb, experience the blast, hike to ground zero without any protective gear, dissassemble rifles, reassemble and march out. In the experiment, doing so resulted in radiation sickness in all and no immediate death. All members of the group lived for at least 15 years more and had healthy children. All were dead of cancers (mostly lymphoma) within 25 years. They would have done better with N95 masks on so the didn't breathe the dust.

I agree with Major Jakola about Russia and Al Quaeda. Russia has no reason to fight with us, that public salvo is aimed at the Chinese, and I suspect also at the potential radical states on their southern borders.

Regarding Al Qaeda, I have said since 2001 that the reason Al Qaeda launched the 9-11 attacks was to force their own region to take sides in a holy war, with the goal of that gambit overthrow Pakistan to acquire its nukes. That scenario did not unfold as nicely as OBL and company thought it would, but they are still grinding away tenaciously on task in Pakistan.

We should also remember that Soviet nuclear doctrine was to follow up strikes with biological weapon warheads. I doubt that the current Russian Federation position is different or any more trustworthy than the previous. But again, I don't think the USA has any reason for concern on that score. Rather, Russia needs to plan for a post-Pax-Americana world which is coming at us fast.

Robert Haddick (not verified)

Wed, 10/21/2009 - 6:17pm

Grant, prepare to validate your cynicism. The Russian defense establish has very detailed knowledge about the effects of nuclear weapons. They are excellent scientists and engineers and conducted hundreds of tests to measure these effects.

In his magisterial volume "The Collapse of the Soviet Military," Lt. Gen. William Odom, USA (ret), a career intelligence officer and expert on the Soviet military, thoroughly described how the Russians viewed nuclear weapons. To the Soviets, nuclear weapons were an integral part of battlefield doctrine and they planned for their employment at the very start of conflict (pp 69-73). Planning for a nuclear battlefield is why the Soviets built tens of thousands of armored vehicles, including for their infantry.

They used such calculations as (quoting from the book, see page 72):

"... if a ten-kiloton nuclear weapon hit a battalion of thirty-some tanks marching in column at one hundred-yard intervals, only six or seven would be destroyed, and the crews inside all the other tanks would avoid serious radiation exposure."

Odom performed the research for his book by interviewing former Soviet officers, reading Soviet military archives, and reading formerly classified Soviet war plans recovered from East Germany in late 1989.

PS: Are students at Fort Knox taught to "just drive on" through a 10 KT attack?

Grant (not verified)

Wed, 10/21/2009 - 12:51pm

I seriously hope they aren't serious about that. Considering how few policy makers are probably educated in the effects of a nuclear weapon, I already assume that there will be a nuclear war by the end of the century. I really don't need my cynicism validated.

Bill Jakola

Tue, 10/20/2009 - 4:14pm


Nuclear weapons are more useful to some than others.
Your logic is sound enough; and as Dr. Colin S. Gray argues in "Another Bloody Century", atomic weapons are the tools of the relatively weak against the strong. However following this logic to the extreme, the ultimate case of such a mismatch of power is, of course, a religiously inspired terrorist group like al Qaeda using nukes on American soil. Such an event would give al Qaeda great, almost unimaginable, cachet and cause us to radically reevaluate our strategic thinking. Moreover, there is far greater incentive for al Qaeda to work toward obtaining and actually using nuclear weapons against us than any established national government. Although states like Peoples Republic of China, the Russian Federation, or Iran all have much to gain by developing and possessing atomic weapons, none have an extant or even budding reason to use such weapons against the United States; whereas, al Qaeda would like nothing better.

Major Bill Jakola