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NATO: U.S. Senator Concerned About Russian Nuclear Doctrine

  • Frank Csongos

Washington, 20 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A prominent U.S. senator says the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of its Warsaw Pact allies have created a dangerous military legacy for Russia that is being aggravated by NATO's planned expansion to the East.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) says Soviet society was "sick" and "wounded." But he says it had a large military, extensive bases in Eastern and Central Europe and a formidable nuclear punch.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moynihan says Russian conventional forces today are in disarray, its army shrinking and military morale is at a low ebb. All these factors, the senator says, have forced Moscow to proclaim that, if NATO is expanded, Russia would have to place a greater reliance on its nuclear weapons.

Moynihan says gone now is the old Soviet doctrine of the "no-first-use principle," which he says "saved mankind in the 20th century." That doctrine proclaimed that the Soviet Union would not be the first country to use nuclear weapons.

He says: "All they have to defend themselves are nuclear weapons. It is a curiously ironic outcome that at the end of the Cold War we might face a nuclear Armageddon."

During a Senate debate on NATO expansion Wednesday night, Moynihan referred to the new Russian National Security Blueprint. The document, made public in Moscow last December and published Thursday as part of the U.S. Congressional Record at the request of Moynihan, spells out Russian national security objectives.

The doctrine says: "Russia reserves the right to use all the forces and systems at its disposal, including nuclear weapons" if it is attacked. Moynihan indicated it also leaves open the possibility that Russia might use nuclear weapons in the case of a conventional non-nuclear attack.

Moynihan says the Russian leadership acknowledges that large portions of Russia's borders are undefended.

The senator says: "And they say -- and this is the most difficult part -- that they do have nuclear weapons and, if necessary, they will use them."

Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), while calling Moynihan "the single most erudite" and "informed person serving in the Senate," says he disagrees with him. Biden says he believes that even without admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO, the Russian military would have reached the same conclusions about the importance of nuclear weapons.

Biden says the demise of the Soviet Union and the weakening of the Russian military had nothing to do with the expansion of NATO.

The Delaware senator also says that the strategic nuclear judgment made by the Russians was arrived at in the same way that NATO arrived at a similar decision some 30 years earlier. That conclusion, Biden says, was that the West was not prepared or able to keep 60 divisions in Europe to meet a conventional attack by the Warsaw Pact.

Biden says he believes the underlying Russian military doctrine would be no different today even if NATO decided to stay within its current borders.