Home LATEST NEWS What is Putin’s “deterrent force” alert? | War in Ukraine

What is Putin’s “deterrent force” alert? | War in Ukraine


Going to alert status makes it easier to deploy and launch weapons more quickly, but this does not necessarily mean that Russia intends to use them.

According to several experts, there are four levels of alert in the Russian army: regular, high, threat of war and war. Each level determines the level of readiness of the armed forces.

But President Putin did not specify at what level of alert he placed his army. In fact, in Russia, as in the United States, there is a vagueness as to the level of state of alert in force, for reasons of national security.

Dmitry Alperovitch, founder of the Alperovitch Institute for Cybersecurity Studies at Johns Hopkins University, believes in a post on TwitterHave (New window)Havethat Russia has probably placed itself at the second level of alert, i.e. high.

Five levels in the United States

The United States has its own level of alert (DEFCON or Defense Readiness Condition) to indicate the level of threat the country faces.

There are five levels, from DEFCON 1 to 5. DEFCON 5 is the lowest readiness state, while DEFCON 1 is the maximum readiness state, meaning a nuclear war is about to start or has already started.

DEFCON alert level 1 was never reached. The highest would have been DEFCON 2 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

nuclear deterrence

Two soldiers near a huge missile.

Russian officers remove the camouflage cover from a ‘Topol-12M’ mobile nuclear missile in the early 2000s.

Photo: Reuters/Reuters Photographer

According to several experts, President Putin’s announcement not only facilitates the launching of weapons, but is a way for Russia to issue a warning to NATO, in a form of nuclear deterrence.

The notion of nuclear deterrence is not new. It dates from the Cold War. The purpose of this military strategy is to discourage any aggression by threatening its adversary with the use of nuclear force.

We talk about escalating in order to de-escalate, or doing something so serious that you will deter potential opponents from actually taking up arms against you.explains Michel Fortmann, professor of political science at the University of Montreal and member of the Center for International Studies and Research, in an interview with Noon Info.

NATO, for its part, defines nuclear deterrence rather as the act ofimpose on an adversary costs that would be unacceptable and far outweigh the gains he could hope to obtain.

Vladimir Putin’s gesture is therefore not to be taken lightly. Because if he continues to raise Russia’s alert level, the United States and NATO may be forced to raise their alert level as well. This would mark a worrying escalationsays Hans Kristensen, nuclear analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, in an interview with CBCHave (New window)Have.

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François Géré, director of the Institut Diplomatie et Défense, in Paris, recalls that countries with nuclear weapons are always ready for any eventuality.

It’s not a secret. The United States permanently has at sea, in totally unknown spaces, a certain number of nuclear submarines, weapon launchers, nuclear missiles which can strike Russian territory at any time if necessary.

The deterrent is already there. It is already in operation. The Russians know it perfectly »

A quote from François Géré, Diplomacy and Defense Institute

Should we take this gesture seriously?

The man sits in front of microphones and holds out his hand.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting in Moscow on February 21, 2022.

Photo: via Reuters / SPUTNIK

It should be remembered that this is not the first time that Russia has brandished the threat of nuclear war.

Vladimir Putin also made reference to his nuclear status during Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. He then indicated that he was ready to put nuclear forces on high alert if the West had intervened militarily in this conflict.

President Putin issued veiled threats when his troops began their invasion of Ukraine. Anyone who tries to obstruct us, let alone threaten our country, our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate. And it will lead to consequences you’ve never known beforethe Kremlin chief said last week.

For François Géré, the new threats from the Russian president are above all a maneuver of psychological warfare and intimidation to show that Russia is ready for anything. It’s a way to scare people […] to raise the stakeshe said.

US Ambassador to theUnited NationsLinda Thomas-Greenfield, suggests that Mr. Putin is trying to justify the war in Ukraine and to show that he is not an aggressor and that he is trying to defend his country.

Brookings Institute researcher Michael O’Hanlon believes Putin’s nuclear threats are an integral part of his worldview. According to this expert in American defense strategy and the use of military force, Putin’s nuclear threats are more a confirmation of the raw nature of this man.

In fact, in a documentary in 2018, President Putin said that …if someone decides to destroy Russia, we have the legal right to react. Yes, it will be a catastrophe for humanity and for the world.

Michel Fortmann believes that if the world is still far from a nuclear war, the seriousness of Mr. Putin’s gesture should not be underestimated. He believes his goal is to deter as strongly as possible any Western military intervention, including aid to the Ukrainians.

We want to divide and discourage Westerners. »

A quote from Michel Fortmann, professor of political science at the University of Montreal

Vladimir Putin also wants to broaden the conflict and involve Europe, NATO and the United States, adds Mr. Fortmann. But for now, Russian threats appear to have solidified international opposition to the invasion.

This expert believes that the world is entering a phase that resembles the most intense moments of the Cold War, which he calls diplomacy on the brink.

The fingers are not yet on the trigger, but we are not far from it. »

A quote from Michel Fortmann, University of Montreal

Mr Fortmann adds that if NATO authorizes a no-fly zone around Ukraine (and therefore the deployment of NATO planes in Ukrainian airspace), there is a risk of a confrontation which would look like october 1962 with the missile crisis.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov took part in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Sunday during which he asked them to put the Russian deterrent force on alert .


What worries Mr. Fortmann even more is the fact that only three people in Russia hold the codes for nuclear weapons: President Putin, the chief of staff and the defense minister. What sends shivers down your spine is that the decision to use nuclear weapons rests on a man’s sanity and reason. I think no one can oppose the orders of Vladimir Putinhe said.

If the West decides to intervene militarily in Ukraine, there is a real risk that Russia will use strategic nuclear weapons, says Gerhard Mangott, professor of international relations at the University of Innsbruck and expert on US-Russian relations, in CBC interview.

According to Mr. Fortmann, Russia could, for example, choose to launch a small-calibre nuclear weapon over the North Sea, between Norway and England. It would be a signal that we are going to cross the red line.

Russia’s nuclear arsenal

Currently, it is estimated that Russia has around 4,500 nuclear weapons, including 1,550 deployed on ballistic missiles. While it is impossible to know the exact number of Russian nuclear weapons, the country has far fewer than during the Cold War.

Recall that in February 2021, the United States and Russia renewed the strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty (New START) for another five years.

Signed in 2010, the agreement limits the arsenals of Russia and the United States to a maximum of 1,550 warheads deployed for each of these two countries, a reduction of almost 30% compared to the previous ceiling set in 2002. It also restricts the number of launchers and heavy bombers to 800, which is still enough to destroy Earth multiple times.

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