Russia is scheduled to stage its first nationwide nuclear attack exercise on October 3, 2023. The exercise will involve preparation for the destruction of up to 70% of Russian housing stock and life support facilities, and will assume the scenario that martial law has been introduced in Russia and that is has gone through full mobilization.
The exercise is being held amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the war in Ukraine. Russia has accused the West of being a nuclear aggressor, and has warned of the risk of armed conflicts escalating into local and regional wars, including those involving nuclear powers.
The exercise is also being held amid calls from within Russia for a resumption of nuclear weapons testing. Mikhail Kovalchuk, head of the Kurchatov Institute, has demanded a nuclear test in the Arctic for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union. He has said that it is necessary to send a jolt to Western leaders like when the USSR tested the Tsar Bomb in 1961.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu visited Novaya Zemlya last month in a sign that tests may resume soon. Loyalist MP and army commander Lt-Gen Andrei Gurulev has also demanded that Putin be ready to use nuclear weapons. He has said that Russia’s nuclear triad is designed for the landmass of the United States of America, and that Russia could inflict an unacceptable defeat on the US in a nuclear war.
The Russian nuclear attack exercise is a significant development, and it raises concerns about the possibility of nuclear war. The fact that Russia is preparing for the destruction of up to 70% of its own housing stock and life support facilities is particularly alarming. It suggests that Russia is seriously considering the possibility of a nuclear war, and that it is prepared to suffer significant casualties in such a conflict.
The exercise is also a reminder of the importance of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear arms control. The fact that Russia is still developing and testing nuclear weapons is a threat to global security. It is important for the international community to work together to reduce the risk of nuclear war.