Elbridge Colby, who served as a high ranking official in Donald Trump’s administration, recently advocated the use of tactical nukes in targeted attacks to repel an attack by Russia or China. But Moscow today branded the plans “irresponsible and dangerous”, warning: “Using nuclear weapons in pinpoint attacks is tantamount to playing with the devil.” Mr Colby, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence for strategy and force development, explained the thinking behind his strategy in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine entitled ‘If you want peace, prepare for nuclear war’.
He said the US must develop a new arsenal of low-yield nuclear weapons which should be part of a wider strategy to “help blunt or defeat a Russian or Chinese attack on US allies without provoking a nuclear apocalypse”.
Mr Colby said: “Demonstrating to potential opponents that the United States has this ability is the best way to avoid ever having to put it into practice.”
But Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said any use of nukes, regardless of their size, would lead to global catastrophe.
Addressing reporters today, she said there are growing calls in Washington to “increase the role of nuclear weapons and expand the possibilities of the US nuclear arsenal” to counter the “mythical Russian threat”, according to the Moscow-based TASS news agency.
Ms Zakharova went on to demand answers on the proposed “limited nuclear operations” strategy.
She said: “I want a clarification: where would these limited operations be carried out?
“On what continent would this strategy be fulfilled, if it was fulfilled?”
The stark warning comes just a day after the Kremlin said it was not hopeful of an improvement in the already strained ties between the US and Russia.
Responding to the outcome of the midterm elections, which saw the Democratic Party take control over one half of Congress, Moscow said it was still open to dialogue.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “It’s fair to suggest with a high degree of confidence there are no glowing prospects in terms of normalisation of US-Russian relations on the horizon.
”We have a lot of problems in front of us that require our communication. These are problems of strategic security and arms control, and they will not just go away on their own without our conversations.”
Relations between the Cold War rivals have worsened in recent months amid US claims that Russia is in breach of a 1987 treaty banning certain types of cruise missiles.
President Donald Trump revealed he was considering pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty while at a campaign rally, accusing Russia of flouting the agreement by developing a new weapon.
The rocket could allow Russia to launch a nuclear attack against the US at very short notice.
Moscow insists it is sticking to the treaty, but US ambassador to Nato, Kay Bailey Hutchison, threatened last month to “take out” the new Russian missiles.