Russia will continue to see the development of its nuclear forces as a top priority, but the military will rely increasingly on conventional weapons to deter any aggression, the Russian Defense Minister said Tuesday.
Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that weapons such as the long-range Kalibr cruise missiles carried by navy ships, long-range cruise missiles carried by Russian strategic bombers and the land-based short-range Iskander missiles will play an increasingly important role as a non-nuclear deterrent. Those missiles can carry nuclear or conventional warheads.
Really, with most of Russia's conventional combat power in the west where they face weaker states on their borders, Russia has sufficient combat power to deter or defeat any conceivable conventional assault on Russia.
It is in the east where Russian conventional power is so weak that it must rely on nuking an invader.
The article conveys the notion that Russia can downgrade their reliance on nukes to defend their territorial integrity.
But is that what Shoigu is saying? I don't think so.
Isn't Shoigu really saying that Russia's successful use of precision weapons in Syria gives them a capability we've long had--that of using precision conventional weapons to take out targets that once required a nuclear warhead to destroy?
So if someone bombs Russia with conventional warheads, Russia could consider keeping their nukes in their silos and instead reply with conventional precision weapons.
That narrow window is way different than saying Russia can defend themselves from any aggression, including conventional invasion--from China, for example--without using nukes to make up for lack of conventional military power to cover their long border in the east.