Russia began gigantic war exercises last Monday. Troops from three
military districts and the powerful Northern Fleet, together with
Russia’s Air Defense Forces, maneuvered to evade imaginary Western air
and missile strikes. Then on Saturday, Russia’s forces turned to launch
a mock counter strike.
In recent months, preparing for a future nuclear war has been a top
priority with the Russian General Staff, which believes such a war is
not only possible, but inevitable. Books and articles spelling out the
techniques of thermonuclear world war continue to be regarded as
classics in Russia’s war colleges. The theory and practice of nuclear
war did not die with the Soviet Union.
Demonstrating this emphasis on nuclear war, an unprecedented number
of Russian war games have taken place in the last year and a half. The
frequency and size of these war games dramatically increased after NATO
began bombing Serbia on March 24. As the crisis over Kosovo heated up,
not only did Russia’s leaders make veiled threats about the possibility
of nuclear war, but Russian soldiers, sailors, and airmen were being
trained to fight and win such a war.
Some in the West would argue that Russia’s training methods are a
bluff. But there is a good reason to think otherwise. As authors like
James F. Dunnigan have explained, there has been a revolution in
military affairs. This revolution has to do with the use of computer
systems to increase the control of troops, logistics, and to improve
combat efficiency. In the computerization of military forces, America
has no rival. As Dunnigan explains, armies and navies which use
computers effectively may prove invulnerable to forces which lack the
same level of computerization. In other words, the new digital warriors
of America dominate today’s conventional battlefield.
But how does this relate to Russia’s nuclear war exercises?
There is a military technique which the Chinese generals have been
talking about for several years. It is called “defeating the superior
with the inferior.” It is based on the idea of using electromagnetic
weapons to attack and neutralize America’s computer advantage at the
outset of any future battle. Since American land, air, and naval forces
are considerably smaller than they were only a decade ago, the United
States needs its computer advantage in order to prevail. If America’s
military computers were knocked out, America’s conventional forces could
be overwhelmed by superior numbers. As it turns out, the best way to
knock out America’s war computers is to use nuclear bombs to generate
something called electromagnetic pulse, or EMP.
In addition to this, there are other exotic ways to fry U.S.
electronics at a distance.
Russia yet retains an arsenal of special nuclear devices. According
to Bill Lee, a former official with the Defense Intelligence Agency,
some Russian nuclear devices emit a burst of x-ray radiation when
detonated. This radiation can destroy hardened U.S. warheads or
satellite components outside the earth’s atmosphere. Powerful neutron
bombs are said to have a similar remote kill effect on warhead
electronics within the atmosphere.
Nuclear devices can also be configured with special shielding that
can focus EMP in a specific direction. According to experts, if Russia
detonated one of these special high-yield devices above North America it
could fry all unprotected electronic equipment throughout the United
States and disrupt the entire power grid. In fact, Russian lawmakers
threatened the use of such a weapon during the NATO bombing campaign
over Serbia. This sort of attack, they warned, would make Y2K look like
Given these realities, the reason for Russia’s emphasis on nuclear
war is simple. Many of America’s technological and economic advantages
over Russia could be canceled by atmospheric nuclear strikes which are
not aimed at U.S. bases or cities, but are aimed at the neutralization
of our electronic infrastructure.
Therefore, Russia’s strategists are training their troops in nuclear
war exercises because nuclear war is the only kind of war they can win.
They realize that the vulnerability of America is a nuclear
vulnerability. Therefore, if war should ever break out between Russia
and America, Russia must use nuclear weapons to win. The same logic
applies to the People’s Liberation Army. If China were to wage war
against America, that war would have to be nuclear.
The notion of fighting and winning a nuclear war is baffling to many
Americans. It is generally believed that nuclear weapons would destroy
the earth. But this is untrue. However destructive such a war may prove,
the side which protects its people in blast shelters and bunkers will
survive. The side without such protection will suffer devastating
losses. The techniques for prosecuting such a war are carefully set down
in Russian military texts. These techniques have been studied by Russian
officers since the early 1960s.
It is important to understand the meaning of Russia’s ongoing nuclear
war exercises. It is also important to ask ourselves why Russia has
constructed thousands of underground bunkers, blast shelters, and
storage facilities. Whatever we think of these preparations, there is
enough method in them to give us pause.