Russia publicly has embraced the concept of using nuclear weapons first in a war - a policy the United States long has maintained but that Russia had not stated until recently.
The “first-strike” notion first was voiced earlier this month by senior Russian security officials. On Saturday, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov became the highest-ranking Russian official to endorse it.
“If we are subjected to an attack and are unable to contain it, we could be the first to use nuclear weapons,” Primakov said on Russian television.
Despite the easing of tensions between the United States and post-Soviet Russia, the Russians are maintaining an estimated 8,000 nuclear warheads at a high level of readiness.