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The issue of a credible nuclear NATO deterrent to Russia is becoming a live issue in the run-up to Warsaw summit.

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NATO to weigh nuclear deterrence of Russia at Warsaw summit
© AFP/Scanpix

“The nuclear question was locked in a closet after the fall of the Warsaw pact. Yes, America, France and Britain have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not think in nuclear terms the way Russia does,” said former UK Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe Richard Shirreff.

“We must remember that nuclear thinking is totally integrated into all of Russia's defence thinking. If a war were to arise in the Baltic states, it would certainly be a nuclear war,” said Shirreff.

Michele Flournoy, founder of the Center for a New American Security, said “I don't think that we should respond to sabre-rattling with nuclear sabre-rattling. I think that NATO should focus on creating a strong conventional deterrent that would be supported by specific and unspecific allied nuclear guarantees. But we should seek that Russia would not begin to believe that it can use coercion or attack a NATO member without losses.”

The discussion NATO will need to have at the Warsaw summit will be a difficult one: when the Kremlin can use a nuclear weapon at the decision of a single person, are democratic countries prepared to risk an all-out, totally destructive war to deter him.

These issues will be on people's minds during the upcoming NATO summit meeting in Warsaw, where nuclear deterrence is becoming a more and more important topic. Does the West have the willpower to trade an eye for an eye with Russia?

In Russian military exercises, experts say wars are won with nuclear strikes – practice strikes have been performed on Warsaw, Sweden and Denmark. The country's new military doctrine includes the provision that Russia can use nuclear weapons in conventional wars.

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