1. These Basic Principles represent a strategic planning document in the area of ensuring defence and reflect the official view on the essence of nuclear deterrence, identify military risks and threats to be neutralized by implementation of nuclear deterrence, the principles of nuclear deterrence, as well as the conditions for the Russian Federation to proceed to the use of nuclear weapons.

  2. The guaranteed deterrence of a potential adversary from aggression against the Russian Federation and/or its allies is one of the highest state priorities. Deterrence of aggression is ensured by the entire military strength of the Russian Federation, including its nuclear weapons.

  3. The State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence (hereinafter – “the State Policy on Nuclear Deterrence”) is a set of political, military, military-technical, diplomatic, economic, information and other measures, coordinated and united by a common design, implemented through reliance on forces and means of nuclear deterrence to prevent aggression against the Russian Federation and/or its allies.

  4. State policy on Nuclear Deterrence is defensive by nature, it is aimed at maintaining the nuclear forces potential at the level sufficient for nuclear deterrence, and guarantees protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State, and deterrence of a potential adversary from aggression against the Russian Federation and/or its allies. In the event of a military conflict, this Policy provides for the prevention of an escalation of military actions and their termination on conditions that are acceptable for the Russian Federation and/or its allies.

  5. The Russian Federation considers nuclear weapons exclusively as a means of deterrence, their use being an extreme and compelled measure, and takes all necessary efforts to reduce nuclear threat and prevent aggravation of interstate relations, that could trigger military conflicts, including nuclear ones.


How does Russia exactly define Russian territory in its state policy? Does it include the annexed territory they gained from Ukraine, which includes Crimea, parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts? I am wondering if the text supports the possibility of Russia attacking with nuclear arms against NATO if they were to threaten the recently annexed territory.

  • 1
    Are you asking if there is any Russian or international document (approved from Russia) clearly demarcating the boundaries of Russia with its neighbouring states?
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 9 at 17:08
  • 8
    Short answer: "Whatever we say it is." Commented May 10 at 18:46

5 Answers 5


The regions annexed from Ukraine (even if not fully controlled yet), including Crimea, are official territory of the Russian Federation, according to Russia, so in theory they fall under the nuclear umbrella. Basically, Russia defines its own territory and does not care about international recognition.



In reality, it is a guessing game. The only plausible way for Russia to lose control over them is a catastrophic army collapse, which will likely weaken the current leadership grasp on power, so actual use of nuclear weapons depends on how willing are the Russian people to be wiped out for Putin's dream.

  • 5
    Casualty numbers are not really known, and I think, we won't see the numbers decades long yet. The real numbers of the ex-yugoslavien wars were known only maybe a decade later. "Russian people to be wiped out", I think that might be the reality of an Ukrainian and pro-Western news network; the reality is that we do not know. What is known, Ukraine is currently slowly retreating and has not enough from anything, including soldiers. Russia has no major mobilization, but these are not numbers. No one has believable numbers. Wait until about 2040.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented May 9 at 16:32
  • 11
    I think "wiped out" referred to nuclear MAD and not to conventional warfare wiping out all Russians.
    – alamar
    Commented May 9 at 22:18
  • 1
    doesn't Russia also claim those parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts they don't occupy?
    – Tristan
    Commented May 10 at 15:15
  • 3
    @Ccm Very likely no country has such a paragraph in their constitution, "if a part of our territory would not be recognized internationally, then we would leave it and give it to them", not even the ones you likely define nice, friendly, free, beautiful.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented May 11 at 0:51
  • 2
    Russia did lose control over Kherson already and didn't nuke anyone. But of course that's far less tragic for them than losing Crimea. Commented May 11 at 23:30

As many Western analysts view it, Russia does not have the rule of law. If it publishes a policy, this is either a genuine declaration of current intent or propaganda, but it is in no way binding the future decisions of the Russian leadership to the letter of their own declaration. (For that matter, remember that Russia accepted the sovereignty of Ukraine a couple of decades ago. Now they don't.)

Russian spokespersons have repeatedly warned that they view Western support for Ukraine as akin to an act of war, and that they might strike back with nuclear weapons if it goes on. Western support happened, and no nuclear strike came. But apparently the Russian threats have significantly slowed the quality and quantity of Western support for Ukraine.

Either Russia views itself as under proxy attack by the West, or it pretends to do so to deter Western aid for Ukraine. The Western conventional forces are considerably more powerful than those of Russia, which leaves Russia only the threat of nuclear escalation to deter an attack. This mirrors the situation early in the Cold War, when NATO was conventionally inferior and vowed to go nuclear if the Soviets ever crossed the Fulda Gap.

  • 4
    "Russia accepted the sovereignty of Ukraine a couple of decades ago. Now they don't." - to this we should add that Russians regard the 2013/2014 "Euromaidan" regime change as a coup and this is why they consider the current government illegitimate. Think what you want about how reasonable this view is or isn't, it did not happen in vacuum or on a whim. This is how the war in the Donbas started even before the first Russian soldiers arrived to the region: the Russian-majority regions did not want to recognize the revolutionary government.
    – vsz
    Commented May 10 at 4:42
  • 3
    This is very clearly a proxy war. A proxy "attack" is certainly debatable but obviously Ukraine is being armed by other governments in response to military threat and an alternative (which that did not choose to do) would be to use their weapons in a hot war instead of giving them to Ukraine to fight (on their behalf).
    – uberhaxed
    Commented May 10 at 9:05
  • 5
    @vsz Your comment seems irrelevant. The recognition of the state sovereignty and the recognition of its elections being free/democratic/legitimate are legally two different concepts. How many observers believe that elections on Russia itself are democratic or free? Does it mean that the rest of the world has to automatically dispute the territorial integrity of Russia within its internationally-recognized borders? Also, the Russian armed forces first invaded Ukraine on 20/Feb/2014, when Yanukovich was in power; he fled 22/Feb/2014 on the 2nd day of armed invasion. "Not in vacuum", yes. Commented May 10 at 12:26
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    @uberhaxed Uh, no. Russia promised to respect Ukranian sovereignity in exchange for Ukraine giving away their nukes, then annexed Crimea in 2014 when Putin decided he could get away with it, and came up with a bullshit "Too many Nazis in Ukraine" excuse to invade the rest. Russia started this war all on its own and does not get to cry foul when Ukraine gets help defending itself. Commented May 10 at 18:49
  • 3
    @vsz again, irrelevant. The Question was about how Russia defines its own territory. The Answer addresses the Question, tangentially mentioning a relevant, but secondary aspect (in parenthesis) — that the Russia used to recognize its neighbor's sovereignty. You are trying to push your own views on "coup" in Ukraine — already debunked a zillion times over the course of 10+ years since the events have occurred. We know your agenda since the time you came to this site. But comments under this Answer are not for that. And this is why your comment is irrelevant. So please stay on-topic. Commented May 11 at 0:03

The state territory of Russia is defined in its constitution. Chapter 3, Article 65, paragraph 1 provides a complete list of territories included in the Russian Federation.

The current text of this paragraph includes Donetsk People's Republic, Lugansk People's Republic, Zaporozhye region and Kherson region.

Exact borders shall be determined after a peace treaty is signed and until then they are assumed to be based on old USSR maps.

  • Good answer. Does it define the borders too? If not, the answer should mention that in the case of Donetsk People's Republic, Lugansk People's Republic, Zaporozhye region and Kherson region, the boundaries of these territories are not clearly demarcated by Russia because Russia still doesn't control many parts of these areas militarily or politically.
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 10 at 13:04
  • @sfxedit Borders are determined by bilateral agreements, and not all of them were demarcated yet since the collapse of the USSR. The borders of the L/DPR shall be delimited after the conclusion of a peace treaty. Most likely these borders will be based on old USSR maps. Commented May 10 at 21:46
  • That's the tricky part, and quite pertinent to the question - if they are based on the old USSR maps, then Russia might consider the presence of NATO troops in the L/DPR region as an act of aggression, even if they are on Ukranian territory (not yet under the control of Russia). On the other hand, if they consider that there is no real border yet, they "may" tolerate some NATO presence in the region (and not respond as aggressively) till a final picture emerges.
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 11 at 16:22
  • Last para needs to be qualified with "Russia's gov't says", I suppose. Commented May 12 at 10:45
  • @againstverylongusernames Not needed. Every gov't law is what gov't says. By definition. It is true for every gov't of every country. Commented May 12 at 11:23

The answer is pretty banal, because all countries define their own territory practically in the same way regardless of the international recognition.

Since this question is tagged with a nuclear weapons label, the more important is, of course, the question: Which would be the practical consequences in the case of a military attack on the captured/occupied territories of Ukraine?

I agree with this answer that the russian official statements can be a part of the propaganda. Therefore the seriousness of the intentions (of russian officials) should be at least scrutinized and not taken for granted.

In the natural sciences as well as in journalism the default method is based on a presumption that a statement should be ignored unless it is exhaustively proven.

Firstly, based on the historical evidence, can we confirm that the russians or any other nation have used the nuclear weapon to defend their or what they perceive as being their territory? The answer is No. Also, the fact that the russian top politicians, celebrities and bussinessmen are dependent in many ways from the countries, which are regarded as potential enemies, speaks against the nuclear option.

And finally, there is an interesting fact: the chief of the russian ministery of the foreign affairs Lavrov has never visited Crimea - not since the beginning of the war in 2014. Everyone is free to interpret this as he will, but one possible explanation is that thus he tries to reduce the eventual legal consequences at the criminal court.

  • 1
    Are we to assume that the use of "russian" is intentional and that changing all occurrences to "Russian" would conflict with the author's intent though the latter is required by English language standards? Ukraine Allows Russia-Related Words To Be Written In All Lowercase
    – Rick Smith
    Commented May 12 at 15:02
  • @RickSmith not really, I was just too lazy to check whether that word should be capitalized Commented May 13 at 4:21
  • "speaks against the nuclear option" it also spoke against a full-scale conventional war but here we go again.
    – alamar
    Commented May 14 at 10:18

(everything below is only my personal opinion as a typical Russian citizen)
(sorry for my English)

The decision to use nuclear weapons depends not on a threat to annexed territories but on a threat to the country’s security. They are not the same.
It’s impossible to draw a document with the exact formulation of when nuclear weapons will be used. So this has to be decided only by the president based on the current situation.

As for the conflict between NATO and Russia, there are a lot of variants of using nuclear weapons. In order of priority:

  1. a strike at Ukraine with tactical nuclear weapons
  2. a strike at Ukraine with strategic nuclear weapons
  3. a strike at a less significant NATO country (e.g. Lithuania) with strategic nuclear weapons
  4. a strike at a more significant NATO country (e.g. France) with strategic nuclear weapons
  5. a strike at the main NATO country (USA) with strategic nuclear weapons

I don’t think the conflict will come to the fourth or fifth item.
I think in the worst case it will come to the third item (although, of course, I hope it will manage to be dealt with without using nuclear weapons).

P.S.: I didn’t want to seem rude because of the collocation “a less significant NATO country”. I just don’t know how to call it in a more correct way.

  • Either this answer tries to answer a different question or is a frame change. In that case you'd say that it's meaningless to speak about Russian territory for this policy but only about how "threatened" the Russia feels, right? Would it be possible to maybe give some more sources, like important Russian people saying the same? Also, what is the purpose of this priority list? Why is it in the answer? Commented May 11 at 22:08
  • @NoDataDumpNoContribution The final sentence of the original post is “I am wondering if the text supports the possibility of Russia attacking with nuclear arms against NATO if they were to threaten the recently annexed territory.” At the beginning of my answer, I disagree with the existence of the direct connection between NATO’s threatening the annexed territory and Russia’s attacking with nuclear arms against NATO. So my answer corresponds to the topic of the original post.
    – Loviii
    Commented May 12 at 0:24
  • @NoDataDumpNoContribution I don’t have any sources. This is only my opinion as I wrote at the top of my answer. If by “important people”, you mean government officials, then I don’t think it’s a good idea to trust them. Trying to find a logic is a far better way to get the point.
    – Loviii
    Commented May 12 at 0:48
  • @NoDataDumpNoContribution The purpose of the priority list is to show that the first nuclear strike will not be at NATO (as implied in the original post – at least I understood it this way). If it occurs, it will be at Ukraine to show the seriousness of Russia’s intentions in the hope that NATO will agree not to pose a threat to Russia on the territory of Ukraine anymore. That's how I see the situation.
    – Loviii
    Commented May 12 at 1:30
  • Let me add as a point 0 a nuclear weapon test above the Black Sea, but fairly close to Ukraine. Commented May 13 at 8:30

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