NATO has published an article by a retired American defense official, which calls on the bloc to fight and win a limited nuclear war against Russia. Should the US and China clash over Taiwan, the author claims that a full-scale war in Europe would likely follow.

The article was written by Gregory Weaver, who served as the principal nuclear and missile defense advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In it, Weaver argued that, counter to Moscow’s long-standing nuclear doctrine, Russia may use tactical nuclear weapons either to stave off a battlefield defeat or bring about a swift victory to a conventional conflict, such as that in Ukraine. In such a scenario, Russian military leadership would assume that the West would not respond in kind, for fear that the situation would “escalate uncontrollably to a large-scale US-Russia homeland exchange.”

Instead of fearing nuclear war, Weaver argues that the West should embrace it. NATO should equip its fighter jets and submarines with tactical nuclear weapons to deter a tactical Russian strike, and “convince Russian leadership that NATO is fully prepared to counter limited nuclear first use with militarily effective nuclear responses of our own.”

Russian nuclear doctrine allows for the use of atomic weapons in the event of a first nuclear strike on its territory or infrastructure, or if the existence of the Russian state is threatened by either nuclear or conventional weapons. This position has not changed since 2010, and makes no exception for the use of tactical nuclear weapons (which are far less powerful than the strategic nuclear weapons that NATO and Russia would fire at each other in the event of an all-out exchange). Despite these clear guidelines on nuclear use, Weaver claimed that Russia could launch an attack on NATO states in Europe if the US were preoccupied with fighting China over Taiwan, a scenario that he treats as possible without further explanation.