Russia Is Mobilizing Its Society in Preparation for Nuclear War

October 17, 2023 Topic: Nuclear War Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Nuclear WarRussiaVladimir PutinArmageddon

Russia Is Mobilizing Its Society in Preparation for Nuclear War

The large Russian civil defense exercise is normally held every year in early October.


In late September 2023, a Russian government document relating to its preparations for a very large civil defense exercise involving a nuclear war scenario was leaked to the Russian press. It reportedly described the planned October 3 Russian civil defense exercise indicating that, “Russia will stage its first nationwide nuclear attack exercise across 11 time zones in preparation for potential nuclear war.” The document reportedly stated, “In some constituent entities [regions] of the Russian Federation, as a result of emergencies or other types of physical impact, complete destruction of life support facilities and up to 70% of the housing stock is possible.” The reference to the destruction of “life support facilities” apparently means the loss of electricity, communications, water, and transportation.

The leak of such a document before the Russian Grom strategic nuclear exercise (which usually happens in late October but sometimes as late as December), is apparently unprecedented. The large Russian civil defense exercise is normally held every year in early October. It could be an unannounced part of the Grom strategic exercise. Grom usually involves simulated large scale strategic nuclear strikes and sometimes involves simulated non-strategic (tactical) nuclear strikes and strategic air and missile defense operations.


The content of the leaked document was not reported in the major Russian state media outlets that publish in English, which is also unusual considering its being leaked to the press. The inclusion of a damage estimate to Russia in the leaked document is also particularly unusual. The actual civil defense exercise itself was also not reported in Russia’s state media but was reported in the Russian press. “In some areas, schoolchildren were taught how to wear gas masks. In other areas officials were forced into bunkers. The exercise was based on the assumption of a giant nuclear attack from the West.”

The Russian press frequently gloats over the massive destruction its simulated Russian nuclear strikes inflicted in its Grom exercises as well as other Russian nuclear exercises. (In a 2010 Russian large nuclear exercise, a Russian press report proudly declared that, “…throughout the world, the mushroom clouds rose skyward.”) Russia’s pro-regime media treatment of a nuclear war usually ignores the consequences for Russia from retaliatory nuclear strikes.

The document reportedly stated that the Putin regime had “…taken a decision to develop measures aimed at increasing the readiness of civil defence forces and means to take measures to protect the population, material and cultural property on the territory of the Russian Federation, including general evacuation from danger zones.” Russian officials have bragged about its civil defense measures before, but a nationwide exercise just before Grom in the current political environment is ominous. Just before the exercise, Deputy Chairman of the Russian National Security Council Dmitri Medvedev said that the West was “actively pushing us to World War III.” The leaked document reportedly said that the nuclear scenario assumed that martial law had been declared in Russia and that there was a full military mobilization.

President Putin considerably increased Russian spending on civil defense in 2005. During this time period, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was the head of Russian civil defense. Russia has reportedly built some 5,000-7,000 bomb shelters in Moscow. A 2017 report of the Defense Intelligence Agency said Russia had 289,000 civil defense personnel, a large increase from the 20,000 in 1996 and 18,250 in 2008.

Since its initial attack on Ukraine in 2014, Russia has enhanced its nuclear capability and its civil defense efforts. In 2018, Rossia-24, Russian state television “…instructed viewers to stock up on food and water in case a war breaks out with the United States, playing on fears that a U.S.-led airstrike against Moscow’s ally Syria could lead to a military escalation.”

Threats of general nuclear war have been common from the Putin regime since its attack on Ukraine in February 2022. A couple of days after the civil defense exercise President Vladimir Putin declared Russian nuclear retaliation “…will be absolutely unacceptable for any potential aggressor, because seconds after we detect the launch of missiles, wherever they are coming from, from any point in the World Ocean or land, the counter strike in response will involve hundreds – hundreds of our missiles in the air, so that no enemy will have a chance to survive. And [we can respond] in several directions at once.” (This was in response to a question from Sergei Karaganov, a former Kremlin advisor who in 2023 advocated a nuclear attack against NATO, saying “…if we correctly build a strategy of intimidation and deterrence and even use of nuclear weapons, the risk of a ‘retaliatory’ nuclear or any other strike on our territory can be reduced to an absolute minimum.” If the initial attack did not get the desired result (NATO capitulation on Ukraine), he advocated hitting “… a bunch of targets in a number of countries in order to bring those who have lost their mind to reason.” Putin’s threat is included in paragraph 19 of his June 2023 nuclear doctrine and involves a nuclear attack on the West before Russia even knows that the attack against it is nuclear and with the attack involving as few as a single missile launch.

In the October 2022 Grom exercise, Russia’s Minister of Defense General of the Army Sergei Shoigu told President Putin that Russia’s nuclear exercise was “a training session” which involved “delivering a massive nuclear strike by strategic offensive forces….” Russian state television stated it was practice for an attack on the U.S. The 2019 version of the Grom exercise had the announced involvement of about half of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces (about 250 missiles) which were reportedly launched. The distinguished Russian journalist Alexander Golts noted, “We’re talking about rehearsing ways to conduct all-out nuclear war. Such a war will start with the use of non-strategic forces (cruise missiles) and end with a mass nuclear strike, which will mean the death of everything living on Planet Earth,” and there was no room for “misinterpretation” about this. Hyperbole aside, Golts outlined the essence of Russian nuclear escalation strategy. He also pointed out another notable fact about Putin: “The world that Putin inhabits is far removed from reality.”

A common political objective of Russian nuclear exercises (and Russian nuclear threats) is to scare the West because of the belief among Russia’s leaders that Western fear of nuclear warfare can be exploited to allow Russia to win against Ukraine and then NATO. Russian nuclear strategy is similar to that of Sergei Karaganov but not quite as extreme.

The Australian Financial Review suggested that the purpose of the “evacuation drills” was to prepare for a “nuclear ultimatum,” quoting the editor of state-run RT to the effect that the “ultimatum” was imminent. If the Australian Financial Review is accurate in its assessment, the “ultimatum” would likely come after an expanded version of the Grom exercise. It is noteworthy that Russia began its attack on Ukraine after what amounted to an ultimatum against NATO aimed at reviving the Soviet Union.

The British Defense Ministry noted that the October 2023 Russian civil defense exercise involved a scenario of “…large-scale international armed conflict,” that civil defense in the Soviet Union and Russia goes back decades, and that it is “…unlikely that Russia had significantly changed its posture of national preparedness in recent months.” Certainly, there are reports of large scale Russian civil defense nuclear exercises in the recent past. For example, Russia’s Civil Defence Department Director Oleg Manuilov said that the 2016 exercise involved “…more than 40 million people, more than 200 thousand professionals (sic) rescue units and 50 thousand pieces of equipment.”

Reportedly, on civil defense day “…Russia traditionally hosts festive events: solemn commencement ceremonies for students of the Ministry of Emergencies of Russia, exhibitions of special fire and rescue equipment, relay races, etc.” This does not exactly seem to be a description of the October 2023 exercise which reportedly assumed an all-out nuclear war. This exercise comes after a report earlier this year in The Moscow Times that, “Bomb shelters across Russia are undergoing systematic inspections and repairs following a Kremlin order to upgrade the country’s crumbling Soviet-era infrastructure, according to current and former officials who spoke to The Moscow Times.”

What is most dangerous about Russian civil defense is that in the context of Putin’s world of political fantasy it is a potential crutch on which he might convince himself that he could fight and survive a nuclear war even if he was wrong about his belief that the West would not retaliate against his initial small nuclear strikes. It is important to remember that in 2015 the Russian military leadership was claiming that “Moscow’s layered air defense grants 99% effective defense against air attack…” due to the deployment of S-400 and SA-20 air defenses. The Putin regime has been making nuclear threats since 2007. However, the scope of Russian aggression supported by these nuclear threats vastly increased after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.