Vladimir Putin could be given the power to launch nuclear strikes first under plans to change the law in Russia.
Currently Russia’s military doctrine bans the initial use of nuclear weapons unless Russia is threatened by weapons of mass destruction.
But senators in the Federation Council have reportedly recommended that Russia should be allowed to retaliate with nuclear weapons if the country is attacked by conventional, “non-nuclear strategic weapons”.
The move comes after Donald Trump announced that the US plans to withdraw from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
Both Russia and the United States have accused each other of violating the deal and Mr Putin and Mr Trump are expected to discuss the subject at a G20 meeting in Argentina.
The Times reported that Franz Klintsevich, a member of the council’s defence committee, said that eastern European countries that host Nato military bases, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania “should understand that we won’t simply look at that through our fingers — we will react”.The proposals comes after the Pentagon updated its own nuclear policies in a similar way, broadening the circumstances under which it would carry out nuclear strikes.
But just last month, Mr Putin told an international policy forum that Russia would only use its nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack on the country.
He told the Valdai Club: “Our strategy of nuclear weapons use doesn’t envision a preemptive strike. Our concept is a launch under attack. Only when we become convinced that there is an incoming attack on the territory of Russia, and that happens within seconds, only after that we would launch a retaliatory strike.”