Russia reserves pre-emptive nuclear strike right

MOSCOW, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Russia in a new review of its policy on use of nuclear weapons will reserve the right to undertake a pre-emptive strike if it feels its security is endangered, a senior Kremlin official told a Russian newspaper.

Russian and U.S. negotiators are in talks to find agreement on a new bilateral pact cutting stocks of strategic nuclear weapons. Both sides are working to a December deadline for a new treaty to replace the landmark Cold War-era START pact.

While Moscow and Washington have made progress in strategic nuclear arms talks, Russia's security may come under threat from regional conflicts and local wars, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Kremlin's powerful Security Council, said in an interview with Izvestia newspaper to be published on Wednesday.

Russia was revising its military doctrine to include new terms of use of its nuclear forces, he said, adding that President Dmitry Medvedev, who chairs the Security Council, would be presented with the new doctrine by the end of the year.

"Conditions of using nuclear weapons to repel an aggression with the use of conventional weapons not only in a large-scale but also in a regional and even local war have been revised," he said, without naming these conditions.

"Moreover, different variants are considered to allow the use of nuclear weapons depending on a certain situation and intentions of a would-be enemy. In conditions critical for national security one should not also exclude a preventive nuclear strike on the aggressor."

Russia's current doctrine says the "most important task is to be able to deter, including with the use of nuclear weapons, an aggression of any scale against Russia and its allies".

As Russia's conventional troops lack modern equipment and undergo a painful reform aimed to cut their numbers and create professional armed forces, Moscow relies heavily on its formidable arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The Kremlin prided itself on defeating tiny neighbour Georgia in a five-day war in August 2008. But many Russia watchers are sceptical that Moscow would be able to defeat with the same ease a larger and stronger nation. (Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov)