The “de-escalatory” doctrine emerged after the 1999 Kosovo war as an equalizer in the case of threatened conventional defeat. “It's a concept that appears to be quite popular in Russia these days, “Podvig says. “Apparently, the thinking is that if Russia uses nuclear weapons in a conflict, everybody would just stop to avoid further escalation.”
The doctrine attracted more attention in September 2009, when the joint Russian-Belarus Zapad exercise included a simulated nuclear attack on Warsaw, Poland. The concern is that the combination of low-yield weapons and “de-escalatory” strikes could lower nuclear thresholds to a dangerous level.