Shvets said that starting a nuclear war entails a first strike, the purpose of which is to destroy the maximum number of land-based missiles installations of the enemy, and to repel the counterattack with the remaining missile defense capabilities.

"The Soviet Union never had the potential [to carry out] a nuclear first strike, far less Russia," Shvets said.

 According to Shvets, Russian nuclear missiles could "level" New York, San Francisco and other major cities in the United States, but would not destroy U.S. silo-based missiles "provoking guaranteed retaliation that would sweep away the whole of Russia."

"A critical factor in making a decision on whether to strike or not depends on knowing the accuracy of hitting the target,” Shvets said.

“The Soviet and modern Russian missiles have poor accuracy. Moreover, no one knows the real accuracy of the strike, because the trajectory of the missile is hugely determined by the atmospheric features of the area at which it is targeted."

"Even if Putin goes completely out of his mind and decides to press the nuclear button, his comrades will quickly correct him and explain everything to him. The president of the Russian Federation has in general little understanding of such things," the former intelligence officer said.           

As UNIAN reported earlier, pro-Russian propagandist Dmitriy Kiselev said during a broadcast on Russia television that Russia could destroy the United States, claiming that "Russia is the only country that could transform the United States into radioactive ashes."