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“Military Thought” Russian Federation Ministry of Defense, n.3/2023

The Role of Strategic Missile Forces in Countering NATO's Strategic Multi-Domain Operation

By Andrea Benetton | Others' work | 4 Mar 2023

Lieutenant General I.R. FAZLETDINOV, candidate of military sciences
Retired Colonel V.I. LUMPOV, doctor of military sciences

Original published by “Military Thought” magazine
run by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense, n.3/2023 
All rights reserved to authors and original editor.
Translation not for professional use.


The paper provides a brief description of the US and NATO strategic multi-domain operation, its goals, objectives, content, outgoing threats to the national security of the Russian Federation and possible measures with the participation of the Strategic Missile Forces to counter it.


Joint operation, multi-domain operation, military strategy, global leadership, joint forces, strategic nuclear forces, global strike, national defense, missile defense, strategic nuclear weapon.


In a world oversaturated with nuclear weapons and in the absence of reliable missile defense systems for the conflicting parties, nuclear weapons have been and remain the central and cheapest means of deterring the final destabilization of relations between the parties and the outbreak of hostilities.

An indicator of the ratio of the required and actual potentials in a retaliatory strike, the values of which will depend on a wide range of parameters: the potential characteristics of weapons, dynamic characteristics reflecting the sophistication of the deterrent arsenals used by the parties; forms and methods of using strategic forces in pre-emptive and retaliatory actions.

The evolutionary and factorial analysis of nuclear confrontation carried out in case studies showed the realism and effectiveness of the functioning of the strategic nuclear deterrence system created in the 20th century and still in demand with a fairly simple and relatively convenient structural and functional organization. The initial conditions for the creation and existence of such a system by the parties were:

  • pronounced bipolarity of the nuclear confrontation;
  • sufficiently numerous nuclear weapons while maintaining strategic parity and treaty restrictions on strategic offensive weapons (START);
  • mutually deterrent effective missile attack warning systems (EWS);
  • the absence of missile defense systems that provide guaranteed coverage of the territory and strategic facilities from a sudden massive nuclear missile strike (MRNA);
  • lack of opportunities for preventive reduction of the nuclear deterrence potential;
  • numerous international legal regulators in the nuclear field.

The military-strategic conditions for implementing strategic nuclear deterrence in the 21st century have changed dramatically. A multipolar world-order system with pronounced nuclear poles is being formed objectively. The United States is gradually losing its leading position in the world. The aggressiveness of their military-political course toward Russia is growing. The United States stepped up its efforts to withdraw from several fundamental international agreements to ensure strategic and nuclear stability. The United States has ceased participating in the ABM and INF treaties; the next step is the termination of agreements on the limitation of strategic offensive weapons, the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and other types of WMD, nuclear test ban.

They are embarking on the restoration and modernization of their strategic nuclear forces and nuclear infrastructure, and their reconstruction in a crisis situation. A global missile defense system (GS ABM) with maritime and regional advanced echelons has been deployed, which is planned to be supplemented with a space echelon of combat systems for destroying space and strategic ground targets. Active work is underway to create and build up the combat strength of the non-nuclear offensive component of the "new triad" of strategic deterrence of a potential adversary like China and the Russian Federation, as well as the formation of forces for the effective conduct of cyber and information warfare. The implementation by the US administration of plans to create a "new strategic triad" can lead to a threefold decrease in the "nuclear threshold" and a sharp increase in the threat of a world nuclear war.

With their military strategies and concepts, the United States and its allies have determined the aggressive vector of their foreign policy. Along with plans for the development of strategic forces, they are working out exclusively aggressive concepts of creating fundamentally new components of the armed forces, advanced weapon systems, forms, and methods of their use of an exclusively offensive nature, such as the concepts of "unified forces," "conventional instant global strike," "network-centric" and "hybrid" wars," access to the areas of the operation.

The top place among the general military concepts of the US Armed Forces and the system-forming character has now acquired the concept of "multi-sphere operation (battle), which comprehensively integrated the recommendatory developments of all previous conceptual documents and extended their effect to the entire spectrum of diverse operations (battles): from tactical to global (strategic) level.

A special place in the doctrine-making process of the NATO bloc is occupied by the development of the concept of "Strategic (global) multi-sphere operation," which began on the initiative and in the selfish interests of the United States.
The essence of its requirements for the preparation and conduct of such an operation is the need to:

  • substantiation of new approaches to the use of the US-led coalition military potential of NATO against a strong adversary;
  • wide use of the military and civilian capabilities of the bloc, partner countries, and international and non-governmental organizations in the interests of resolving the conflict on the terms of the alliance;
  • coordinating the actions of the participants in the operation in various geographic, geophysical, and virtual environments, including space, information, and cyberspace;
  • possession of the grouping of troops (forces) that dominates in one or another sphere, the ability to ensure the actions of participants in a multi-sphere operation in a single information and control space.

The strategic (global) aspect of a multi-sphere operation is determined by provisions borrowed from the concepts of "Globally integrated operation (campaign)" and "Access to areas of operation" that provide the ability of "unified forces" to create in a short time highly mobile interspecies groupings based on American commands and military formations stationed in various areas of the world, effectively operating under joint leadership and a unique strategy and plan in several or simultaneously in all operating environments. At the same time, the deployment areas of groupings of troops (forces) for conducting a strategic multi-sphere operation should be as close as possible to the borders of the opposing state in order to ensure the possibility of simultaneous coverage of military operations throughout its entire territory.

In the current military strategy of the United States, Russia is declared the primary culprit for the loss of world domination. From its privileged military-economic position in the world, Russia is the main obstacle to maintaining world dominance and the main adversary. The main goal of American military policy is the military-political or physical elimination of an objectionable regime while maintaining the country's territorial, raw materials, production, and human resources.

Having failed in attempts to maintain and strengthen its world leadership as the sole owner of long-range high-precision and hypersonic "conventional" technologies commensurate with nuclear weapons in power in the illusory nuclear-free world they are creating, the United States has again returned to the active military strategies for the full use of the nuclear instrument to achieve their strategic goals, but in a completely different context.

In the plans and plans of the Military-Political Leadership (MPL) of the United States for unleashing and waging modern large-scale wars, the decisive role in defeating (forcing surrender) a strong enemy (like Russia) is assigned, as before, to strategic nuclear forces, but with the fulfillment of necessary and sufficient conditions, such as:

  • preliminary preferential deprivation of the Russian Federation of a deterrent nuclear potential in the pre-nuclear period;
  • guaranteed repulsion of Russia's "nuclear retaliation" in return by destroying all nuclear warheads of the strategic nuclear forces of the Russian Federation that have survived and are heading for US facilities;
  • preservation of military and economic leadership in the world and sufficient nuclear potential to deter nuclear centers not participating in a military conflict.

Following the technology of forceful elimination of the main potential enemy, the Pentagon envisages:

  • creation and deployment of a group of strategic nuclear and non-nuclear offensive (SNS and SNAS) and defensive (SS ABM) forces and assets sufficient in composition, combat capability, and combat readiness, as well as their early provision with the necessary conditions for successful and highly effective use;
  • sudden massive counterforce strike by the OMGU forces and means on the SNS NB facilities upon reaching the target (at least 65-70% of the combat strength) defeat of the Strategic Nuclear Forces of the Russian Federation;
  • preventing the delivery of the surviving nuclear warheads of "reciprocal nuclear retaliation" to the intended targets through destroying echelons of the GS ABM in the VKP (at least 35-40% of the combat strength);
  • inflicting a decapitating and debilitating nuclear strike on the Russian Federation with a minimally sufficient mass to physically eliminate it, provided that a sufficient nuclear potential is maintained to ensure strategic superiority over other nuclear states.

The Pentagon plans to achieve the planned large-scale goals and implement the plan about Russia, apparently in the form of a global strategic multi-sphere operation. The military-strategic scenario of military operations of the NATO bloc during this operation against the Russian Federation can structurally include (Fig. 1) three periods: preparatory (hybrid operations), final (ground military operations), and principal (aerospace offensive and defensive operations (battles )).

Fig.1: Conceptual model of bilateral military actions of the parties during the sudden US aggression against the Russian Federation in the form of a strategic multi-sphere operation

Figure 1: Conceptual model of bilateral military actions of the parties during the sudden US aggression against the Russian Federation in the form of a strategic multi-sphere operation

Based on the concept, the preparatory period can be lengthy: from several months to a year or more. Its content can be made up of the aggressor's actions to secretly introduce and acclimatize on the territory of the Russian Federation an extensive reconnaissance agent and sabotage network and adapt it to local conditions for subsequent use at the main (power) stage, as well as the active use of the instrument of "soft power" in the interests of creating favorable conditions for the use of military force.

Until the transition of the US Armed Forces to active large-scale operations with the use of strategic nuclear weapons and high-precision long-range weapons, special operations forces (SOF) formations introduced into the territory of the Russian Federation will be kept in a "sleep" mode with the tasks of covert detection, tracking and being in readiness for the immediate issuance of target designations for the means of an aerospace attack on strategically essential assets of the Russian Federation planned for priority destruction in the SMS.

Suppose there are signs of intensification of military preparations in the United States and NATO in the territories of dislocation of SOPs (primarily the assets of the Strategic Missile Forces and other components of the strategic forces of the Russian Federation). In that case, measures will be taken to tighten control regimes, interdict intelligence activities, and strengthen monitoring of the situation.

The final period will most likely be characterized by subsequent multi-sphere operations by the US and NATO in the theaters of military operations adjacent to the Russian Federation to finally defeat the defending groupings of troops (forces), demilitarize, de-sovereignize and military-political subjugation of Russia to its will. During this period, the Strategic Missile Forces will be mainly engaged in activities to restore and maintain the combat readiness of launchers and command posts for subsequent missile launches by order of the Supreme Commander of the RF Armed Forces.
Of particular interest in terms of studying the role and place of the Strategic Missile Forces as the main component of the strategic deterrence forces of the Russian Federation in countering the strategic multi-sphere operation of the United States and NATO will be its main period.

The most important task of this period in order to achieve the main goal of the strategic multi-sphere operation to ensure the physical destruction of the Russian Federation, by this concept, is to gain decisive superiority in aerospace and eliminate the system of strategic nuclear deterrence of the Russian Federation by depriving it of its deterrent nuclear potential.

The arguments given by the authors regarding the peculiarities of the future counterforce scenario of conducting a "victorious blitzkrieg" of the United States against the Russian Federation give reason to believe that, along with the need to integrate the efforts of all components of the strategic forces, the final result of the US counterforce operation is highly dependent on the completeness of the implementation of particular functional tasks, a relatively short duration of actions and insufficient certainty of their place in the time interval of the counterforce operation in the general model of the main stage of bilateral military operations of the strategic forces of the United States and the Russian Federation, three relatively independent stages (phases, distinct areas) of the military confrontation of the parties can be conditionally distinguished.

The first is the military actions of the Russian Federation and the United States during a sudden massive counterforce attack by the United States utilizing a conventional instantaneous global strike (OMGU) - the "reflection" stage.

The second is the military actions of the Russian Federation and the United States during the suppression and breakthrough of the US ABM defense system using the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces grouping - the "breakthrough" stage.

The third is the military actions of the Russian Federation and the United States on the exchange of nuclear weapons in the conditions of the functioning of the sides that have partially survived after the first two stages of missile defense systems - the "retaliation" stage.

The possibility of relative independence of the functional stages of the military confrontation between the strategic forces of the Russian Federation and the United States will be determined by the specifics of the forces and means of the parties involved in the confrontation, the sequence, and the space-temporal characteristics of their application.

According to the US presidential administration and the Pentagon, the strategic capabilities of the non-nuclear offensive and defensive components of the "new strategic triads" of the US Armed Forces, currently, after full-scale deployment, make it possible to hit up to 55-60% of the deployed nuclear warheads of the strategic nuclear forces of the Russian Federation with the forces and means of a conventional instantaneous global strike (OMGU) and up to 25-30% of the deployed nuclear warheads - employing echelons of the global missile defense system.

In order to ensure the security of its territory and facilities, it is planned to increase these figures to 60-65% of the deployed nuclear warheads- according to OMGU and 30-35% of deployed nuclear warheads - according to the missile defense system, which will allow the United States, without prejudice to itself and the geopolitical status of the country, to eliminate its primary political and military adversary while maintaining primacy over third nuclear powers.

According to leading domestic military experts, the main instrument for deterring the start and resolutely counteracting a strategic multi-sphere operation by the armed forces of the United States and NATO can be considered the operation of the strategic deterrence forces (OSSS), which is currently under active development, the content of which can be operations (combat actions) of all types and generic components of the RF Armed Forces equipped with strategic offensive (nuclear and non-nuclear) weapons (SNF and SSNW).

Regarding content and space-temporal scope, the OSSS will presumably cover the entire period of the aerospace confrontation between the Russian Federation and the United States to conquer the military-strategic confrontation in the large-scale military aggression suddenly unleashed by the United States.

Structurally, in the OSSS, by analogy with the above scenario of bilateral military operations of the parties in the aerospace space, we can distinguish three conditionally independent stages (phases, distinct areas) of the use of strategic forces (Fig. 2) - the actions of formations of strategic forces in the form of military operations ( operations) with a combat mission:

  • to repulse a sudden massive aerospace attack of the enemy;
  • to break through (suppress) the means of attack and information and control systems of the layered US ABM defense system to the entire depth of its strategic structure;
  • inflicting nuclear retaliation against the aggressor with the remaining strategic nuclear forces of the RF Armed Forces.

Fig.2: Structure and main content of the SSS operation

Fig.2: Structure and main content of the SSS operation

At the same time, the stages of the SSS operation, taking into account the specifics of the content and development of events during the period of aerospace confrontation between the parties, is advisable to single out not according to the classical scheme of the next stage following the completion of the previous one, but according to the principle of semantic assessment and taking into account the influence of the results of the previous stage on the next one.

This approach allows us to interpret the operation concept and more correctly approach the planning of its practical implementation with the determination of the timing of the OSSS involved at the stages of forces and means, forms and methods of their application.
In order to solve these rather diverse tasks at the stages of the operation, it is apparently expedient to provide for the creation in the general SSS grouping of three independent private groupings of strategic forces specific to one or another stage (phase) of the operation. The decisive role in its preparation, planning, and application should belong to the species (generic) component of the RF Armed Forces that dominates this grouping. Thus, the SSS grouping to solve the combat mission of repelling an aerospace attack (OVKN) will be created based on the formations of the Aerospace Forces of the RF Armed Forces, which form the basis of the country's aerospace defense system; the SSS grouping to solve the problem of retaliatory nuclear "retaliation" - based on the formations of naval SNS, which, inferior to the Strategic Missile Forces in terms of time, accuracy and power combat characteristics, have higher survivability in conditions of massive aerospace impact of the aggressor.

The Strategic Missile Forces, as the leading and most universal component of the strategic forces, will be involved to one degree or another in solving combat missions as part of all SSS groupings and at all conditionally independent stages of the SSS operation.
In the interests of solving the tasks of the first stage (phase) of the SSS operation, missile formations (units) as part of the SSS grouping on the OSSS can be involved in launching missile strikes on the areas of concentration of the aggressor strike groups, arsenals, and storage bases for the reserve of ammunition of high-precision weapons in order to reduce the density of massive enemy counterforce.

Units and subunits of the special forces and rear at this stage will focus their efforts on the implementation of measures to counter the air and ground enemy, identify and destroy its sabotage and reconnaissance formations, guard and defend the objects of the positional area, prepare the surviving and restore the PU and CP that have lowered the combat readiness for subsequent missile launches.

At the final stage of the OSSS, it is planned to use the remaining strategic nuclear weapons to deliver nuclear weapons as part of the "reciprocal nuclear retaliation," grouping the most important objects of the military-economic potential, state administration, and infrastructure of the aggressor country.
However, the Strategic Missile Forces will have a decisive role as they are equipped with hypersonic and other advanced weapons systems, mainly in solving problems at the second stage of the SSS operation to break through (overcome, suppress) the US ABM defense system and prevent nuclear warheads losses above the limit values ​​during delivery to the SOP in the United States.

Based on an analysis of the current strategic situation in the world, the problems of maintaining strategic parity between the United States and the Russian Federation, the views of the US military-political leadership on possible approaches to maintaining its leadership in the world with the elimination of potential competitors, the structure, content, and procedure for achieving (implementing) goals (tasks ) NATO's strategic multi-sphere operation, as well as the possible reaction of the Russian Federation to its direct preparation and conduct, we can draw the following conclusions.

First, in a multipolar world with strategic parity between the Russian Federation and the United States in terms of strategic offensive arms, early warning systems, and missile defense, the stake in the destruction of the Russian Federation in the course of a sudden massive nuclear attack loses its meaning due to the high probability of receiving unacceptable damage to its military-economic and nuclear potential, which will finally doom the United States, even with relatively favorable outcome, to the final loss of leading positions on the world stage.

Second, a massive nuclear attack on Russia with the aim of its physical destruction as a sovereign state is considered by the Pentagon only on the condition that it is previously deprived of its strategic deterrent potential and that guarantees are provided to prevent retaliatory nuclear impact by the remaining nuclear warhead of the RF SNA on US facilities and territory.

Third, considering the state of the strategic capabilities of the components of the "new strategic triad" of the United States (in the long run - until 2050) and their use for the physical destruction of the deterrent potential of the strategic nuclear forces of the Russian Federation in the face of increasing competition for world leadership is not possible. This is possible only with a sudden counterforce MRNA, a preventive counterforce OMGU, or through the GS ABM. The possibility of the United States liquidating its main rival on the world stage by military force can appear only after achieving a convincing sufficiency of strategic capabilities and the integrated use of all three of the above options and means of strategic influence with the required efficiency. That is, if there is a threat of a malfunction in the operation of any of the three instruments of force and counterforce influence, the United States will be forced to abandon a nuclear attack on the Russian Federation, which means that the SSS of the Russian Federation will have additional opportunities to deter an aggressor in the pre-nuclear period.

Fourth, the primary means and tool for countering attempts to implement the Pentagon's aggressive plans to destroy the Russian Federation by conducting a strategic multi-sphere operation by domestic military experts are considered and actively developed by a promising form of strategic use of the RF Armed Forces: strategic deterrence operation.  Achieve the most resolute strategic goals of defeating an aggressor involves the use of modern strategic offensive and defensive, nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, taking into account the latest military technologies, to solve the following main tasks:

  • repelling an aerospace attack by the US and NATO using OMGU and preventing the loss of the deterrent potential of the RF SNS in areas of deployment above the allowable limit;
  • suppression of the US ABM GS and prevention of losses of nuclear warheads of the SNS of the Russian Federation in aerospace above the allowable level;
  • delivery of the remaining nuclear warheads of the RF SNS to the SOP and the aggressor's territory, causing unacceptable damage.

Fifth, to ensure reliable strategic deterrence of a sudden aerospace attack by a potential aggressor under the conditions of treaty restrictions, it is no longer enough for Russia to create and maintain the necessary combat readiness for the use of strategic nuclear forces (RVSN) grouping sufficient in composition, capable of inflicting unacceptable damage on the aggressor in response.
The SNS (RVSN) will be able to ensure a guaranteed deterrence of a US nuclear missile attack only if the parity of the strategic capabilities of the parties is maintained at a minimum sufficient level, as well as the existence of an appropriate set of tools to convince the US MD:

  • the impossibility of achieving the goal of inflicting supercritical damage to strategic nuclear forces (RVSN) by preventive counterforce action through OMGU;
  • the inability to completely destroy the nuclear warheads that survived after the OMGU utilizing the echelons of the GS ABM and the guaranteed exclusion of the facts of nuclear impact on the territory and facilities of the United States in the "reciprocal nuclear retaliation" of the Russian Federation;
  • the inevitability of receiving unacceptable damage in any scenario of the start of nuclear aggression.

Prevention of the beginning of aggression seems possible with a convincing demonstration of ensuring the fulfillment of the deterrence criterion at least at one of the stages of the aerospace period of NATO's strategic multi-sphere operation.
In other words, taking into account the prospects for the development of the strategic situation and the resulting transformation of the Pentagon's views on unleashing and waging a large-scale nuclear war against a potential competitor for world leadership, the Russian MPD has a real opportunity to deter large-scale nuclear aggression against the country.

It is due to the aggressor's conviction that it is unattainable to deprive Russia of its deterrent nuclear potential at the stages of using the OMGU and GS ABM facilities without directly resorting to the "bogey" of strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, in order to build an adequate predictable military-strategic situation, a system of strategic deterrence must fundamentally use a new approach that involves the integrated use of the capabilities of all components of the SSS of the Russian Federation. The structure and composition of the prospective system of integrated force strategic deterrence (KSSS) with the participation of the Strategic Missile Forces, presumably, will be conditionally characterized by two independent level channels of deterrence - nuclear and pre-nuclear, as well as three independent subsystems of deterrence - a reflection of OMGU, suppression of the GS PR O and retaliatory retaliation.

Each subsystem in the integrated strategic nuclear deterrence system can and must be brought into line with the necessary deterrent tool, its grouping of forces, and its means. That is, the general grouping of strategic deterrence forces in the KSSS to demonstrate sufficiency, ability, and readiness may include:

  • the primary grouping of strategic nuclear forces (RVSN) of the Russian Federation - to "reciprocal nuclear retaliation";
  • grouping of troops covering elements of the primary grouping from an aerospace enemy - to repulse a preventive counterforce conventional instantaneous global strike of the enemy;
  • grouping of SNS (RVSN) of the Russian Federation to break through missile defense echelons - to electronic suppression and fire damage to elements of the enemy's missile defense system.

At the same time, as in the conduct of the SSS operation, the new Strategic Missile Forces will play a unique role and place in the promising system of strategic deterrence by demonstrating to the enemy their sufficiency, readiness, and ability to reduce the potential of the second echelon of the OMGU, breakthrough (suppression) of the missile defense system and inflict guaranteed unacceptable damage aggressor in retaliatory "nuclear retaliation."

The formation based on the Strategic Missile Forces of a subsystem of pre-nuclear deterrence, capable of convincing the aggressor of the unattainability of the goal of the SMSO to inflict supercritical losses on the "cloud" of the nuclear warheads SNS (RVSN) of the Russian Federation in the echelons of the GS ABM in the system of integrated strategic deterrence, will require:

  • substantiation in the Strategic Missile Forces of a grouping appropriate in terms of composition and capabilities, the so-called breakthrough grouping, which makes it possible, when conducting "retaliatory retaliation" MRNA, to carry out advanced destruction (suppression) of critical elements of the US ABM defense system;
  • selection and determination of specific forms and methods of deterrence and combat use of this grouping;
  • clarification of the issues of maintaining and predicting an adequate increase in its combat capability, combat readiness, modes of duty, as well as the organization of command and control, interaction, and support;
  • development of a set of restraining measures specific to the functioning of this new organizational and technical system, their flexibly dosed declaration, and demonstrative implementation.

The article outlines an approach to substantiating a promising system of integrated forceful strategic deterrence of an aggressor from a preventive counterforce instantaneous global strike. Its application will have a significant impact on improving the structure, combat composition of the grouping, and the weapons and military equipment system of all components of the strategic deterrence forces on clarifying the conditions, forms, and methods of strategic deterrence and direct combat use of the Strategic Missile Forces in interspecific strategic operations of the RF Armed Forces.

The structure and composition of the prospective system of integrated forceful strategic deterrence with the participation of the Strategic Missile Forces will be conditionally characterized by two independent levels of channels of deterrence - nuclear and pre-nuclear, as well as three independent deterrence subsystems - a reflection of OMGU, suppression of the ABM system and retaliatory retaliation.


Acronym List (added by translator)

ABM - Antiballistic Missiles
EWS - Early Warning Systems
KSSS - Integrated Force for Strategic Deterrence
MPL - Military-Political Leadership
MRNA - sudden massive nuclear missile strike
OMGU - Conventional Instantaneous Global Strike
OSSS - Operation of the Strategic Deterrence Forces
RVNS - Strategic missile forces 
SOF - Special Operations Forces
SNF - strategic offensive nuclear weapons 
SSNW - strategic offensive non-nuclear weapons
SVKN - Strategic aerospace direction 

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Andrea Benetton
Andrea Benetton

Twenty-five years of IT experience currently focused on blockchain technology. I approached it in 2011 on a personal research-level influenced by Hayek money competition theory, then turned a passion into my job.

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