Hi.

Welcome to my blog. I document my adventures in travel, style, and food. Hope you have a nice stay!

Nuclear Weapons and Russian Foreign Policy Goals

Nuclear Weapons and Russian Foreign Policy Goals

Sergey Lavrov and Hillary Clinton push the button. SOURCE: US State Department, Public Domain

Russian foreign policy centers on an elite concern to maintain Russia as a leading global power (Mankoff 2012). Economic weakness in the 1990s, following the end of the Cold War, contributed to deteriorating military and nuclear forces. However, Soviet nuclear programs and delivery system development never truly ended; rather they slowed in the 1990s due to budgetary constraints. These constraints disappeared during the Russian economic recovery between 1998 and 2008, driven by rising oil prices and the stabilization of economic conditions under Vladimir Putin (Mankoff 2012). At the same time, continued NATO expansion, and American-led interventionism in Serbia and the Middle East, a rising China, intent on modernizing its own conventional and strategic forces, and the rapidly escalating nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, all contributed to Russian concerns about their relative power. As Jeffery Mankoff put it, “The response has been to fall back on the tried and true – a strong state backed by a strong military, and a foreign policy that emphasizes strategic depth and autonomy on the world stage” (Mankoff 2012).

The Russian view has three basic predicates. First, nuclear weapons form a key element in strategic deterrence. Second, they guarantee the sovereignty and security of the Russian Federation from any large-scale aggression. Finally, the Russian nuclear arsenal underpins its role as a world power, and places it on equal footing with the U.S. in arms reduction (Mysanikov 2013; Trenin 2005). The Russians do not rule out a first strike as either a preemption (though they avoid using that word) or in response to a conventional attack on Russian soil (Blank 2011). This is especially worrying, given that the idea of what is "Russian soil" is a very elastic concept these days.

A modern, credible nuclear deterrent is essential Russian foreign policy aspirations. The Russian policy of non-interference is an ancillary component, placing it in clear opposition to many American and European foreign policy and military goals, though with little to no credibility following the events in Ukraine. The most visible manifestation of Russian great power status in the past was the high-level summitry of nuclear arms reduction negotiations. START, START II, and New START all placed Russia on equal footing with the world’s “sole superpower.” Putin’s more assertive and astute foreign policy actions, like those dealing with Syria and Iran, place Russia on an equal footing outside of arms control and reinforce the non-interference policy, which wins support from China and other nations opposed to American action.

Russia also pursued an astute negotiating strategy in arms reduction talks over the last twenty years. Russia inherited a newer, though more vast and varied Soviet nuclear force. First was the rollback of that force, as weapons and weapon systems transferred from former Soviet states to Russia. Then came the START reductions, initially viewed through the lens of cost savings and reduced threat. This tumultuous period saw rapid NATO expansion and threats to the Russian government from hardliner elements.

Internal security concerns and a deteriorating strategic position contributed to the Yeltsin decision to pursue a strategic modernization program. These programs accelerated under Putin with improved economic conditions. Yet the programs were not necessarily new, rather structural reforms in Russian forces coincided with weapons development programs inherited from the Soviet Union and continued under the Russian Federation (Blank 2012; Podvig 2001).

As the Russians negotiated with the United States for reductions, the reductions came largely from older Soviet legacy forces. As a bonus, the cost of those reductions was born by the United States, freeing up funds to pursue modernization that might otherwise have gone toward dismantlement. By the time of New START ratification, the Russians were already below many of its caps, and the weapon systems in the Russian arsenal were newer than the corresponding American systems. 

The Russians also consistently oppose both U.S./NATO BMD and American modernization plans, while they continued to advance and improve their own systems. The Russians effectively pursued a foreign policy strategy portraying American BMD and nuclear modernization programs as destabilizing, while few noticed the Russians own modernization program. 

As the ink on New START dried, Russian foreign policy was at a turning point in its nuclear weapons policy. Russian modernization programs were struggling, especially the Bulava. The remaining Russian strategic arsenal was at least a decade newer than the corresponding American arsenal. However, it too was showing its age. The Americans were seeking additional Russian cuts, even as the Russian arsenal might shrink further of its own accord as new systems faced delay.  The Russian conventional force modernization program was also struggling. The Americans were threatening to modernize their nuclear arsenal, begin fielding European BMD systems, and were talking about new conventional strategic systems (precision strike) that placed the Russian nuclear deterrent at perceived risk. Given that perspective, it is no wonder the Foreign Ministry has ignored President Obama’s call for further negotiations. 

SOURCES:

Bernhow, Mark A. 2005. US Strategic and Defensive Missile Systems 1950-2004. University Park, IL: Osprey Publishing Limited.

Black, Ian. 2013. “Iran nuclear deal: Saudi Arabia and Gulf react with caution.” The Guardian. November 24. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/24/iran-nuclear-deal-middle-east-reaction-saudi-arabia (November 26, 2013).

Blank, Stephen J., ed. 2010. Russian Military Politics and Russia’s 2010 Defense Doctrine. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute.

_____. 2011. Russian Nuclear Weapons: Past, Present, and Future. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute.

Butler, Desmond. 2012. “Obama faces bumps with Russian Policy.” Associated Press November 12.  http://hosted2.ap.org/ORBEN/1e38c7a90bbb42c9bda8ea8c454a5424/Article_2012-11-12-US-Russia-Analysis/id-5256ddc8489a4bb6b02015f594319eb7 (November 24, 2012)

Cimbala, Stephen J. 2008. Shield of Dreams: Missile Defense and U.S.-Russian Nuclear Strategy. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

Cimbala, Stephen J. and Peter Rainow. 2007. Russia and Postmodern Deterrence: Military Power and Its Challenges for Security. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books.

Diakov, Anatoly S. 2011. Verified Reduction of Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons. http://www.armscontrol.ru (November 29, 2013).

Federation of American Scientists (FAS). 2013. “Russia/Soviet Nuclear Forces Guide.” http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia (November 25, 2013).

_____. 2013. “U.S. Nuclear Forces Guide.” http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa (November 27, 2013).

Friedber, Aaron L. 2000. In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America’s Anti-Statism and Its Cold War Grand Strategy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Giles, Keir, and Centre Conflict Studies Research.  2011.  The State of the NATO-Russia Reset. Oxford: Conflict Studies Research Centre.

Hildreth, Steven A., and Carl Ek. 2010.  "Missile Defense and NATO's Lisbon Summit.” Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.

Hildreth, Steven A., and Amy F. Woolf. 2010.  "Ballistic Missile Defense and Offensive Arms Reductions: A Review of the Historical Record.” Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.

Kristensen, Hans M. and Robert S. Norris. 2013. “US nuclear forces, 2013.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 69(2): 77–86.

_____. 2013. “Russian nuclear forces, 2013.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 69(3): 71–81.

Mamontov, Sergei. 2013. “Russia Skeptical Over Obama’s New Nuclear Reduction Proposal.” RIA Novosti. June 19. http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130619/181755868.html (November 22, 2013).

Mankoff, Jeffrey. 2012. Russian Foreign Policy: The Return of Great Power Politics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Msyanikov, Yevgeny. 2013. “On the role of nuclear weapons in international politics and in the security of Russia and its allies.” Speech at the International Summer School of the PIR Center on Global Security. July 3. Google translation. http://www.armscontrol.ru/pubs/ em070313.html (November 25, 2013).

Nichols, Tom, Douglas Stuart, and Jeffrey D. McCausland, eds. 2012. Tactical Nuclear Weapons and NATO. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute.

Obama, Barack. 2013. “Remarks by President Obama at the Brandenburg Gate – Berlin, Germany.” The White House Office of the Press Secretary. June 19. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/19/remarks-president-obama-brandenburg-gate-berlin-germany (November 25, 2013).

O’Rourke, Ronald. 2013. Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.

Peoples, Columba. 2010.  Justifying Ballistic Missile Defence Technology, Security, and Culture. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pifer, Steven and Michael E. O’Hanlon. 2012. The Opportunity: Next Steps in Reducing Nuclear Arms. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute Press.

Podvig, Pavel. 2001. Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Rhodes, Richard. 1986. The Making of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Samson, Victoria. 2010.  American Missile Defense: A Guide to the Issues. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger.

Schneider, Mark B. 2012. “Russian Nuclear Modernization.” Talking Points from speech to Air Force Association. June 20. Washington, D.C.: National Institute for Public Policy.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 2013. SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sauer, Tom. 2011.  Eliminating Nuclear Weapons: The Role of Missile Defense. New York: Columbia University Press.

Segal, Gerard. 2002. “Strategic Nuclear Missiles, Warheads, and Throw-Weights of United States and USSR, 1964-82.” Brezhnev Reconsidered. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sokolski, Henry D., ed. 2012. The Next Arms Race. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute.

Sutyagin, Igor. 2012. Atomic Accounting: A New Estimate of Russia’s Non-Strategic Nuclear Forces. London: Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.

Trenin, Dmitri. 2005. Russia’s Nuclear Policy in the 21st Century Environment. Paris: Institut francais des relations internationales.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). National Nuclear Security Administration. 2013. Fiscal Year 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, Report to Congress, June 2013. Washington, D.C.: Department of Energy.

Voice of Russia UK. 2013. “Lavrov: nuclear arms reductions not limited to Russia and US.” RIA Novosti. June 22. http://voiceofrussia.com/uk/2013_06_22/Lavrov-nuclear-arms-reductions-Russia-and-US (November 27, 2013).

Woolf, Amy F. U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.

Wilkening, Dean A. 2010. "Nuclear Zero and Ballistic Missile Defence."  Survival 52: 107-26.

———. 2012.  "Moscow Conference Highlights NATO-Russian Gap on Missile Defense.” World Politics Review May 4.

 

A Nuclear Asia and Russian Security Concerns

A Nuclear Asia and Russian Security Concerns

The Russian Nuclear Arsenal

The Russian Nuclear Arsenal