Hi.

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

The Russian Nuclear Arsenal

The Russian Nuclear Arsenal

Russian Topol-M on Parade. Source: Wikipedia, creative commons.

The information below comes from a report compiled in December 2013. Some of the numbers have changed since then, but the other information remains largely accurate, with only some updated information needing added about the Borei and Bulava missile saga (which will appear in a future post).  If you would like to contribute to the ongoing project to compile a more accurate estimate, please see our Projects Page.

The Russian stockpile is exceedingly more complex than the American stockpile.  It is also less transparent. The Russian non-strategic arsenal is also significantly larger, though estimates on it vary widely. The Russians do not provide aggregate numbers of their arsenal, and the United States does not release information about it other than as provided as part of New START, which does not count physical warheads. Russian modernization programs are also more opaque than the United States’ programs. Therefore, the chart below shows a lower confidence estimate of Russian stockpiles than the U.S. estimates in our other post.

This chart draws from multiple sources including Podvig 2001, Kristensen and Norris 2013, SIPRI 2013, the Missile Threat website (www.missilethreat.com) and the Federation of Atomic Scientists (www.fas.org). Non-strategic data is primarily from Sutyagin 2012. Data was frequently conflicted or inconsistent and required interpretation. Therefore, these estimates are the authors own.

This chart draws from multiple sources including Podvig 2001, Kristensen and Norris 2013, SIPRI 2013, the Missile Threat website (www.missilethreat.com) and the Federation of Atomic Scientists (www.fas.org). Non-strategic data is primarily from Sutyagin 2012. Data was frequently conflicted or inconsistent and required interpretation. Therefore, these estimates are the authors own.

As mentioned, the Russians view nuclear weapons with greater utility than the United States. In addition to a variety of tactical weapons, they deploy defensive weapons, which the United States abandoned in the 1970s. These include missile, air, and coastal defense weapons. The Russians also possess a number of nuclear and nuclear capable, ground based short-range missiles, tactical air dropped bombs, and naval weapons including torpedoes (Sutyagin 2012).  

The Russians have invested in upgrading their delivery systems through redesign and replacement rather than modernization and upgrade. This is another key divergence from the United States and reflects the different role played by nuclear weapons in Russian military and strategic thinking.

The Russian nuclear arsenal was generally newer at the end of the Cold War, benefiting from development programs in the Soviet Union that peaked in the mid to late 1980s. This was largely in response to the American build-up of the 1970s and early 1980s. In addition to contributing to Soviet economic collapse, these systems meant that for much of the 1990s the Russian arsenal was newer than that of the United States. The Russians also continued to look to modernize their arsenal during the 1990s, though not without significant difficulty (Podvig 2001; Blank 2011). 

The Russians generally announce ambitious new projects that they then struggle to fulfill. Cost overruns and technical issues typically delay the fielding of new systems well beyond originally forecast dates. The Topol program suffers serious production issues. Then there is the ongoing saga of the new Russian Borei class submarines and the Bulava missile system. The Bulava has suffered a high failure rate in testing and has yet to go operational. Borei submarines continue to undergo design changes and delayed production. The Russian Navy currently faces the prospect of deploying its new missile boats with no associated missiles (Blank 2011).

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.

Nuclear Weapons and Russian Foreign Policy Goals

Nuclear Weapons and Russian Foreign Policy Goals

Russian National Security Strategy and Nuclear Weapons

Russian National Security Strategy and Nuclear Weapons