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strategic asia 2013–14 established nuclear powers executive summary This chapter assesses Russia’s posture as a major nuclear weapons state and examines the role of Russian nuclear forces within the complex security environment of Eurasia. main argument: Russia does not believe that nuclear war is imminent and sees areas for cooperation with the U.S. and other powers to reduce proliferation. Russia has maintained nuclear parity with the U.S. through the modernization of its nuclear forces and the negotiation of strategic arms control agreements. In the absence of large conventional forces, the government has adopted a doctrine of nuclear “first use” and conducted exercises simulating first use in the case of conventional attacks on Russia and its allies. Russian experts are concerned about instability in a number of regions judged vital to Russian interests, especially if open conflict were to provoke U.S. and NATO out-of‑area interventions that lack the approval of the UN Security Council. The U.S. development of a global ballistic missile defense system and “prompt global strike” conventional systems raises fears in Moscow that such capabilities could undermine the deterrence potential of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. policy implications: • The Russian elite will not embrace “global zero” as a means to sustain strategic stability in an emerging multipolar world order. • Instability in Eurasia and NATO out-of-area operations has demonstrated the potential for local wars to become regional conflicts with risks of further escalation, leaving Russia with limited nuclear options to address threats to its vital interests. • While Russia had hoped to develop new systems of non-nuclear or pre‑nuclear deterrence for the emerging era of “no contact” warfare, the recent announcement of the failure of military reforms raises the prospect that it will continue to rely on nuclear deterrence. Russia Russia as a Nuclear Power in the Eurasian Context Jacob W. Kipp Speaking on Sino-Russian relations in 2003, Evgeny Sergeev remarked that “sometimes it is safer to hold on to the tiger’s tail than to let go.” This comment also seems to fit Russia’s approach to nuclear weapons in the post–Cold War world. Once a country has grabbed hold of the “nuclear tiger,” it may prove hard to let go. In spite of all the reductions in the size of its nuclear arsenal since the end of the Cold War, via bilateral arms control agreements and unilateral declarations of intent, Russia still views nuclear deterrence as the key factor in strategic stability and the core of its national security. This is more than a matter of inertia, and has its roots in the highly unstable Eurasian security environment in which Russia has operated over the last two decades. The Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Far East have seen ethnic and religious strife turn into civil wars and then lead to foreign intervention. While for a long time many in the West saw these events as part of a natural advance of democratic institutions and only later as a clash of civilizations, Russia’s elite has seen in these conflicts challenges to the existing order and threats to the stability of Russia itself. From the vantage point of 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has had a difficult time adjusting to its domestic transformation from a command to a market economy and defining its international position. With the end of the Soviet Union, the concept of a bipolar world vanished. Jacob W. Kipp is an Adjunct Professor of Russian military history at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at . 36 • Strategic Asia 2013–14 Russia found itself a weaker international player seeking to define its place in Eurasia and now more vulnerable to internal and external instability on its periphery. A hard decade of economic crisis and decline gave way to a period of recovery under the mantle of a strong, centralized state, which began to claim a special place in Eurasia. One legacy of the Soviet Union that Russia inherited was its arsenal of nuclear weapons. This alone could not make Russia a superpower, but it did provide a measure of strategic stability while Russia sought to ensure internal stability and define its new place in Eurasia. Russia inherited the Soviet arsenal at a time when the prospects of general nuclear war had sharply declined from the previous decade. Soviet leadership had invested heavily in the country’s nuclear arsenal in order to achieve parity...


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