Issue Brief #1: Russia's Nuclear Posture


This issue brief analyzes Russia’s nuclear posture, meaning the composition of the Russian strategic triad, its non-strategic nuclear arms, and Moscow’s current nuclear doctrine. As part of the modernization process of the Russian Army, Moscow has ordered a significant qualitative overhaul of the Russian nuclear forces in all three legs of the Russian triad. While Moscow is modernizing, its overall arsenal of nuclear warhead still exceeds massively any reasonable security needs. Efforts at reducing the Russian arsenal in a mutually agreed manner with the United States beyond New START are experiencing considerable problems. The fallout from the Ukraine conflict has already damaged bilateral relations. There is the danger that the standstill in U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control relations might severely affect the NPT regime. The Ukraine conflict will certainly continue to complicate any cooperative approach in the short to mid-term. However, its incalculable implications might even lead to a certain level of re-engagement in order to achieve a more profound level of stability. With the already existing obstacles (missile defense, conventional precision-guided weapons, outer space) still in place, any re-engagement on the issue will call for creativity, common interest, and enough political will and capital. While the obstacles are well-known, the arguments in favor of achieving lower levels in strategic arms have not changed as well. What was reasonable during the last Cold War has not lost its validity in the current crisis.

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About the Authors

Vincent C. Fournier is a Canadian national. His academic background is with the Quebec Institute of High International Studies (Laval University, Canada). He has also studied at the Tampere Peace Research Institute (University of Tampere, Finland). He has been a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) and an intern with the External Relations and International Cooperation Section of the CTBTO.

Ulrich Kühn is a Researcher at IFSH and coordinator of the Deep Cuts project. He has worked as an external advisor to the Division for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation at the German Federal Foreign Office. In 2011 he was named a United Nations Fellow on Disarmament. He is also a co-initiator of the Initiative for the Development of a Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Security Community (IDEAS). Kühn has published on conventional and nuclear arms control and Euro-Atlantic security.