Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


reducing US vulnerabilities to asymmetric attack (e.g., cyber

attack, space control) will be important to protect US

advantages and assure allies that US strengths are resilient

to enemy action.

• Assured second-strike capabilities for the US nuclear force

will continue to be valuable to allies as they observe growth

in potential threats to the United States and reductions in

the size of the US nuclear force.

Challenge #3: A Newly Assertive Russia

This challenge results from Russia’s self-declared increased

reliance on nuclear weapons for security and as instruments of

foreign policy. A newly assertive Russia is not shy about displaying

its hostility toward the United States and its allies. This

challenge combines aspects of both types of challenges mentioned

above—direct threats to allies and direct threats to the

United States.

During the tenure of Russian president Vladimir Putin

(2000–2008), the Russian policy-making elite developed an

elaborate system of exaggerating perceived threats to justify

the retention and modernization of a large Russian nuclear arsenal.

Moscow claims to be the target of potential threats from

other established nuclear powers, saying that “nuclear weapons

of all states that possess them are ultimately aimed at Russia.”

19 The United States and NATO remain at the top of the list

of potential Russian adversaries. The West’s advanced weapon

programs, ballistic missile defense, and military applications of

space are superior to those of Russia and therefore are targets

of Russia’s aggressive foreign policy.

Russian leaders regard sustaining and demonstrating a robust

nuclear potential as the foundation of their country’s special

role in geopolitics, a paramount precondition for strategic parity

with the United States, and a place on the world stage. In

2003 Putin bragged that “Russia and the United States are the

biggest nuclear powers. Our economy might be smaller, but

Russia’s nuclear potential is still comparable to that of the

United States. . . . Also important is that we have the years of

experience, the technology and the production potential, the


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