Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


the United States can hold less Russian infrastructure at risk,

which the Russians desire. Since they have no plans to wage

war against the United States, fewer long-range strike weapons

presents an opportunity for cost savings. It is the medium- and

short-range weapons the Russians highly value.

To suggest that Russia will stop current modernization efforts

because of US overtures is a mistake. President Medvedev and

Prime Minister Putin are pursuing a clear strategy that preserves

the maximum freedom of action—both nuclear and conventional—for

Russia. The United States must come to grips with the

fact that it is no longer the center of Russian security concerns.


The Chinese are currently increasing their nuclear arsenal

by 12–16 weapons per year and will soon field 1,000 ICBMs/

SLBMs. While the Chinese have a stated no-first-strike nuclear

policy (minimum deterrence), there is no reason to believe that

they would be willing to stop expanding and modernizing their

forces to join the United States in arms reductions. China

clearly sees itself as a rising state and the United States as a

nation in decline.

Bilateral or unilateral arms reductions below current numbers

threaten to place the United States in a position in which

it would expend approximately 70 percent of its nuclear arsenal

in an exchange with Russia or China, leaving the United

States at a distinct disadvantage against other adversaries.

3. Is deterrence fundamentally a psychological effect?

Traditional deterrence theory is based on Rational Choice

Theory, which suggests that:

• actors are rational

• actors rank their preferences

• actors seek to achieve their preferences

While Rational Choice Theory acknowledges that actors lack

complete information and frequently make suboptimal decisions,

the theory does not accept the premise that actors are irrational.


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