Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


since both sides (US or USSR) would retain a sufficient secondstrike

capability to negate any potential benefits from a first

strike. Thus, custom has created an approach to nuclear weapons

in the United States where it is widely believed that the role

of nuclear weapons is to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.

This relegates them to a position in which there is only one viable

option for their use—retaliation.


Throughout the Cold War, Russian policy was very much like

that of the United States. And, much like the United States today,

Russia has shifted its strategic nuclear weapons policy to

reflect the post–Cold War strategic environment. Where the

United States and Russia differ is in the apparent willingness

of Russia to use its tactical nuclear weapons for political purposes

(prestige and European blackmail) and to protect its large

and porous border with China. Since Russian conventional

forces are incapable of defeating the People’s Liberation Army

in a conventional conflict in the Russian Far East, President

Medvedev must rely on nuclear weapons that target China to

prevent any aggression against Russia.


China has a clearly articulated policy of no first use, which is

part its minimum deterrence strategy. It is reasonable to sug-


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