This monograph examines how U.S. Air Force strategic forces contribute to and are affected by the evolving relationship with Russia. This study starts with the recognition that the simple numbers and destructive power of both countries’ nuclear arsenals continue to drive at least a baseline requirement to deter the other, even though no adversarial intent exists on either side. In other important ways, however, the interests that the two sides are claiming, protecting, or advancing have changed profoundly from those of the Cold War. The American forces that constituted “deterrence” during the Cold War were matched to a vision of how conflict could come about—primarily in Europe—and how that conflict would be conducted. Changed interests and, thus, changed ways in which interests diverge mean that these visions necessarily no longer hold, although Europe remains a consistent region of concern to both countries. To effectively incorporate deterrence in the context of the current relationship with Russia, in which both sides profess not to see the other as an adversary, we must understand how both Russia and the United States might envision conflict emerging and progressing.
The Air Force has always had a special role in understanding the possible use of nuclear weapons in any conflict. This monograph looks at whether and how the possible Russian use of such weapons in the particular context of conflict escalation in a Europe or near-Europe scenario might evolve. If nuclear weapons are employed in the future, they will be employed in different ways from what might have been expected in the past—which means that the mechanisms needed to avert such developments are similarly new. The implications for the Air