The Cold War is over, but its legacy lingers in both the United States and Russia as the two countries continue to shape and define their current and future relationship. Among the positive ways in which this relationship differs from that of the past is both sides’ genuine belief that they no longer face one another as perpetual adversaries on constant guard against an opponent willing to use nuclear weapons. Within their new relationship, they are prepared to draw down the strategic nuclear forces that defined the central hostility of the Cold War. And yet, within this relationship there is still a nonviolent, but real, conflict of interests as Russia struggles to come back from its period of weakness and assert great-power status.
Looking back, the deterrent framework established by the Soviet Union and the United States comprised clearly stated vital interests and the deployment of large numbers of conventional and nuclear weapons. Through presidential statements, formal alliances, and military deployments, the United States and the Soviet Union extended deterrence to include their North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and Eastern European allies, respectively. Military doctrine was written and exercises were undertaken to demonstrate the capacity of the weapon systems.
Using these same elements, this monograph focuses on uncovering the characteristics of Russia’s emerging deterrent framework beyond central strategic nuclear deterrence. (See Table S.1.)
Russia has made clear that, given its conventional inferiority to plausible adversaries, including the United States and NATO, it might be forced to use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack