Russia's Nuclear Forces: Between Disarmament and Modernization Proliferation Papers, No. 37, Spring 2011
Nuclear weapons have traditionally occupied an important place in Russia’s national security strategy. As Russia and the United States have been reducing their nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War, their relationship has undergone a complex transformation. Russia, however, still considers strategic balance with the United States to be an important element of national security.
During the recent arms control negotiations with the United States, Russia strongly emphasized its interest in missile defense and conventional strategic launchers - issues that might directly affect its deterrent potential and discourage deep reductions. Still, the nuclear disarmament process could also change Russia’s security policy in a variety of ways, depending on how the subsequent dialogue addresses several key issues. After an overview of the current status of the Russian strategic nuclear forces and the strategic modernization program undertaken by Russia, this Proliferation Paper considers the role that missile defense and tactical nuclear weapons could play during the next round of nuclear arms control negotiations. Each of these problems presents a serious challenge. Nevertheless, this analysis suggests that recent progress in nuclear disarmament and the willingness of both countries to engage in a dialogue give the two countries an opportunity to reduce the importance of nuclear weapons in their relationship.