Russia’s Assertive Nuclear Policy: The New Normal?

Łukasz Kulesa

By Łukasz Kulesa

Research Director

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Russia’s nuclear posture has been the subject of heightened attention since the country’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in Eastern Ukraine. Throughout the crisis it has threatened to escalate, making half-veiled references to its nuclear deterrent. Its verbal taunts continue to be matched by assertive behaviour. Russian nuclear-capable long range capable bombers conduct regular probes of EU and NATO airspace, and recent incidents have suggested that Russian submarines are instructed to operate close to the territorial waters of the United States and the UK.

These trends coincide with significant Russian efforts to modernize its nuclear arsenal, and a lessening of Russia’s commitment to disarmament, nuclear safety and arms control. Russia has been accused of violating its Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty obligations through testing of a ground launched cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometres. Hopes of a follow-on agreement to the NEW Start Treaty have also faded. Collectively, these developments are raising concerns that Russia’s nuclear policy is moving in a more assertive direction.
 
The ELN’s Lukasz Kulesa and RUSI’s  Senior Research Fellow for Sea Power and Maritime Studies Peter Roberts evaluated the validity of these concerns, assessed the state of Russia’s nuclear posture, and considered the possible trajectories for Moscow’s policy in the coming years.  
 
Further details on this event can be found here.