Contemporary debates on Russian nuclear strategy focus on making sense of Russia’s nuclear capabilities, signalling and nuclear declarations. This paper argues that understanding how nuclear capabilities and strategy interact with conventional capabilities is fundamental to understanding nuclear strategy. It offers the Conventional Balance of Forces thesis for explaining change in Russia’s nuclear strategy after the Cold War. It shows how Russian nuclear debates and strategy decisions have been affected by perceived conventional vulnerabilities, and how the orthodox Western interpretation of Russian nuclear strategy today as one of ‘escalating to de-escalate’ comes short of explaining when Russia would go nuclear in conflict, and why.:
This looks to provide some interesting doctrinal background to understand Russia’s strategic culture, and the Russian doctrinal counterparts to the development of the first generation of strategic scholars in the United States (from approximately 1977 to 1989-90).