US-Russian nuclear weapons relations - Continuity and change


  • Arbman Gunnar
  • Danielson Göran
  • Dörfer Ingemar
  • Rydqvist John (red.)
  • Stenholm Lars
  • Unge Wilhelm (red.)
  • Wigg Lars

Publish date: 2001-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--0113--SE

Pages: 86

Written in: Swedish


In the US-Soviet Cold War strategic balance, the offensive capability widely surpassed the defensive, which was limited by the ABM Treaty. This strategy was appropriately called MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). In a time of continued proliferation, the USA wants to leave the MAD strategy by diminishing its offensive arsenal while increasing the defensive capability in form of a national missile defence. In addition, the new American strategy comprises increased non-proliferation efforts. The rationale behind this is that the USA does not want to to be part of any new MAD relationships. Upholding strategic parity with the USA and thereby preserving a great power status is imperative to Russia, which, as Washington, will not accept new MAD relationships vis-A-vis third parties. Political, military-strategic, economic and technical reasons make it very likely that the US and Russia will reach an agreement on the ABM Treaty allowing an American missile defence. Today Russia has at its disposal TMD systems, which are at least as good as the American equivalents. Due to Russian conventional military weakness, tactical nuclear weapons play a more important role for Russia. The Russian tactical nuclear arsenal is larger than the American, whereas the US strategic arsenal outnumbers the Russian. To maintain its nuclear arsenal the USA has diminished its physical infrastructure, relying more on simula- tions and partial testing. Russia, on the other hand, has maintained a larger physical infra-structure for construction, production and maintenance of its nuclear arsenal. Today the USA contribute substan-tially to enhance Russian nuclear safety. Among other things, a Moscow-based Joint Early Warning Data Center is in the making. The overall picture of US-Russian nuclear weapons relations is therefore one of both change and continuity.