Nuclear Deterrence during the Period of Confrontation

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2015-10-30-39

A. Saveliev, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation (

Acknowledgements. The publication is prepared with financial support of the Russian Foundation for Humanities; Project 15-37-11136 “The Influence of Technological Factors on the Spectrum of Threats to National and International Security, Military Conflicts and Strategic Stability”.

Abstract. The article focuses on the main aspects of nuclear deterrence concept, including the mechanism of its application during the period of international tension. The author pays attention to the strategic triad configuration which makes nuclear deterrence more effective and reliable. Along with it the credibility of nuclear deterrence is also under consideration as a very important element of the overall problem analysis. The central part of the article is devoted to the problem of nuclear targeting and possible application of nuclear weapons in case the deterrence failed, and the decision to use these weapons were taken. The author argues that there is no rational variant to apply nuclear weapons without unpredictable and deadly reaction from the opposite side. There is no hope to achieve any positive result after the first use of nuclear weapons – whether strategic or tactical. Thus, a massive counterforce strike cannot prevent from a massive retaliation resulting in the complete annihilation of the rivalries. A limited strike against strategic offensive forces of the opponent can be interpreted as a massive strike ending with massive retaliation. A single strike cannot solve any military problem and, moreover, may give strategic initiative to the opponent. Tactical nuclear forces can be used in different, but generally “unproductive” ways – whether against the own territory, or by solving only limited tasks, while producing an unpredictable reaction from the opponent. The author comes to a conclusion that the nuclear weapon is only an instrument of self-destruction which cannot solve any security problem. It can only play a symbolic role in terms of the country's prestige, and nothing else. Finally, the author insists that the strategic stability concept started to play a counter-productive role in the U.S.-Russia strategic relations, and must be substituted by a new approach to security. This approach should reject the central idea of strategic stability which calls for preserving a powerful retaliatory potential.

Keywords: nuclear deterrence, security, military doctrine, nuclear targeting and use of nuclear weapons, strategic stability, deep reductions, nuclear disarmament

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For citation:
Savel'ev A. Nuclear Deterrence during the Period of Confrontation. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2015, no. 10, pp. 30-39.

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