The Missile Defense Systems and Concepts of Limited Nuclear War

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DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-8-16-24
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

Received 08.05.2022. Revised 15.05.2022. Accepted 30.05.2022.

Acknowledgements. The article was prepared within the project “Post-Crisis World Order: Challenges and Technologies, Competition and Cooperation” supported by the grant from Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation program for research projects in priority areas of scientific and technological development (Agreement 075-15-2020-783).


Abstract. In the case of an intercepting massive nuclear missile attack, the technical capabilities of modern missile defense systems remain poor, nevertheless, the options for using the latest missile defense systems go beyond the “classic nuclear scenario”. First and foremost, missile defense systems have been used in conventional armed conflicts. This practice has already demonstrated their combat effectiveness which has become an impetus for the ongoing technical modernization of their main elements. In recent years, the conflict scenarios have been worked out in the United States and Russia where the limited use of low-yield nuclear weapons is allowed. The limited nuclear strike can be launched at the initial stages of a traditional conflict to consolidate the acquired military benefits and disrupt the enemy’s counteroffensive. Obviously, the limited use of nuclear weapons is fraught with an aggravation of the risk of a rapid and uncontrolled nuclear escalation. Unexpectedly, in this context, missile defense becomes a severe deterrent. Missile defense systems deployed at critical military facilities can remove the incentives for the limited nuclear strike as well as give considerable strategic and political advantages. Under these circumstances, missile defense systems become key players in the military balance. To reduce the risks of the limited use of nuclear weapons the author proposes “a roadmap” based on revitalization of the main arms control regimes and use of the capabilities of modern missile defense systems. It is hypothesized that “thin” missile defense removes the incentive to launch the first limited nuclear strike, thus enhancing strategic stability.

Keywords: limited use of nuclear weapons, de-escalation, ballistic missile defense, tactical (non-strategic) nuclear weapons, theater missile defense (TMD), high-precision conventional weapons, strategic stability, nuclear deterrence


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For citation:
Klimov V. The Missile Defense Systems and Concepts of Limited Nuclear War. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, No 8, pp. 16-24. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-8-16-24



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