September 16, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8278

Russian Media Outlet Kommersant: Strategic Instability; Russian Experts Call For Radical Change In Approach To Assessing Stability, Nuclear Arms Control

September 16, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8278

Russian media outlet Kommersant acquired a report concerning Russian relations with the United States and strategic stability that was prepared by leading Russian experts based on a situational analysis done by Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The authors of the document came to conclusions that contradict the current Russian foreign policy in many respects: They consider the concept of strategic stability, which is currently used in Russia, to be obsolete, and the traditional arms limitation mechanisms, which Moscow values so highly, to be ineffective. This is in many ways reminiscent of the modern American approach to the problem. At the same time, experts warn that the threat of nuclear war has increased, "even though none of the parties have any intention to unleash it."


Below is Kommersant's article:[1]

"Today, The Nature Of Strategic Stability Is Multilateral"

"The authors of the report on 'A New Understanding And Ways To Strengthen Multilateral Strategic Stability' are the Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics at the Higher School of Economics, Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), Sergey Karaganov, and the Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Higher School of Economics, Dmitry Suslov. The document was a result of a situational analysis made by the Russian Foreign Ministry with the participation of leading experts on arms control and on Russian-American relations. This activity was supported by the State Duma Committee on International Affairs.

"The report's authors inform [readers] that opposing views were expressed during the situational analysis.

"A number of panelists advocated the preservation of the traditional approach to the relations with the United States, [meaning] the strategic stability and the process of limitation and reduction of nuclear weapons, established during the Cold War.

"The authors of the report themselves are convinced that the situation in the area of strategic stability is in deep crisis. They see the immediate reason for this in the fact that the U.S. is destroying the traditional architecture for maintaining a system of agreements on the limitation and reduction of nuclear weapons. The U.S. is again considering the possibility of using nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear conflict in order to achieve victory. They are also refusing to negotiate for strengthening of the current architecture. But the main cause of the crisis, in their opinion, is a radical change that takes place in the military-strategic landscape, 'which makes the old understanding of strategic stability obsolete, [and also makes] the traditional mechanisms for limiting arms ineffective, if not meaningless.'

"[The report states:] 'The traditional understanding of strategic stability, meaning a situation characterizing the relations between Russia and the United States in the field of nuclear weapons, in which neither side has an incentive to inflict the first nuclear strike on the other side and which involves maintaining an approximate equal amount of their strategic nuclear forces through bilateral regimes limiting nuclear weapons, is outdated, said the report. Today, the nature of strategic stability is multilateral, involving China and other nuclear countries, and a non-nuclear conflict, in terms of consequences, may be comparable to a nuclear one and, more likely than ever, can induce the use of nuclear weapons.'

"Experts call for the introduction of a new term, 'multilateral strategic stability,' [referring to] a state of relations between nuclear powers in which [the different actors] are capable of preventing any military clash with each other – both intentional and unintentional, since 'any such clash can develop into a global nuclear war.' At the same time, the authors are convinced that, in the current situation, the continuation of the traditional process of limiting nuclear weapons is unrealistic both in bilateral Russian-American, and even more so in trilateral (Russia-China-U.S.) and multilateral formats.

"These conclusions are largely contrary to Russian policy. The foreign policy concept (2016) regretfully states: 'The building and modernization of the power potential, the creation and the deployment of new types of weapons, undermine the strategic stability and pose a threat to global security, which is provided by the system of treaties and agreements for arms control.' Russian officials (including President Vladimir Putin) have criticized the United States more than once in recent years for withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, Moscow has been opposed to the collapse of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate and Shorter-Range Missiles, and now is urging Washington to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in 2021.

"The authors of the report also call for considering the collapse of bilateral Russian-American and even multilateral (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) nuclear arms limitation agreements 'not as the end of the world, but as a normal, albeit negative, development due to fundamental changes within the military-strategic context, which must be accepted and then move on.' They are also convinced that 'applying traditional approaches to the new context and trying to work out new agreements on arms limitation is not only impossible, but also probably counterproductive.'

"Generally speaking, the 'threat of nuclear war and the destruction of humanity,' according to experts, has increased, 'even though the parties have no intentions to unleash it.'

"In order to prevent a catastrophe it is necessary:

  •  To strengthen communication channels among the military;

  • To conduct regular dialogue on strategic weapons and nuclear doctrines;

  • To establish a multilateral and bilateral regime of transparency, but without obligations to limit arms;

  • To develop rules of conduct in the most risky areas of military confrontation – in cyberspace, space, and regional conflicts.

"However, the drafters of the report acknowledge that it will not be possible to quickly implement all of the above, and therefore they consider that it is appropriate to temporarily maintain the measures of predictability and communications, as well as the restrictions that are stipulated by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. But, in case it cannot be extended for another five years, experts suggest that the United States should agree to lift quantitative restrictions and leave only measures concerning trust and transparency. If this does not work, Russia and the United States may, in their view, simply make a joint statement that they will continue to implement voluntarily the treaty's measures of information and transparency, including the publication of data on the strategic nuclear forces and on inspections..."


[1], September 12, 2019. The article was written by Elena Chernenko.

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