The Bomb and the Hedgehog

Despite the often invoked ending of the Cold War, Russia’s defence policy is still focused on nuclear deterrence, and particularly the nuclear balance with the United States.  Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov recently announced that Russia will continue to increase its potential in airspace forces and other parts of its nuclear deterrence strategy.

The Defense Ministry worked on building the early-warning radars along Russia’s borders as well as permanent deployment of S-400 and S-500 anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.

"We have a possibility to efficiently counter a high-technological enemy should it undertake aggression against Russia," Gerasimov said.

Writing in Pravda, a defence correspondent noted that

according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller, U.S. nuclear weapons are in need of urgent modernization. Defense structures experienced global reduction that affected nuclear armed forces of the United States. The Americans are also concerned about Russia’s efforts to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces.

Russia’s conventional armed forces are still in a state of relative disarray, and are currently no match for their U.S. counterparts:

During a conference in Moscow last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that an attack with the use of 3,500-4,000 units of high-precision weapons would deprive Russia of the possibility to resist in only six hours. "According to current estimates from the United States, as a result of such an attack, 80-90 percent of the Russian nuclear potential could be destroyed," said Deputy Prime Minister.

Commenting on Twitter, Carnegie Moscow Center director and defence analyst Dmitri Trenin points out that  while there is an absence of strategic trust between Russia and the United States, the enormous disparity in conventional military power between the two nations means that nuclear deterrence remains the only area in which Russia can maintain equivalence. For Russia, he notes, “this is a hedgehog posture”. 

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