RUSSIAN MILITARY DOCTRINE AND STRATEGIC NUCLEAR FORCES TO THE YEAR 2000 AND BEYOND.
(This paper was prepared for the conference Russian Defense Policy Towards the Year 2000, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, March 26-27, 1997.)
Present Russian military doctrine is based on a document approved at a Security Council session on 2 November, 1993. On that same day, the document, "Principle Guidance on the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation" ( PGMD) was officially legalized by Presidential decree No. 1833 (1). Whatever the outcome of continuing work on its revised version, there is reason to expect its main points will remain the same.
1. THE DOCTRINE
In the document of November 1993, alongside pledges of allegiance to international law and disarmament agreements, the substantive part had a number of peculiar points. The main points were: an emphasis on rapid deployment of interventionist forces, to be used on post-Soviet territory; a renewal of the traditional accent on offensive conventional operations; legalization of stationing Russian forces abroad (in the CIS) and - what was most striking - of their potential employment in domestic situations. Not a single word mentioned civilian or Parliamentary control over the armed forces and military policy (the President is the sole chief), military reform, or further reductions of force levels(2).
The nuclear part included several notable innovations. First, the document states unequivocally: "The goal of Russian Federation policy regarding nuclear weapons is to remove the threat of nuclear war by deterring its initiation against the Russian Federation and its allies."(3) After several years of utopian concepts about substituting deterrence with something different, this was a positive and realistic point, clearing the issue and theoretically allowing a focus on real problems without confusion or wishful thinking. Nonetheless, the concrete formula of deterrence was much more dubious and controversial.
In particular, and this was the second point, the 1982 non-first-use (NFU) pledge was officially revoked. The PGMD elaborately states that the Russian Federation would not employ nuclear weapons against any other state-party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which (1) is not a nuclear power, (2) is not an ally of a nuclear power, (3) is not engaged in joint operations together with a nuclear power in aggression against the Russian Federation, its territory, its allies or its forces. To put it in a different way, Russia would feel free to use nuclear weapons against any nuclear power; any non-nuclear ally of a nuclear power; any non-nuclear non-aligned state, acting militarily together with a nuclear power; and any non-nuclear, non-aligned state, not acting together with a nuclear power, if that state is not a party to the NPT Treaty of 1968.
Third, there was more confusion, because from the text of the PGMD it did not follow whether this highly permissive formula meant first use/strike or second/retaliatory strike. However, further elaborations from the highest officials of the Ministry of Defense and Security Council made it clear that it was exactly a first strike (not first use), that was the subject of this doctrinal part.(4)
Fourth, the strategic requirements were interpreted as "maintaining the structure and state of strategic nuclear forces at a level that will assure inflicting the designated damage on an aggressor under any circumstances." Compared to traditional notions of "massive", "crashing", or "maximum" retaliation, the new goal sounds more limited and selective, which might indicate a recognition of previously overstated damage requirements and of the prospects of deep force reduction (under START-2, or even without it, because of weapons obsolescence and curtailment of modernization programs).
Fifth, the technical requirements were stated as "maintaining the entire complex of strategic weapons at a level that ensures the security of the Russian Federation and its allies, deters nuclear and conventional war, and maintains strategic stability as well as nuclear safety."(5) This was yet another clear statement, assigning the strategic forces the task of deterring conventional war, which implied first use/strike strategy.
The main arguments in favor of rejecting the 1982 Soviet commitment, presented afterwards by military and civilian officials, as well as by private experts, were as follows:
- The declaration of 1982 was purely propagandistic, and its revocation means a realistic adaptation of declared doctrine and strategy to practical strategy and force capabilities.
- Other "civilized" states (i.e. NATO states, which impolitely implied that China was not quite "civilized") had not followed the Soviet example and had not assumed a no-first-use posture.
- Russia's strategic forces and C3I (for economic reasons and as a result of deep reductions either unilaterally or under START-2) would be more vulnerable to counterforce nuclear strikes, making second strike or launch-on-warning (LOW) less reliable for deterrence.
- Moscow's strategic forces would also become more vulnerable to conventional precision-guided weapons, because of the latter's further development in conjunction with strategic forces reduction and restructuring.
- Russian conventional forces are too weak, as a result of the USSR's
disintegration, Russia's economic crisis and the transitional nature of current military reforms. They have to be enhanced by higher reliance on nuclear weapons, much like NATO had been doing during the Cold War to counter Soviet and Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) conventional superiority.
2. FIRST STRIKE CONCEPT.
The argument about degradation of Russia's conventional forces is the most serious, and requires a detailed analysis. The principle of making up for the lack of conventional forces by greater reliance on nuclear weapons in deterrence strategy and operational planning alike, is as old as the Dulles "Massive Retaliation" strategy of 1954. After 1967 and during the next quarter century, despite the shift to "flexible response" and its various consecutive versions, NATO retained the first-use option for its forward-based tactical nuclear forces in Western Europe, trying to outweigh the almost triple aggregate numerical superiority of the WTO in offensive conventional ground and air forces on the continent (6).
Disintegration of the WTO, break up of the Soviet Union, deep economic crises and high inflation in Russia, failure of conversion and military reform in 1991-1993, political and administrative turmoil - all these have greatly degraded the conventional forces, which were historically the strongest Soviet/Russian point. However, the accepted notion of making up for this unaccustomed weakness by increased reliance on nuclear weapons, which was officially recognized in the new Russian military doctrine, is quite dubious for at least two reasons.
The first is the strategic logic of a conventional-nuclear trade-off, the second is the operational logic of a first strike/use concept.
In order for the nuclear first strike concept to work as a reinforcement for inadequate conventional deterrence, several conditions have to be met. First, there has to be a need for such reinforcement, i.e. an opponent or opponents superior in conventional capabilities and capable of threatening one's own interests by implementing successful conventional offensive operations. Second, nuclear force employment should be credible as a threat - that is, the subject's interests must be really vital to justify nuclear warfare, and this act should not be purely suicidal for the initiating party. Hence, the initiator should possess clear advantages in nuclear capabilities in order to achieve military objectives, dominate escalation and prevent an opponent's nuclear counteractions, which may deny these gains or inflict overwhelming damage on one's own state.
Looking at potential military threats, which might face Russia before and during the first decade after the year 2000 (when its conventional forces may remain relatively weak), it is hard to find opponents and contingencies corresponding to the two above conditions. All other former Soviet republics have negligible armed forces compared to Russia, since the factors affecting Russia have undercut them to an even greater degree. Even Ukraine, without massive outside support, would not be able to challenge Russia militarily.
Leaving aside any moral and ethical aspects of a nuclear strike against Ukraine or the other neighboring republics (that have, incidentally, 25 million ethnic Russians on their territories), from a purely military point of view a nuclear option would be absurd. These states would not under any circumstances be capable of mobilizing victorious offensive conventional operations against Russia, that might justify nuclear a response. On the other hand, if Russia attacks them with conventional forces, it would be senseless to use nuclear weapons against the territory and population, which Russia hypothetically might want to occupy. In most cases if military conflict occurs Moscow may face only guerrilla-type warfare, for which nuclear force is neither required, nor effective.
Beyond the "near abroad," Russia will be facing a number of states or alliances with considerable and growing armed forces. In the West after the late 1990s, NATO will be at least three times superior to Russia in the same categories of conventional forces in which WTO had triple superiority till the late 1980s. But this overwhelming military power will be separated from Russian borders by a double belt of East European states and the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the Transcaucasus. Preserving this "buffer zone" and developing good relations with the West (7) would remove the danger of Russia's confronting a much superior conventional power.
However, for a conservative military planner it is conceivable that NATO will confront Russia, after accepting into its membership some or all of the present "buffer states" and extending its forces to the east; or that both NATO and Russia will tear this zone apart and meet at some new watershed of military confrontation. Nonetheless, in this hypothetical case the second condition of effective nuclear first-strike deterrence still would not be satisfied. In addition to conventional superiority, NATO will possess a clear-cut nuclear superiority over Russia both in tactical and strategic nuclear forces. US tactical nuclear forces could be brought back to Europe in mass and forward deployed in Eastern Europe, in the Baltics and other neighboring states, thus densely covering targets deep in Russia's heartland.
US strategic forces, together with the British and French, may be as much as 50-70% larger (by warhead number) than Russian forces under START-2 terms, and would be twice as large without START-2 after the year 2003-2005. Without any limitations, the US alone would be capable of achieving triple strategic superiority over Russia by the year 2003, due to its economic and geostrategic advantages.
Hence, nuclear use would be suicidal for Russia. It would not be able to achieve any military advantage by initiating nuclear warfare, either to dominate in escalation or inflict larger damage than incurred by itself. Moreover, in a crisis situation, Russia's first use posture might provoke a preemptive strike by NATO, which could be quite effective due to its conventional, tactical nuclear and strategic nuclear counterforce superiority. Contemplating this possibility, Russia might decide to launch its weapons first, with catastrophic consequences for itself as well as for others.
This is different from past NATO first-use policies because, at least theoretically, the US had the advantage of being immune to attacks by tactical or theater nuclear weapons, in contrast to the USSR (as well as Western and Central European states). Hence, the US theoretically could credibly threaten nuclear first use, having an inherent geostrategic advantage and escalation dominance at all levels, except the highest stage of massive global counter-urban strike exchange.
In future, these dire scenarios are much less conceivable than in the past. But the declared Russian first strike option is not designed for friendly and routine situations. Within its own frame of reference this strategy looks self-defeating and prone to catastrophic consequences for Russia's own survival. If nuclear weapons are perceived, as was stated by Moscow's political and military leaders, to be a means of policy, rather than weapons of war (8), such policy should not be absurd, illogical or dangerous for Russian security. If the threat of nuclear war is considered purely hypothetical and absolutely remote, then the reasons for this conspicuous doctrinal shift are all the more inconceivable.
In fact the change of doctrine in 1993 did not affect force levels and structure, weapon programs, employment concepts and command-control systems and procedures. First use was and now is still more (in view of NATO's expansion plan) a political message to the West, lacking any material substance or logical framework. It is perceived more like a "doomsday machine" factor, rather than a credible deterrence strategy, even if very few people in Moscow would be able to recognize the difference.
At the southern rim of instability Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan may individually or in some combination present a security problem for Russia. This threat, however, would not be direct, but would come through their support of anti-Russian regimes in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia. Another possibility is for these states to support guerrilla fighting against the federal forces in Russia, or against Russia's client regimes, as is now happening in Tajikistan.
However, even from a purely military point of view, nuclear weapons would hardly be useful there either, because of the character of warfare. Russia will retain a clear-cut conventional superiority over all such opponents. If this superiority is not capable of achieving Russian goals, then nuclear weapons would be even less effective, to say nothing of the international political consequences of such a hypothetical action. Besides, states like Iran and Afghanistan fit under Russian doctrinal definitions as the few states "exempt" from nuclear strike: they are not nuclear powers, neither allies of nuclear powers, and they are parties to the NPT. As for Turkey, if it acts independently from NATO, it will not be a serious challenge to Russia (especially taking into account the geography of the Transcaucasus). If on the other hand, it is supported by NATO, then all arguments relevant for NATO-Russian scenarios are applicable here.
In the Far East two powers, Japan and China, may present a threat to Russia. In the case of Japan, the logic of Russia's hypothetical confrontation with NATO is relevant with only one reservation: Japan's conventional offensive capabilities against Russia will be quite limited at least during the next10 years. An attempt to take the Kurile Islands or Sakhalin by force is not conceivable, and initiating nuclear weapons use in this case would not be a viable strategy.
China is a special matter. Its current crash military build-up, geostrategic situation, and long history of territorial disputes with Russia and the USSR might, in future, encourage Beijing's expansionist policies towards Russia's Siberia and the Far East, or against Kazakstan and other Central Asian allies of Moscow.
At the same time, China would fit the conditions for Russia's first-use strategy to be effective. In time it may achieve conventional offensive superiority along the Transbaikal and Maritime borders, and have serious reinforcement advantages and the capability to interdict Russian reinforcements from its western territory. On the other hand, China will remain inferior to Russia in tactical nuclear weapons and strategic nuclear capabilities, giving Moscow a credible first-strike threat and escalation dominance.
Still, there are some considerations against such a strategy. First, China's conventional build-up greatly depends on massive imports of weapons and technology from Russia. Thus, besides the nuclear first-use threat, Moscow has an effective means of undercutting or at least seriously slowing down the emergence of this hypothetical threat. Second, China is now the only nuclear power which has officially adopted and is maintaining a nuclear non-first-use commitment. A Russian nuclear threat might encourage China do the same and revoke its pledge, all the more so since its strategic nuclear forces and C3I system will remain vulnerable to counterforce strikes for a long time yet. In that case, the Russian-Chinese nuclear balance in the Far East would become highly unstable, and nuclear war would become more possible. This cannot be a desired goal of any nuclear strategy.
At a minimum, to effectively deter China's conventional offensive superiority in those theaters, Russia might rely on the option of employing a few tactical nuclear weapons in the border areas to thwart its enemy's offensive operations, while deterring China's nuclear response at the strategic level with superior (counterforce and countervalue) strategic retaliatory capabilities. Then Russia's deterrence would be credible: its nuclear capabilities would be sufficient to deny China's alleged military gains in the theater, but would not threaten China's national survival, and thus would not provoke strategic nuclear preemption. At the same time, China's preemption would be deterred by Russia's superior strategic retaliatory potential. This would be very similar to NATO's deterrence strategy towards the WTO from the 1960s to the1980s.
The problem is that Russia's highest military command and strategists do not think in these seemingly rational terms. The former head of the General Staff, General M. Kolesnikov, put it with a rare clarity: "The questions of nuclear (operational) planning and strategic forces employment are not affected at all by the state of other arms and armed services. As for tactical nuclear weapons use plans, they are essentially non-existent. The General Staff is not doing any planning for tactical nuclear weapons employment at all. That's why these weapons are called tactical, aren't they? We cannot foresee all the nuances of conceivable offensive or defensive operations. As soon as a situation occurs, we'll start the planning process. As for the new military doctrine, it refers only to circumstances for the particular potential use of strategic nuclear forces." (9)
The above statement raises many questions about the attitude of the Russian military towards nuclear-conventional trade-offs, and centralized control over and preparations for tactical nuclear weapons employment. It is also quite revealing as to the peculiarities of Soviet/Russian strategic nuclear thinking. In particular, nuclear weapons employment strategy (i.e., first/second strike, counterforce/countervalue targeting, retaliation/damage limitation missions etc.) is not seen as closely related to force levels, structure, posture and systems characteristics. Force employment plans are not perceived as affecting the probability of war, encouraging or provoking first nuclear strike/use from one or the other opponent. Any declaration on the need to compensate Russian conventional weakness with nuclear strength is predominantly a general political argument, not a reflection of a consistent strategic analysis, assessment of contingencies or planning of defense policy options.
Moreover, the problem of nuclear weapons employment is addressed in terms of operational convenience, not strategic goals or a rationale of particular options (10). Hence, arms control agreements, the philosophy of strategic stability, force development planning, and force employment strategies are only remotely and in a very general way associated with the state of political and military, particularly nuclear, relationships between Russia and the US, as well as other nuclear powers. These deficiencies have always plagued and still are undercutting Moscow's strategic policy efficiency. They are most vividly demonstrated in designing a first strike doctrine to deter NATO, but they are also undermining Russia's deterrence strategy towards China, where there is a clear case for such a strategy and where it may be badly needed in the not so distant future.
3. FORCE PROJECTIONS - NINE SCENARIOS.
The shift in Soviet/Russian nuclear doctrine has not changed anything regarding operational planning or weapons programs. As before, declaratory doctrine lives quite independently from practical strategy and forces. And as before, several principle strike plans are operational without much attention to their validity at the level of "grand strategy" or national survival.
All projections of Russian strategic force evolution are affected by (1) the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its nuclear arms development/production complex; (2) the deep economic and financial crisis in Russia, as a result of the failed "reforms" of 1992-1996; and (3) disarray in Moscow's decision-making system on strategic programs and arms control talks, which has led to confused priorities in defense policy and a wide divergence between force planning, budgeting and arms control agreements.
It is convenient to use the December, 1995, START-1 memorandum on data exchange as a baseline. The Russian forces then consisted of 180 SS-18s (called in Russian R-36 and R-36UTTH), 167 SS-19s (UR-100 and UR-100UTTH), 46 SS-24s (RT-23UTTH), including 10 in silos and 36 on railroad launchers, and 351 SS-25s (RT-2PM) ICBMs. Also there were 89 Tu-95s (including 20 Tu-95MS, 28 Tu-95MS6s and 35 Tu-95MS16s), and 6 Tu-160 heavy bombers. The submarine forces comprised 7 Delta-4s (Project 667BDRM), 6 Typhoons (Project 941), 13 Delta-3s (Project 667BDR), 4 Delta-2s (Project 667BD), 12 Delta-1s (Project 667B), and 1 Yankee-1 (Project 667A) submarines, altogether 43 SSBNs, 664 missiles and 2492 warheads. Thus, by1996 Russia's overall baseline force consisted of 1497 launchers and 6949 warheads.
All of the following projections should not be construed as representing actual Russian force planning. They are more just an illustration of the logic of major hypothetical options, based on open information on existing forces and weapon programs, as well as on simplified financial data and commonly known patterns of weapons deployment and withdrawal.
First scenario: By the year 2003 (deadline of START-2 implementation) the natural decommissioning of technically obsolete weapons would probably bring these forces down to 40 SS-18s, 120 SS-19s, 46 SS-24s and 220 SS-25 ICBMs. Submarine force, for lack of maintenance and overhaul, would probably be drawn down to 3 Typhoon, 7 Delta-4 and 3 Delta-3 SSBNs. The bomber force may be expected to comprise no more than 20 airplanes (of which 8 are Tu-160s). Thus, the present level of funding, insufficient for adequate maintenance, timely overhaul or life-extension measures would bring the baseline force to 666 launchers and 3216 warheads.
By the year 2010 the baseline force under the same conditions would go down to 50 SS-25 ICBMs, 1 Typhoon SSBN, 3 Delta-4 boats and zero bombers. Altogether, 118 launchers and 442 warheads.
Second scenario: Continuation of the present rate for procurement and deployment of SS-25s and in a few years of their follow-on SS-26 ICBMs (RT-2UTTH Topol-M) would add to the baseline force about 70 missiles and warheads by the year 2003 and 150 by the year 2010, correspondingly up to totals of 3286 and 592 warheads.
Third scenario: Better maintenance, overhaul and service life-extension programs with increased funding (by about 50% for strategic forces yearly) by the year 2003 might add to the above baseline-plus-new-deployment force (BPNDF) 50 SS-25 ICBMs, 2 Typhoon SSBNs and 15 Tu-95 bombers: up to 3906 warheads.
By the year 2010, with the same maintenance measures, BPNDF could have 70 more SS-25 missiles, 2 additional Typhoon and 4 Delta-4 boats, plus 8 Tu-160 bombers. These would add up to 1446 warheads.
However, the projection may be different if strategic forces are given much higher political priority in the years to come, increasing their yearly share even within the same defense budget by 100%. Another possibility is increasing the whole defense budget from the present 3.8% to 5-6% of GNP (i.e. from 20% to 30% of the federal budget), as proposed by the Ministry of Defense and its partisans in the State Duma. Finally, it is conceivable that the Russian economy could start to grow in 1998-1999 and budget revenues go up, which would permit higher spending on defense without increasing its share of the federal budget or GNP.
Fourth scenario: One of these alternatives or some combination of them might lead to a higher procurement rate for SS-26 ICBMs and to the introduction of a new SSBN class (which may be called Delta-5) starting in the year 2000, at a rate of 2 boats every three years (like Typhoon deployment rate in the 1980s). This would add to the year 2003 force about 100 SS-25/26 missiles, and about 240 SS-26 ICBMs by the year 2010. Deployment of Delta-5 SSBNs would add 240 SLBM warheads in the year 2003 and 840 in the year 2010, bringing the total warhead numbers correspondingly to 4246 and 2526 warheads.
Fifth scenario: If, for whatever reason (like the US deciding to deploy a nation-wide ABM system), the decision is taken to equip SS-26s with MIRVed warheads, then by the year 2010 the total Russian enhanced force may comprise around 4100 warheads.
As may be seen, the array of five alternatives, defined by various assumptions about funding and technical strategy, spans a 25% difference in aggregate warhead numbers by the year 2003 (from 3200 to 4250), and an order of magnitude by the year 2010 (ranging from 442 to 4100 warheads). Overimposing an arms control framework on the above projections complicates the picture still more and multiplies the number of feasible alternatives.
Assuming that the START-1 Treaty is observed by both sides, the greatest difference will be made by the presence or absence of START-2 and its follow-on START-3. If the START-2 treaty is not ratified by Russia and nothing is created as a substitute, Russian strategic force would most probably evolve along the third scenario. Since US forces in this case would most probably stay at START-1 levels, Russian forces, while naturally degrading, would be turning more and more vulnerable each year. This vulnerability would transform the first strike emphasis of Moscow's new military doctrine from a purely political posture into the real and only available employment option, which would be highly detrimental to strategic stability. This is all the more so when further degradation of Russia's command-control, early warning and monitoring systems are taken into account.
At some point the US may opt for nation-wide strategic ABM deployment. Then, Russia's response could follow the fifth scenario (revival of a MIRVed ICBM system and crash modernization effort). All this would imply quite dire consequences for strategic stability, arms control and political relations between Russia and the West.
Sixth scenario: Matching START-2 to a quite probable, but highly inefficient, policy which is a direct extrapolation of the course of the last five years (i.e. the second scenario), would bring Russian strategic forces down to 1806 warheads, since 1475 warheads would have to be removed through dismantling and downloading MIRVed ICBMs several years ahead of the end of their service lifetime. The US at this same time would easily maintain about 3500 warheads, i.e. acquiring a double superiority just through implementation of the START-2 treaty.
Besides this, implementing the treaty in five years (1998-2002) instead of ten - which was initially planned when it was signed in January 1993 - would overtax limited Russian financial resources and technical capabilities. Even with greater maintenance efforts (third scenario), which would be seriously hampered by a crash reduction program, Russian force levels would be as high as 2431 warheads - 30% lower than American levels. To reach at least the lower bracket of START-2's warhead ceiling (3000-3500), Russia would need to deploy 570 additional warheads. Under the circumstances, the only way to do that would be by deploying more SS-25/26 ICBMs at a rate of 110 missiles per year. This is about eight-ten times greater than the current rate and totally infeasible.
Political factors aside (like NATO expansion), this may explain why there exists such strong opposition to START-2 in Russia. Even the treaty's supporters predicate their position on extending its implementation schedule by 3-5 years. This would be much less expensive and technically complicated for Russia and besides, it would bring dismantling more in line with the weapons' natural service lifetime expiration.
Thus, assuming a 5-year extension agreement (seventh scenario), which would provide for better maintenance, a smooth dismantling schedule and easy current deployment rate, by the year 2008 Russian strategic force could consist of 300 SS-25/26 ICBMs, 3 Typhoon and 7 Delta-4 SSBNs and about 20 Tu-95/160 bombers. In total this would come to 1668 warheads. A relaxed Delta-5 construction schedule may provide 480 additional warheads to the aggregate level of 2148 warheads.
This would still fall 30% short of the START-2 lower bracket and 40% short of the US force level, if it is maintained at the permitted maximum of 3500 warheads. If Russian doctrine insists on closer parity with US forces, which is quite plausible, there are two ways of closing this gap. One would be to go for higher ICBM and SSBN deployment rates, and reach the year 2008 with a force of about 2500 warheads (eighth scenario).
The other option (ninth scenario) would be to reach a START-3 treaty instead, to save resources for both the US and Russia, and reduce the aggregate ceiling to 1500-2000 warheads. This would relieve Russia from larger expenditures on higher deployment rates and undercut the arguments of those in Moscow, who call for the revival of MIRVed ICBMs, as the only feasible way to match US force levels. The US could easily fit under the 1500 ceiling with 8 Trident SSBNs, 200 Minuteman-3 ICBMs and 300 bomber weapons or any other chosen forces mix.
4. FORCE PROJECTION - TENTH SCENARIO.
Interestingly enough, for Russia the peculiarity of START-3, in contrast to START-2 and all other preceding strategic arms control treaties, is that it will be not about any force reduction, but almost exclusively about the scale of maintenance efforts, as well as the rate and system types of new deployment programs. For the US it would be mostly a matter of maintaining a larger or smaller portion of its existing force.
Provided a benign political environment, Russia and the US could agree on much more radical force reductions under START-3 or START-4 treaties. To achieve much greater Russian savings on maintenance and modernization and US savings on maintenance, after the year 2010 the parties could go down to a level as low as 1000 or even 500 nuclear warheads. Actually, for Russia, decommissioning forces to a level of 500 warheads would altogether remove the need for greater maintenance or even the current low deployment rate, virtually matching arms control prospects to the first scenario of natural force degradation.
If only the US would agree to go along with Russia to 500 warheads after the year 2010, both sides might then agree to de-alert and de-activate the remaining forces. This would be as close to a general and comprehensive nuclear disarmament as may be imagined without departing completely from technical and strategic reality.
However, going in this direction would require reaching a US-Russian agreement on its desirability and feasibility within the next two-three years. This is due to the fact that within this time-span Moscow will have to make important long-term decisions on its future nuclear doctrine and strategy, funding level, and maintenance and modernization directions and rates. Also, resolution of the START-2 deadlock would be of utmost long-term importance for arms control and force projections.
Finally, radical further strategic arms reductions would imply addressing many other issues of mind-boggling complexity. Among them are: third nuclear weapon states' forces; strategic and theater defenses; tactical nuclear weapons; conventional force balances and capabilities, including the counterforce potential of precision-guided systems; nuclear, chemical and missile proliferation in the world at large. All of that would finally boil down to devising a qualitatively new organization of nations for dealing with world security problems. These concerns go far beyond the scope of this paper or the ability of its author to imagine.
TABLE I. Ten scenarios of Russian strategic force evolution.
Scenarios Warheads year 2003 Warheads year 2010 1. Natural degradation: 3216 442 2. Plus current deployment rate: 3286 592 3. Plus adequate maintenance: 3906 1446 4. Plus higher deployment rate: 4246 2526 5. Plus new MIRVed ICBM: 4336 4086 6. Second plus START-2: 1806 592 7. Third plus START-2 extended: 3906 2148 8. Fourth plus START-2 extended: 4246 2526 9. Third plus START-3 (1500-2000) 3906 1446-2000 10. Radical reduction START-3/4: 1806 442-529