In the 2012 US Presidential election, then President Obama mocked presidential candidate Mitt Romney for claiming that Russia remains the greatest threat to the United States. A few years after, the Russian Federation had seized territory in Ukraine, deployed ground forces and launched airstrikes in Syria, and even armed the Taliban. Behind this is the fact that candidate Romney understood – the Russian Federation and its power have staying power, it is structurally at odds with the Euro-Atlantic community, and it remain the only country that can deal unacceptable losses to the United States through its nuclear weapons.
Late Cold War Era
Since the consolidation of Central and Eastern Europe in the Warsaw Pact, the USSR dominated the conventional battlespace in Europe. In 1976 in an effort to dominate the nuclear battlespace, the USSR deployed the road-mobile Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) SS-20s Saber Intermediate Range Ballistic Nuclear Missile. Soviet leadership perceived this as a useful strategic move to seek regional superiority over NATO bases and European capitals. NATO countered with the deployment of the Pershing II Ballistic Missile and the BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) in the Dual-Track Decision. The Dual-Track Decision simultaneously worked to deploy the GLCM and Pershing II while working to diplomatically negotiate a withdrawal of the SS-20.
In 1982, the USSR was in its fourth decade of European conventional domain superiority and riding high on petro-dollars when it formally promulgated a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons. This decision took place three years into the nearly decade-long Soviet-Afghan war. At this point, the situation for the USSR was not entirely negative on the ground, having not yet sustained critical losses from the mujahedeen insurgency. Ultimately, NATO achieved escalation dominance in Europe vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. This is a strategic state where one party controls the pace of escalation in a conflict. This crisis resulted in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987. It was followed by the collapse of the conventional counterpart in the Warsaw Pact on July 1991.
The Second Offset
The collapse of the Warsaw Pact significantly reduced Moscow’s ability to project conventional military power, requiring a greater reliance on nuclear weapons for defense and deterrence. This has been exacerbated by internal shocks of leadership instability and restless ethnic provinces. With these events, many previous strengths were turning into challenges to the military power of the Russian Federation. At the same time, NATO concepts benefited from an investment in advanced military R&D and the Air-Land Battle strategy, which was designed to counter the conventionally superior Warsaw Pact, were beginning to bear fruit.
Tactical nuclear weapons were viewed by Russian strategic leadership as their only means to offset this sophisticated set of capabilities. Russian policymakers believed that with the second offset NATO would dominate the battlespace, negating Russia’s conventional deterrent, and ultimately subjugating the Russian regime. Throughout this time, Russian governing capacity atrophied. Economic transition from communism was poorly implemented, privatization concentrated markets and created oligarchs. Meanwhile the first Chechen war flared up even as the Russian military experienced deep cuts and tired post-Soviet generals failed to adapt to their new challenges.
Exemplifying the nadir of Russian power, in 1993 President Boris Yeltsin rescinded the pledge against the first-use of nuclear weapons. President Yeltsin replaced the pledge with the first official strategic nuclear plan, the “Main Provisions of the Military Doctrine,” in November 1993. The continued political-economic shocks, including the 1998 financial crisis, led to a significant shift in Russia’s reliance on nuclear-based regional and global deterrence doctrine.
Russian Federation’s Response to Western Dominance
In 1997, President Yeltsin’s government issued the Russian Security Doctrine, which stressed the use of nuclear weapons only when existential threats faced the state. During the late 1990s, Russian strategic thought had two levels: non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs) and strategic nuclear weapons (SNWs). The Russians acted as though they believed NSNWs were useful in preserving regional stability, while SNWs ensured overall global sütrategic stability. NSNWs allowed the Russian Federation to offset its relative deficiency in precision strike weapons, conventional capability, diplomatic power, and economic strength vis-à-vis NATO and, to a lesser degree, a rising China.
Should Russia face a conventionally superior adversary in a regional conflict, limited nuclear employment could compel an opponent to terminate a conflict on terms favorable to Russia – a strategy described as “escalate to de-escalate.” This strategy could be seen as the mirror image of NATO’s Flexible Response strategy of graduated deployment of nuclear weapons in the 1960s when Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces held a quantitative conventional edge in Europe. Another concept, “compellence by force” (silovoe davlenie) was a major pillar of the 1997 Russian National Security Blueprint. This differs slightly from deterrence as silovoe davlenie is an instrumentalized form of deterrence used for a specific policy goal. During this time, Western experts agree the strategy was of NSNW utilization to create strategic regional stability. The Russian Federation used NSNW as a temporary solution, allowing their armed forces time to rebuild conventional capabilities.
The 1998 financial crisis continued to signal the weakness of the state and prolonged the over reliance on NSNW for regional deterrence. This was demonstrated when Russian leadership effectively reacted with NSNW wargames following the Kosovo War. The simulated nuclear strike on Western Europe, North America, and Poland in the Zapad exercise further evidenced Russian reliance on this class of weapons.
The Putin Military Reforms
With a return to economic growth, and President Putin’s rise to power, Russia recapitalized its military and reconsidered its nuclear doctrine. Benefiting from a reformed economy and from re-engaging an underutilized industrial capacity, President Putin could continue structural economic, military, and political reforms in the first decade of rule, which benefited from stability and the consolidation of the regime. On January 10, 2000, Acting President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed the new National Security Concept of the Russian Federation. The revision to the security concept stressed that nuclear weapons roles included: Deterring aggression against the Russian Federation on any scale, guarantee predetermined damage against an aggressor state, and utilizing nuclear weapons as the finale to hostile international conflict.
The revision notably provides a role for nuclear use in smaller wars. It was followed by the April 2000 Military Doctrine that detailed the use of nuclear weapons in the case of armed conflict, local war, regional war, and global war. The 2000 doctrine is formalization of the 1990s two-level strategy. It states “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against itself or its allies and also in response to large-scale aggression involving conventional weapons in situations that are critical for the national security of the Russian Federation and its allies.” The military doctrine also shifted priorities from the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation and reclassified it as a branch, rather than a command. This signaled a lesser emphasis on SNWS, a reordering of military forces, and a rise in the prominence of the Russian Navy in its strategic plan. Finally, the military doctrine codified the “escalate to de-escalate” strategy of aggressive NSNW use to put a cap on hostilities.
On October 2, 2003, Russian leadership released the white paper entitled “Immediate Tasks of Development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” This policy paper promulgated guidance on the limited use of nuclear weapons in its de-escalatory role by advocating the escalatory utilization of nuclear weapons to de-escalate a regional conflict. Russian paranoia of Western plots was stoked by the Iraq War, as well as the color revolutions that spread from Serbia to the post-Soviet countries of Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. This viewpoint lead to a hardening of Russian policy to the West.
Russian Strategic Investment
Renewed stability and economic growth lead to a more nuanced whole-of-government approach to deterrence. With this stability, the Russian Federation developed an all-domain approach to deterrence since the mid-2000’s as it sought to counter western precision strike and Ballistic Missile Defense capabilities – capabilities that posed a challenge and in the latter’s, case a direct threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
Benefiting from the structural reforms of the early Putin years, resource rents, and political stability, the Russian Federation has been able to invest in its military. The Russian Federation continues to modernize its strategic nuclear capacity through the deployment of new and upgraded strategic weapons platforms. Since 2015, the Bulava SLBMs have been placed on the extremely quiet Borey SSBNs. The weapons in development include the ground-based Sarmat heavy ICBM and the RS-26 Rubezh ICBM. The currently un-deployed rail-mobile Barguzin ICBM and the road-mobile RS-24 Yars TEL make targeting much more difficult for even the most sophisticated attacking forces, given the large size of the Russian Federation’s territory.
The Russian Federation also continues to recapitalize much of its air force, including the installation of avionics on the TU-95 Bear long-range strategic bomber. By 2016, the Russian Federation had installed new engines, navigation, and communications equipment on the TU-160 Blackjack heavy-bomber. Despite these successes, the modernization effort has experienced some setbacks, notably the delay in fielding a modernized TU-22M3 Backfire. The Russian Federation has upgraded avionics and the ability to use precision air-to-surface weapons on some of these aircraft. Russian leadership has worked to develop a long-range air-launched cruise missile in its nuclear Kh-102 and conventional Kh-101 versions.
By early 2017, President Putin stated that 60% of Russia’s nuclear weapons have been recapitalized. This percentage likely would have already increased in May 2017 when President Putin cut modernization projects and devoted the funds to research and development. These funds may be devoted to Russian military research and development to defeat US-NATO ballistic missile defense through the deployment of advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic sonic glide vehicles. Russia is developing nuclear-capable heavy torpedoes, such as the “Status-6” for attacking coastal countervalue targets, as well as supercavitating torpedoes, such as the Shkval designed to attack aircraft carrier groups.
The Russian Federation is developing its next-generation aircraft. For the TU-160 Blackjack heavy-bomber replacement, the Tupolev PAK DA future bomber is being developed. According to NATO, the legal structure of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is being challenged by the Russian Federation’s February 2017 testing of the modified Iskander SRBM in the form of the long-range SSC-X-8 Ground Launched Cruise Missile.
Russian All-Domain Doctrinal Advancement
Despite its victory in the August 2008 war with Georgia, Russian forces encountered more resistance than expected—signaling some of Russia’s conventional weakness. The war marked a turning point in funding. The recapitalization and restructuring of the military led to an increased emphasis on conventional precision strike and ever-present information warfare and deception (maskirovka), in addition to its nuclear posture. From 2008-2014, the Russian Federation has held nuclear force exercises with additional snap exercises in the late winter or early spring from 2014-2016.
Russia’s 2010 National Defense Doctrine highlighted the combination of nuclear and high-end conventional forces. This doctrine led to a raising of the Russian nuclear threshold i.e. limiting nuclear use, compared to the 2000 doctrine by limiting nuclear-enabling conflicts to nuclear military conflicts as well as a large-scale war or regional war. During the Vostok-2010 exercise, the Russian Federation launched a dual-use Tochka-U (SS-21 Scarab) short-ranged tactical ballistic missile. Despite the doctrine, there was confusion deliberate or purposeful, as some nuclear rhetoric was more bellicose. Reports stated that the action was “similar to that of a simulated tactical nuclear strike.”
In March 2013, the Russian Federation launched a “mock nuclear attack” on Stockholm utilizing a dual-capable system, the Tu-22M3 bomber. In 2014, the Russian Federation modified its National Defense Document by reclassifying its conventional precision strike as a strategic capacity, while continuing to rely on NSNW as a mode of ensuring regional strategic stability. This reconfiguration signaled a more competent state that could conduct a “whole-of-government” approach to deterrence, conceptualizing an all-domain approach to deter Western domain-specific dominance.
Intentional ambiguity drives current Russian regional nuclear thought, namely through the development of dual-use weaponry. The 9K720 Iskander (SS-26 Stone) Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) and the sea-launched 3M-14 Kalibr, allow the Russian Federation to cloud their rivals’ strategic calculus. While the 3M-14 Kalibr crashed multiple times in Iran during the Caspian-based strikes against targets in Syria, it still demonstrates development of advanced Russian systems.
The Russian Federation has been deeply involved in Frozen Conflicts in the breakaway regions e.g. Transnistria, Abkhazia, Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh since the collapse of the USSR. This participation aided in the development of hybrid and information warfare capabilities. Hybrid warfare tactics contribute to Russia’s strategic ambiguity in low-intensity conflicts, such as President Putin’s occupation of Crimea and disruption of Ukrainian government control in Donetsk and Lugansk. The tacit sponsorship of “little green men” as seen in Crimea by a nuclear-armed Russia increases the risk simultaneously at both the low end and the high end of the conflict spectrum. The linkage of bellicose nuclear rhetoric with hybrid warfare is a new frontier in Russian tactics which may lead to further destabilization of the strategic balance.
Russia has conducted so-called “lawfare” of legal domain conflict on the US-Russia treaty structure. Russian use of phytosanitary standards against neighboring states is one example of Russian law fare. As a part of this strategy, Russia continue to utilize its phytosanitary standards as weapons against its trading partners. The Russian Federation has used this strategy of law fare to challenge the INF and the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaties. The instrumentalization of uncertainty when it comes to NSNW use and the breakdown of treaties grants the Russian Federation tactical flexibility while injecting strategic instability into the nuclear balance.
This section examines three possible scenarios for the strategy of the Russian Federation: a low, medium, and high-power evaluation based on economic, political, and leadership efficacy. These scenarios will be a starting point for analysis and should not be considered definitive of future possibilities. This section will also consider possible U.S. and NATO responses.
Low-Power Russian Future
The low-power scenario sees a reversion to the Russian Federation of the early-1990s levels in terms of leadership capacity, strategy, and tactics. Even on the lowest power level, the Russian Federation remains a great power with resources, trans-continental infrastructure, military hardware, intelligence and security services, and legacy diplomatic and geopolitical structural benefits despite its economic strength. The policy options at this level include many that were deployed in the 1990s when the Russian Federation was at the nadir of its power.
In the sphere of economics, low economic growth may be precipitated by a below $50/bbl. price for oil, at which the current federal budget balances, and increased competition for natural gas. Likely drivers could be the spread of the shale and tight oil revolution from the United States to other countries. It is possible that as the Southern Energy Corridor comes online, as well as the proliferation of fracking technology and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, Russian market power may be checked or even rolled back.
These factors would dampen the economic performance of the Russian Federation and limit its ability to project power of all kinds. These include nuclear sabre rattling, creation and utilization of Frozen Conflicts, and hostile energy activities. In the strategic dimension, the NSNW and SNW paradigm should hold as a method for the Russian Federation to preserve strategic stability at the regional and global level. “Escalate-to-deescalate” may be a fallback strategy that the Russian Federation would choose.
Leadership may sink back to Yeltsinesque levels of a rentier oligarchy with a rapacious elite privatizing resources without contributing to national power. Portions of leadership may sink to darker atavistic ethno-nationalism that lingers under the surface of ethnic Russians. This could be emboldened by Eurasianism and the “civilizational state” of Russia and revert to the pogroms of the late Tsarist era. This ideology is based on a concept of social solidarity founded in an idea of passionarnost, that is a creative energy and desire for expansion driven by a common goal as seen within some steppe culture of Central Asia. Such an occurrence could alienate internal minority populations, such as the Chechens and other ethnic and religious groups in the Northern Caucasus. External Russian minorities in neighboring countries, such as Latvia, Estonia, and Kazakhstan, are seen as countries that could be unintentionally destabilized through military, intelligence, and civil-society channels.
For the low-power scenarios, the United States would best bolster governing institutions and law in Russia and the neighboring states. The Russian Federation ensured the creation of the first four Frozen Conflicts in Abkhazia, Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transnistria during its very own nadir. Thus, U.S. coordination with its allies should provide training and materiel support to Russia’s non-NATO neighboring states to bolster international security while a dialing back of the European Reassurance Initiative takes place in NATO states as direct threats ebb.
Bolstering of the legal security architecture, as well as the continuation of a U.S. conventional and nuclear military presence in Europe, should suffice to counter Russian nuclear saber-rattling. Proliferation of weapons may become more of a risk with a weakened Russian. For international aid, defense, and cooperation, the United States should seek to reestablish linkages with Russian nuclear labs and the production enterprise more broadly as what happened between the Department of Energy and its Russian counterparts after the collapse of the USSR. This would dovetail with an expanded policy of additional cooperation with security services on issues of common national interest, such as counterterrorism, interdiction of illicit materials, and transnational threats. This would assure the Russian government of the West’s goal of stabilization and institutional strengthening diffusing encirclement-related paranoia.
The baseline projection continues along the trend line exhibited in the years following the resources boom and the aftermath of the financial crisis. The consensus figure of 2.0% growth is the projection of Russian economic growth for the coming five years. This considers the upside possibility of structural advantages of the country, the volatility of oil prices, and the downside political risk. Regional factors including Ukraine and Crimea-associated sanctions, adventurism in Syria, and Russia’s hostile role toward Western institutions and elections drive external political instability.
Internal political risk factors include the state of Russian succession and minority politics in Chechnya and other Northern Caucasus republics.
External Russian minorities in neighboring countries – such as Lithuania, Estonia, and Kazakhstan – may be used by segments of the leadership to create crises. Along this pathway, the Russian Federation would continue to use its abilities mentioned in the low-power scenario. The current trend is increased deployments of dual-use weaponry and information actions conducted by media, government, the Russian security services, and civil society.
Developments in the past decade portend the intentional creation of uncertainty within the structure of deterrence by the leadership of the Russian Federation. Dual-use weaponry and intentional ambiguity demand additional resource allocated to counter the increased likelihood of a nuclear-armed threat.
Disinformation activities create a cloud of uncertainty. Russia demonstrated the efficacy of its informational warfare strategy when it seized Crimea and through its continued disinformation campaign throughout the MH-17 catastrophe, Donbas region, U.S. election, and around the periphery of Russia. Uncertainty allows the Russian Federation more tactical maneuverability for adventurism in its near abroad (blizhneye zarubezhye) and further. These information activities could be useful to erode the rules and norms extant in global and regional institutions and alliances. Such activities can sow distrust among alliances and may lead to destabilizing, value-destroying activities, such as the promotion of bilateralism instead of regional or global diplomatic actions.
At worst, it could undermine the credibility of the U.S.-NATO nuclear umbrella and security guarantees. A lightning campaign against the Baltic states is one of the biggest fears as their seizure could make an invocation of Article 5 politically impossible due to the unanimity principle. This breakdown of norms may lead to further nuclear proliferation. The downside for this uncertainty is that it may make the predicate state or actor more reactive to possible infractions by the Russian Federation. A preemptive strike could be considered if dual-use weapons were deployed, along with a high certainty of carrying and deploying NSNWs. Leadership may stay at the same trend, with partial alignment of interests being maintained between national and elite interests.
For the baseline scenario, predicated on the continuation of the violation of territorial integrity of Ukraine in the Donbas and Crimea, as well as Russia’s detrimental intervention in Syria, engagement with the Russian Federation should be limited compared to the low-power scenario. Bolstering neighbors on Russian periphery should continue in the European Reassurance Initiative. NATO should explore integration of the Balkan and Scandinavian states into NATO which will reduce space for the Russian Federation to manipulate actors in the gray space outside of NATO. These efforts could be bolstered by deepened cooperation on air defense and WMD-response drills.
The preservation of security treaty architecture should be stressed in the baseline scenario, as the Russian Federation continues to undermine much of the post-WWII regional security architecture. As Russian efforts to degrade allies’ reliance on extended nuclear deterrence continues, the United States should continue scheduled exercises while starting snap exercises. This will bolster trust in the guarantees issued by the United States. Concomitantly, the United States should further challenge Russia through bolstering the Ukrainian government and aiding proxies in Syria, while countering Russian proxies and partners in Eurasia, the Middle East, and Asia. The development of nuclear weapons to attack countervalue instead of counterforce targets should be discouraged as it increases the chance of civilian deaths in a possible nuclear exchange.
The following are other solutions that the United States, NATO allies, and other close allies should execute for countering informational and economic strife while seeking solutions to long-standing regional problems. Intelligence collection should be increased to counter the uncertainty created by Russian dual-capable deployments. Information activities should be countered by active debunking of fake news through a strengthened and independent Voice of America, Radio Free Liberty/Radio Free Europe, and Current Time. Atlantic energy and economic policy coordination, enhancing energy interconnections, LNG terminals, and production would be a good way to check Russian politically-driven abuse of energy market concentration and dominance. Since the deployment of a regasification terminals in Lithuania, there has been a 23% reduction in prices that GazProm charges. A diplomatic solution must be broached on certain issues. Were the Russian Federation willing to end its role in Syria and Ukraine, defense relations could be reestablished. This could be buttressed by an increase in Track 1.5 and Track 2 exchanges on nuclear and defense strategy. These efforts while unofficial, would allow for exchanges to confer on destabilizing strategic trends within Russian nuclear strategy.
High-Power Russian Future
At a high level, the Russian Federation will be firing on all economic, strategic, and leadership cylinders. This scenario would be based on structural economic reforms, enhancement of leadership capacity, and the creation of a more normalized political environment. Economically, it would continue to build market power through the construction of resource-exporting infrastructure, while working to deny alternatives, including the construction of LNG terminals, the diffusion of fracking and tight-oil technology (as it does currently by supporting information activities and environmental groups in Europe and the United States).
Were the Russian Federation to conduct structural reforms, it would be possible to increase its economic rate of growth, lower inflation, and raise its productivity. This would be coupled with the strategic implementation of the whole-of-state approach toward solutions to strategic hurdles. An enhanced structure of political continuity, as well as the creation of a party system for leadership generation, would allow for a higher-functioning Russian Federation. Under this scenario, it is likely that active measures such as the little green men and volunteer battalions would be deployed. The fact that they would be aided by the implication of nuclear support as we have seen in Ukraine would lead to further strategic instability. It is likely that through the intentional utilization of the Eurasianist ideology, the ethnic Russian minorities would become even further instrumentalized in a similar manner. Were the Russian Federation on a major upswing, it is likely that other post-Soviet Slavic people, non-Slavic Orthodox, and Slavic peoples elsewhere could be intentionally mobilized.
In addition to the threat of NSNW deployment, better coordination of the activities of the volunteer battalions and little green men through their support from the military, diplomatic, religious and civil society aspects of the Russian Federation is likely. Finally, the leadership dynamics of a high-power scenario would be signaled by a reduction of corruption, increase in bureaucratic efficiency, promotion of autonomous innovation government-wide, and the delegation of responsibilities to lower levels.
On the high end the fusing of Russian nuclear rhetoric and active measures must be countered. This will require more intense counterintelligence activities in vulnerable areas, as well as lower thresholds for the employment of police, paramilitary, and military forces. NATO military activities must coordinate more with the policing activities and intelligence sharing of the European Union.
The permanent re-basing of U.S. forces in Poland, the Baltic States, Romania, and Bulgaria, would provide a more durable tripwire versus Russian threats. These forces should be trained to deal with unconventional little green men seen in Ukraine and the active measures of Russian intelligence against NATO-allied forces, such as the 2014 abduction of an Estonian official from Estonian territory. Moreover, the gap left by the US rebasing to frontline creates the need to generate replacement forces. Strategic tie-downs and signal of intent is critical to balance the Russian Federation.
The United States should use pressure points by resolving the Frozen Conflicts littered around the post-Soviet space. These continue to benefit the policy of the Russian Federation while harming the locals and preventing economic and political developments. The US must highlight the parochial and narrowly self-serving intent of the Russian Federation, counter their stated goal to be an alternative pole in great power politics. U.S. countermeasures against Russia via proxies should be deepened through intensive engagement in Syria, as seen in the baseline scenario.
These actions should be followed by diplomatic and defense-relations building with core Russian allies including Belarus, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. These would be followed by intensive creation of economic, educational, and cultural linkages to demonstrate a deep interest in these countries and show the Russian Federation what their actions place at risk.
To counter Russian lawfare in phytosanitary stands, the integration of post-Soviet non-WTO members should be encouraged to buttress international trade and norms. WTO membership would provide a systematic dispute settlement mechanisms for politically driven Russian economic meddling. Outreach from civil society and religious organizations should be encouraged to mitigate Russian outreach to Orthodox and Slavic communities. To counter this strategy, investigative journalism should be funded to counter the narrative of the Eurasianist ideology as well as general information conflict.
A strengthened Russia may require the United States to reevaluate its stance on nuclear related diplomatic initiatives. An ABM Treaty redux may be a possibility if a settlement could be found for Frozen Conflicts and to check adventurism in the Middle East. This could be explored in the dual track method by concurrently initiating additional ballistic missile defense research and deployment.
No matter its level of power, due to nuclear weapons, size, and structure, the Russian Federation will continue to affect global politics in the coming century. Russia remains the only country that poses an existential threat to the United States. This is grounded solely in their ability to deal unacceptable damage to the population, military forces, and infrastructure of the United States. Recent trends within Russian nuclear strategy are predicated on small tactical gains by exploiting uncertainty and lethality inherent in nuclear weapons. These tactical gains are conducted through information, intelligence, and the use of deniable proxies.
The United States must work to deepen intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities and linkages to counter maskirovka, active measures, and destabilizing actions through enforcement of treaties, defense cooperation, empowerment of pro-US proxies, counterintelligence efforts, and preservation of the security architecture. The continued Russian investment in standard SNW should not be seen as a threat to strategic stability but rather a factory that bolsters it. Finally, norms for the use of threats surrounding nuclear weapons should be strengthened in the western alliance with the aim of making them more accepted global norms. The development of the Soviet’s and then Russia’s nuclear doctrine and deployment of this force is tied directly to state power, political stability, and economic capacity. The current nuclear and all-domain strategy of the Russian Federation is likely to continue as long as the structural benefits and weakness in the country persist.