Contemporary debates on Russian nuclear strategy focus on making sense of Russia’s nuclear capabilities, signalling and nuclear declarations. This paper argues that understanding how nuclear capabilities and strategy interact with conventional capabilities is fundamental to understanding nuclear strategy. It offers the Conventional Balance of Forces thesis for explaining change in Russia’s nuclear strategy after the Cold War. It shows how Russian nuclear debates and strategy decisions have been affected by perceived conventional vulnerabilities, and how the orthodox Western interpretation of Russian nuclear strategy today as one of ‘escalating to de-escalate’ comes short of explaining when Russia would go nuclear in conflict, and why.
This item's license is: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International