Russian Nuclear Strategy and Conventional Inferiority
Contemporary debates on Russian nuclear strategy focus on making sense of Russia’s nuclear capabilities, signaling 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.
Dr. Kristin Ven Bruusgaard is a Postdoctoral Fellow (Assistant Professor) of Political Science at the University of Oslo, where she is part of the Oslo Nuclear Project. Her research focuses on Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy, nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence, escalation, and crisis dynamics in Europe. She has previously been a Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow and a Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University, a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS), and a senior security policy analyst in the Norwegian Armed Forces. She holds a Ph.D. in Defence Studies from King’s College London and an MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University. She is also a certified language officer in the Norwegian Army. Her work has been published in Security Dialogue, Journal of Strategic Studies, Survival, War on the Rocks, Texas National Security Review, Parameters and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. She was awarded the 2020 Amos Perlmutter Prize from the Journal of Strategic Studies for her most recent publication, Russian Nuclear Strategy and Conventional Inferiority.