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August 19, 2009 |  Print  Your Research  

Claudine  Lamond

Topic Think Tank Analysis: Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Russian Foreign Policy

Claudine Lamond: The different role of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) in Russia and the United States will be a major challenge to their bilateral disarmament efforts. Whereas US TNWs are mainly political in nature, Russian tactical nuclear weapons are more fundamental to its military doctrine.

US tactical nuclear weapons are largely political in nature, seen as the glue that binds NATO states together, and have greater value to European allies than they do to the United States itself. Russian tactical nuclear weapons are more fundamental to its military doctrine; seen as central to deterrence capabilities, defence against nuclear attack, and a compensation for weaker conventional capabilities. Both see them as a potential bargaining tool, but given such different motives this potential may be an illusion. Both are willing, for now, to leave TNW on the backburner as they meet to discuss reductions in strategic warheads. The problem for both US and Russia is that these TNW warheads are aging, vulnerable and unsafe, and are in actual fact unnecessary for deterrence in today's post Cold War world.

Russia remains in a state of high transition, but has in the past decade gained more influence and confidence in international relations, though the nature of this is often misunderstood. Russia aslo suffers a communication problem, regularly failing to effectively explain its views and actions. Due to this ‘Russia ... gets stereotyped, which distorts the western outlook and damages western policies.' Russia is frequently treated as a 21st century Soviet Union rather than a modern, increasingly more powerful world player.

The variety and diverse deployment of Russian TNWs give them a distinctive significance in Russian defence planning, and three objectives: defence against nuclear attack; to offset inferior conventional forces; and a bargaining tool to use against the US/NATO. While information on Russian TNW is sparse, there is evidence that their reliability and safety is a growing concern due to their age, and that they pose various security threats, including possible theft or diversion. There is talk of upgrades, but financial constraints and the impeding financial crisis may hinder any such modernization.

Claudine Lamond has graduated from the Australian National University hoding a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, and a Bachelor of Asian Studies, Security and Strategic Studies, and Japanese.

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