Abstract: What are the causes of change in Russian declaratory nuclear strategy? Three cases of Russian declaratory nuclear strategy, the military doctrines from 1993, 2000 and 2010, demonstrate significant variation in the role nuclear weapons play in Russian national security.
Structural theories of international relations explain this variation as a function of the balance of military power. Perceived nuclear or conventional inferiority vis-a-vis potential adversaries certainly inspires Russian behavior, but Russia chooses to balance in different ways than balance of power theory predicts, depending on available resources and capabilities.
A more compelling explanation for strategy variation lies in the politics of strategy formulation in Russia. Russian military actors effectively influence nuclear strategy due to both intellectual and institutional dominance. Civilian actors are less unified in their strategy preferences and less institutionally dominant in strategy formulation over time. Despite increased political control over the military, civilian influence on nuclear strategy outcomes does not seem to increase in Russia.
These findings have implications for how we understand the Russian security policy-making environment as well as for the content and context of Russian nuclear strategy and posture.
Speaker bio: Kristin Ven Bruusgaard is a Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow at CISAC, and a doctoral candidate at King’s College London. Her research focuses on Russian nuclear strategy and deterrence policy in the post-cold war era. Kristin is currently on leave from the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS). She has previously been a senior security policy analyst in the Norwegian Armed Forces, a junior researcher at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), and an intern at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in Washington, D.C., and at NATO HQ. She holds an MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University, and a BA from Warwick University. Her work has been published in Security Dialogue, U.S. Army War College Quarterly Parameters, Survival and War on the Rocks.