MOSCOW, JANUARY 27, 2020. PIR PRESS. The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with a paper “Surviving in a Deregulated Strategic World” by Dmitri Trenin. This paper was produced for the joint PIR Center – CSIS series of seminars “Reducing Nuclear Risks During Great Power Competition” (November 12 – December 9, 2020). We thank our partners in CSIS for their cooperation and support for this publication.
This paper describes the current strategic and geopolitical environment and the main challenges it entails for the Russian-American strategic relations, including rapid technological revolution, the rise of nuclear multipolarity, and the complete lack of trust. The author believes that addressing the new threats that reject the 50-year-long era of arms control between Moscow and Washington requires achieving meaningful improvement in Russian-U.S. political relations to the level of serious dialogue on security issues between the two governments under the new conditions. Otherwise, deterrence will not only be the principal basis of strategic stability but its only remaining basis.
- A credible strategy of deterrence needs to deal with a range of challenges: ballistic missile defenses, the enemy’s decapitating strikes from close range, use of artificial intelligence, cyberattacks.
- Misperceptions between Russia and the USA exist not so much regarding their nuclear doctrines but with respect to their broader foreign policy strategies. Absolute lack of trust and high levels of mutual suspicion complicate strategic assessments.
- Cold War-era nuclear bipolarity that coincided with a similar ideological and geopolitical division transformed into nuclear multipolarity. Strategic stability ceased being an issue for Moscow and Washington exclusively to tackle.
- Strategic stability that used to be essentially about high-yield nuclear weapons and long-range missiles has now shifted towards strategic non-nuclear systems whose capability becomes equal to nuclear systems.
- Formal arms control treaties are becoming a thing of the past. Communication channels between the military and security authorities by analogy with the deconfliction mechanism that has been in place in Syria since 2015, confidence building, such as the resurrection of nuclear risk reduction centers, would help clarify the situation, prevent escalation, and avoid misperception or misunderstanding.
- Biden Administration, while supporting New START extension and arms control in general, is going to take a hard line toward the Kremlin.