The weekly "Military Industrial Complex" tried to understand the specifics of mutual nuclear deterrence available today, as well as the peculiarities of views on the prospects for reducing strategic offensive arms (START) of the three powers - their main owners - the Russian Federation, the United States and the PRC.
Undoubtedly, in this area, Moscow, Washington and Beijing have both common interests and (which is quite natural) contradictions. Moreover, considering issues related to the presence of strategic offensive arms, it is impossible to ignore, given the regional peculiarities, and defensive strategic weapons.
Relations between Russia and the United States are conditioned by the classical scheme of mutual nuclear deterrence based on the relative equality of forces and capabilities of the parties. The essence is in the same understanding of the concept of strategic stability. Both the Russian Federation and the United States are capable of delivering a reciprocal nuclear strike and are incapable of disarming. This situation has persisted for several decades and is the basis of all Soviet-American and Russian-American treaties on strategic offensive arms (the last of them was signed in April 2010 of the year).
However, now there are some changes. For example, Americans are reducing the importance of the traditional nuclear component in the balance of power with Russia, with an emphasis on the defensive component (missile defense) and strategic systems in non-nuclear equipment (for example, long-range cruise missiles). Fundamentally new types of weapons are being developed, in particular, hypersonic ones.
The Russian military-political leadership, perhaps for internal use, focuses attention on the significance of the nuclear arsenal of the Russian Federation. It is stated that a number of programs are being implemented. For example, a new liquid heavy ICBM of a silo-based mine is being developed. At the same time, in Russia over the past years, they are increasingly talking about improving protection against high-tech means of attack, in connection with which we should mention the recent creation of the Aerospace Defense Forces, for the maintenance and development of which a quarter of all appropriations provided for the implementation of the State Armaments Program are allocated 2020 of the Year (HPV-2020).
There are a number of fundamental differences in US relations with China. Mutual nuclear deterrence exists. However, it is extremely asymmetrical due to the overwhelming superiority of the United States over the PRC in both strategic offensive and defensive systems.
It is worth recalling that 90 percent of the forces and assets of the American missile defense system deployed in the Asia-Pacific region (APR). As for the nuclear component, here too the US priorities are changing. According to a number of experts, currently eight of the Ohio-type 14 SSBNs carrying the Trident II missile on board are in the Pacific Ocean and are holding back a potential Chinese threat, and six more are in the Atlantic. Relatively recently, the situation was reversed. For its part, the PRC adheres to the concept of minimum nuclear deterrence by the United States.
There is no consensus or any generally accepted point of view regarding the Russia-China bond. Officially, Moscow and Beijing are not just partners, but also friends. In evaluating many political events in the world, in the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, Russian and Chinese leaders occupy the same positions. Commodity turnover between the two countries is growing rapidly, and military-technical cooperation continues to develop. In the light of the stated recent reorientation of Russia's foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific region, relations with the Middle Kingdom acquire a qualitatively new meaning.
However, tacit deterrence exists. It is likely that some of the Russian nuclear forces are aimed at China, although there is no documentary evidence.
True, the attention of the international expert community was attracted by a fragment of the new RF Military Doctrine published in 2010, which stated that if during a regional war there is a threat to the existence of the Russian state, the Russian Federation will apply nuclear weapon. According to analysts, such a danger to Russia can only be an armed confrontation with China.
In turn, in the Celestial Empire for a long time do not talk about the threat from the North. However, after considering the composition and deployment of the PRC nuclear-missile forces, some conclusions suggest themselves. For example, one can say with certainty: in the Shenyang and Manchurian military districts, the majority of operational-tactical missiles and medium-range missiles are aimed at Russia for the simple reason that they will not reach the Russian Federation from anywhere. China has approximately 50 MBR mine and mobile bases. It is possible that some of them are aimed at the European part of the Russian Federation (it is not known for certain, of course).
The conclusion from the foregoing is as follows: the strategic relations of the three troika of powers do not have a single basis, either politically or in a military-strategic format. China also keeps secret the composition and programs of modernization of its nuclear forces, which in itself already makes any trilateral negotiations impossible.
Differences in Approach
Undoubtedly, the largest role of nuclear weapons as a means of ensuring national security and state sovereignty plays in Russia, which has weaker general-purpose forces compared to the United States and China. In addition, the Russian Federation lags behind the United States in the field of missile defense and strategic non-nuclear weapons.
The United States places less emphasis on improving nuclear weapons because of its geostrategic position, superiority in conventional weapons and a developing missile defense system. On the other hand, superpower status, as well as allied obligations require Americans to pay great attention to the nuclear component. The United States also maintains a significant return potential - nuclear warheads that are in warehouses and that are capable of being deployed in the shortest possible time.
As for the PRC, while experts believe: the Celestial Empire takes for granted its lag in the field of nuclear weapons from the United States and Russia. And this is done demonstratively, while expressing concern about the increasing capabilities of the US missile defense system and US strategic non-nuclear weapons. At the same time, China is quite confident in its general-purpose military forces and is taking comprehensive measures for their full-fledged development.
The nuclear doctrines of these three states deserve special attention. The positions of Russia and the USA are closest here. If we discard the rhetoric and traditional verbal turns, then there are only two differences between the strategies of Moscow and Washington. The first has already been mentioned - the transfer of priority by the Americans to the development of missile defense and strategic non-nuclear weapons. The second is that the United States is the first to use nuclear weapons to protect allies from non-nuclear attack.
Russia does not declare such a step, but, as mentioned earlier, reserves the right to be the first to resort to the use of nuclear weapons for defense in a situation when the very existence of the Russian Federation is at risk. This difference is due to the fact that the geo-strategic position of the United States does not allow the enemy, using only general-purpose forces, to attack the United States, putting the American state on the verge of destruction.
The PRC is the only one of all nine nuclear states that has declared that it will never use nuclear weapons first. The Chinese approach to strategic stability is not based on nuclear parity, although Beijing’s official position on this issue is rather vague. So, China claims that it will maintain nuclear forces at the minimum level required to ensure national security. There is uncertainty not only in the quantitative meaning of this level, but also in the fact that there is no official information about the current state of the nuclear arsenal of the PRC, the prospects for its modernization and development.
In the past, when China’s GDP and military budget were relatively small, this situation was perceived rather calmly. Now, with the release of the economy of the Middle Kingdom to the second position in the world, the attitude began to change.
Of particular concern to the international community are information about the huge long tunnels built in China at a great depth. This infrastructure continues to evolve. It is noteworthy that the work is carried out by units of the Second Artillery - an analogue of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces. According to experts, in these underground spaces can be backup mobile launchers of ICBMs, MRBD, and nuclear warheads. The situation is further complicated by the lack of reliable data on the Chinese nuclear potential. According to various estimates, the PRC has approximately 800 nuclear warheads of all types. And in the tunnels, their number can reach several hundred. Thus, China in its "nuclear policy" goes its own special way.
It seems that in the short term further reduction of nuclear weapons seems unlikely. The main reasons are the closeness of China, as well as the fact that the political leadership of Russia rightly considers it dangerous to further reduce its strategic arsenals. Moreover, any Russian steps in this direction seem illogical due to the deployment of the US missile defense system in Europe.
China, while publicly recognizing its lag in strategic weapons, strongly supports the US-Russian agreements on the reduction of offensive weapons, but categorically refuses to join them. It turns out a real tangle of contradictions and mutual interests. Whether it will be possible to unravel it is a big question.