Nuclear weapon Since its inception, it has played and continues to play a decisive role in the policies and strategies of nuclear states. Disputes over its complete elimination do not subside. However, in the current military-political and economic conditions, the goal of achieving a “global zero” for Russia seems to be very, very premature.
For almost the entire second half of the twentieth century, the development of strategic nuclear forces (SNF) was determined by the concept of nuclear deterrence. It was based on the recognition of the impossibility of achieving victory in a large-scale nuclear war by any of its participants due to the real and unquestioned threat of destroying their own state. At the same time, the idea of limiting strategic weapons and missile defense systems (ABM) was born, which for many years set the agenda for the dialogue between the leaders of superpowers.
Today, Russia has become embroiled in a process initiated by the West to discuss nuclear disarmament at the level of proposals for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, almost without taking into account the ratios of the destabilizing factors of nuclear deterrence.
Global Zero Trap
The first meeting of the initiative group to support the Global Zero movement (“Global Zero”) was held in Moscow in October 2009. The action plan developed by the group was brought to the attention of persons representing the Russian system of making military-political decisions, and received approval from the political beau monde of the country of that time.
The discussion itself can hardly pose any danger, especially when it comes to the elimination of such destructive weapons. The ideas of nuclear zero resonate with a certain part of society, which does not particularly burden itself with the analysis of the consequences of such a military-political decision. The arguments “for” are a traditional set of statements about the uselessness and uselessness of having the Russian Federation a powerful SNF potential due to the fact that the West is not planning an attack on Russia, which has taken the path of democratic transformations.
But based on the interests of Russia, we need to talk about more subtle and deeper problems associated with the permissible limits of reduction of domestic strategic nuclear forces. Is it true, as claimed by some VIP analysts, that the US and Russian nuclear arsenals significantly exceed the indices necessary to meet reasonable containment requirements? What should be the attitude to the outwardly spectacular new disarmament plan of Barack Obama, associated with a significant (before 1000 – 1100 warheads) reduction in the quantitative indicator of the Russian strategic nuclear forces?
The reaction to these and similar initiatives implies first of all a search for an answer to the question: why did the US leadership, who did not even want to hear about nuclear disarmament for many decades, suddenly announced that it was necessary to lower the level of nuclear confrontation with the Russian Federation? What changed?
It would be naive to believe that this is just a well-thought PR move by the US President aimed at changing the image reputation of his country, one of the outcomes of which was the receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize by the President of America.
You should look for more meaningful and compelling motives.
What has changed?
One can often hear that nuclear deterrence in the context of globalization and the growing interdependence of the world becomes an anachronism. This position was reflected in an article by Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and other authors, published in the United States at the beginning of 2008, and found understanding and support among supporters of nuclear disarmament in Russia. The goal of nuclear disarmament was officially confirmed at the first 2009 summit of Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in London.
Perhaps the US self-esteem has changed its place in the world? No, despite the fact that America did not withstand the test of monopolarism, having largely exhausted itself by participating in military conflicts in Europe as well as in the Middle East, priority for it was, is and remains the condition for maintaining its leading position in the world.
It is obviously impossible to achieve this by disrupting the balance of the strategic nuclear forces. The United States decided to go another way associated with their restriction.
The imbalance of the strategic nuclear forces is limited, on the one hand, by contractual obligations on the corresponding quantitative indicators of combat units (warheads) and their delivery vehicles (carriers). On the other hand, the probability of delivery of warheads to the target, which is determined by the state and capabilities of the missile defense system. If a one-sided increase in the strategic nuclear forces is not possible, the conclusion is that it is necessary to create an effective missile defense system. It was with these considerations that the United States was guided above all by carrying out its withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and starting active work on the deployment of the corresponding system both on its territory and on adjacent territories, as well as in Europe, particularly in Poland and the Czech Republic.
However, even rough estimates provide an understanding that protecting the country from delivering hundreds of strikes, let alone thousands of nuclear warheads, requires a system that cannot be created in the foreseeable period. This is precisely the reason why, despite the enormous costs and efforts of the parties, large-scale missile defense systems in the territories of Russia (USSR) and the USA were not created. The guaranteed overcoming of a system built on the basis of the THAAD and SM-3 interceptors with a total potential of the order of 200 megatons can be achieved by attacking 900 units of warheads installed on no more than 400 – 500 carriers even with 0,9 interception capabilities. At the same time, the number of warheads stipulated by the limitations of the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Potentials is equal to 1550 units with the order of 750 units of deployed carriers and the total number of deployed and non-deployed launchers of ICBMs, SLBMs and TB corresponding to 800 units.
Hence, it is not difficult to understand the logic of the recommendations of General James Cartwright (USA) regarding the desirability of reducing the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia to 900 strategic warheads with the operational deployment of only half of them.
American strategists do not have to worry about how not to overdo it when carrying out nuclear disarmament. By virtue of the implementation of the Reconstruction Concept for two decades, the United States today is more ready for a rapid decrease in its nuclear potential than Russia. Mainly due to the qualitative gain of the non-nuclear component of strategic and defensive weapons, for which the Russian backlog from the United States is very noticeable.
Thus, the question of the permissible limits for reducing nuclear forces has moved from the theoretical plane to the area of vital decisions. It is clear that the finding of these solutions is possible only on the basis of the formulation of adequate criteria and the establishment of determining factors for assessing the nuclear stability threshold. The matter is complicated by the fact that the most frequently and widely used criterion of the type of unacceptable (deterrent) damage is not only ambiguous, multidimensional, but in some cases subjective.
Unacceptable damage. Concept transformation
The task of estimating the number of warheads guaranteed to ensure the national security of the state arose almost from the moment the carriers of the respective warheads in the form of long-range ballistic missiles and their warheads appeared.
Back in the middle of 50, under the leadership of Alexander Samarsky, at the Institute of Applied Mathematics (IPM - later IPM named after MV Keldysh) Sergey Kurdyumov and other scientists made one of the first attempts to solve the problem based on an adapted version of the Lanchester's model of the theory of operations research . Assuming, a priori, the known probability of the destruction of the nuclear weapons of a potential enemy, as well as his own weapons, a solution was obtained not even of the first, but zero approximation, which gave the critical threshold value approximately in 1500 warheads. A little later, at the beginning of 60, Robert McNamara (USA) introduced the concept of "guaranteed destruction of the enemy." It meant a nuclear strike in which from one-fifth to one-fourth of the population perishes and between half and two-thirds of the country's industrial potential is destroyed. American analysts estimate the corresponding potential in 400 of one megaton warheads. Subsequently, the numerical values of the McNamara criterion were repeatedly specified by a group of researchers working under the leadership of Albert Wolstetter.
According to Andrei Sakharov, performed at the same time, for a nuclear strike with the corresponding damage of such a level, about 500 megaton-class nuclear warheads of the order or average 1250 – 1500 nuclear charges would suffice.
These criteria have not yet met the more “soft" concept of irreplaceable or unacceptable damage, which is based on models of the development of the economic and social situation in the state of a potential enemy after a nuclear strike on it.
A group of analysts led by Yevgeny Velikhov and Andrei made a significant contribution to the regulatory assessment of the minimum level of unacceptable damage (NU) for states that are objects of containment, structured according to a number of indicators of the relationship between the vulnerability of industries and the economy as a result of a nuclear strike. Kokoshin
In general, by the beginning of the 90s, as a result of studies of various aspects of the unacceptability of damage, organizations of the Ministry of Defense, the General Ministry and the Academy of Sciences of the USSR had developed approaches that adequately justify the criteria and indicators of NU of that level of development. It was they that were embodied in the 90s in the START-2 Treaty and the framework agreement under the START-3 Treaty. According to official statements by representatives of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces, if START II was ratified by 2, it was planned to create an Strategic Missile Forces group of 2003-800 monoblock missiles, and maintain strategic sea-based forces at the level of 900-1700 warheads. Aviation the component of the nuclear triad, due to its limited significance, had significantly lower values. The political, financial and economic crisis in Russia, alas, has made its own adjustments.
Psychology and quantitative uncertainty
By the middle of 90, the concept of NU became increasingly transformed from fairly reasonable approaches in assessing the consequences of damage and even approximate, but still transparent methods for calculating the critical level of strategic nuclear forces in the direction of the psychological reaction of a potential enemy to the threat of a nuclear strike. As a result, damage was gradually considered unacceptable, the threat of causing which could stop the enemy from hostile actions. By the beginning of the 21st century, this concept became dominant in the main strategy of nuclear deterrence, which all nuclear powers proclaimed in words and the authors of the relevant publications did not question.
Of the foreign (mostly American) specialists who contributed to the problem of discussing elements of the general theory of deterrence, it makes sense to mention primarily Bernard Brody and Hermann Kahn. The name of the first one is associated mainly with the research of the “deterrence” category within the framework of the problems of the strategy of nuclear deterrence, the second one with the development of the theory of escalation of the nuclear conflict with the six-component classification of the “degree of deterrence”.
It is obvious that such a interpretation of the concept of NU has a big disadvantage associated with its quantitative uncertainty. As rightly noted in “War and Peace in Terms and Definitions”, published under the general editorship of Dmitry Rogozin, due to psychological differences in the mentality of the ruling elite and society of countries representing different civilizations (Western, Eastern Christian, Islamic, etc.) ), the level of NU for these states can also differ significantly. For example, in the Islamic world, the perception of unacceptable damage for them is largely due to the less vulnerable infrastructure of their economy, as well as a different religious and moral attitude of the elite and the population to war and peace.
The impossibility of formalizing the categories being discussed in conjunction with the support of the idea of consistently achieving the “nuclear zero” led individual authors to think about the need to abandon the concept of NU and to use the approximate balance of response potentials as a criterion for restraining.
Until 2030, no change
Today and in the foreseeable future, a nuclear-free world is, alas, impossible.
Any proposals and initiatives relating to the necessity and feasibility of lowering the potential for nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia in modern conditions are unacceptable. Logical and quite correct evidence of this assertion was cited by many authors at the beginning of the 2000s. It suffices to refer to the work “On future wars and nuclear deterrence” by Vyacheslav Kruglov, Mikhail Sosnovsky and Vladimir Sivolob, published in the Observer magazine's 3 number for 2003 a year. The article convincingly proves that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons is in the greatest extent in the strategic interests of the United States. This guarantees America the safe conduct of military conflicts with conventional weapons, including large-scale ones with the massive use of conventional weapons, the use of fire strikes and the achievement of victory in a “contactless nuclear-free” way. The only mistake of the authors is that the elimination of a significant backlog of Russia from the United States in the field of conventional (primarily strategic) weapons and the state of missile defense can be achieved in the next 10 – 15 years. In fact, over the past ten years since the publication of their work, this gap has not only not decreased, but has become even more tangible. The 2008 and 2009 years should obviously be considered the period when this lag reached a maximum. Understanding this circumstance was for the United States a motivating reason for the intensification of various initiatives to achieve a “global nuclear zero”.
Thus, the revision of the agreements in the direction of reducing the critical threshold of nuclear deterrence can be carried out only after achieving parity on conventional strategic weapons and other destabilizing factors, primarily of a counter-force nature.
The relevance of revising the concept of NU can arise only with a significant reduction in the scale of external threats and the presence of long-term assessments confirming this fact. But according to the available forecasts of the military-political situation up to 2030, the situation will remain extremely unstable and conflicting in all strategic areas. Therefore, the question of the expediency of revising the criterion under discussion may acquire practical significance not earlier than the specified period. Today the discussion about determining the agreed value of NU is practically fruitless.
From the point of view of theoretical positions, a reliable answer about the level of effectiveness of the mechanism of strategic deterrence based on subjective and uncertain criteria, naturally, cannot be obtained. But it is not required, since the effect of threats based on the use of subjectively unacceptable damage depends to a significant extent on the personal qualities and psychological aspects of decision-making by persons exercising the military-political leadership of the country - the potential aggressor.
Verbal Husk Disarmament Initiatives
Separate discussion requires the topic of the impact on the destabilizing elements on the NU, primarily of a counter-force nature. In conjunction with anti-missile systems and the emergence of a non-nuclear component of the US strategic counter-force potential, the criterion base for evaluating NU when planning a deterrent critical SNF threshold, at least in theoretical terms, should be clarified. Undoubtedly, an extensive missile defense system and a high level of potential of high-precision weapons of the United States represent a significant military and strategic problem for the Russian Federation. However, it should not be exaggerated as a direct military threat, as well as the possibility of the newly deployed US missile defense systems in terms of overestimated estimates of the likelihood of interception of nuclear response weapons. Moreover, there is no need to panicly react to any, often mythical, information about the "super-outstanding" capabilities of one or another development that has not yet reached the stage of successful flight design tests.
An adequate response by the leadership of the Russian Federation to a correctly evaluated creature is needed, rather than to the verbal husk of US disarmament initiatives, at which the threshold level guaranteed would remain, ensuring potential nuclear deterrence in the context of the US striving to maintain geopolitical dominance in modern conditions.
To some experts, this husk seems to be manna from heaven. An example of this is the article “Transformation of Strategic Stability” by Vladimir Dvorkin in the World Economy and International Relations magazine's 8 No. for 2013 year. Skillfully operating with facts, concepts and knowledge, this really highly qualified specialist diligently draws the wings of an American little angel, obviously suffering from a misunderstanding of his good intentions by the Russian bear. Calling for the exchange of some technologies, Dworkin states that it is necessary to break up with the mutual nuclear deterrence of the two most powerful nuclear states. How this fabulously good state is being dealt with those who are unable to restrain him from "good" actions, we have seen with the example of Yugoslavia, Libya, and Iraq. Still a bit - and Syria, too. By the way, in the article mentioned, Dvorkin is trying and cannot explain the meaning of targeting the 80 of US nuclear warheads to Moscow (he estimates that seven to eight would suffice). This is just beyond the threshold of common sense, but it explains very well the psychology of the American angel, his unparalleled love for the exchange of technology. One of the "partners" of the USSR in 1941 was going to make a lake on the spot of Moscow - these 80 warheads are also capable of doing the same.
The objectivity of the assessments of actions of foreign "partners" by the top military-political leadership of our country is confirmed by the presence of SLBMs and ground-based ICBMs at different stages of development, production and deployment. These include “Sineva”, “Bulava-30”, “Yars-M” and, finally, “Sarmat”, planned to replace the legendary “Satan” (“Voivode” - the P-36X2 missile system, which was adopted by Soviet strategic missile forces back in August 1988 year). I would like to emphasize that the creation and deployment of these complexes, and not the resetting of Russia's nuclear potential, will serve the cause of preserving strategic stability.