Editor’s note: I’ve invited Tom Moore, formerly a senior professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to join us as a guest blogger.  Tom was the lead staff member for Senate advice and consent to ratification and Congressional approval of implementing legislation on the U.S.-IAEA Additional Protocol, legislation governing U.S.-India nuclear trade, and Senate advice and consent to ratification of the Moscow and New START Treaties. Tom has a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Russian and East European Studies from the University of Kansas.

On the pages of this blog, and in his other work, Jeffrey has made the claim that the United States does not understand fundamental Russian fears, and that these fears are in turn preventing  further success in transforming the process of negotiated reductions through arms control into a different kind of relationship or simply dictating the end of arms control itself with Moscow.  I disagree.  We do have a good understanding of Russian strategic thought into the next decade.  And I confess to having an opinion that the reductions being sought at the moment are read very differently by the Russian General Staff and will not reduce the risks of major war.  For the purposes of this blog post, I shall be playing the role of a Russian general.  I explain what I see by way of taking on Jeffrey’s challenge to understand how Russian military science considers these questions.  I neither support nor oppose any doctrines outlined in this piece.  I simply play the part of the Russian agent provocateur.


First, you may call me Major-General Talensky.  My 1953 essay in the Russian journal Military Thought led many of my successors to conclude as I did then that “philosophers and sociologists ought not to intrude into the domain of military science.”  My essay and subsequent views on execution of Soviet war planning were so influential that the CIA even mentioned me over much of my career (as you can see making use of any internet search engine).  My work concerned itself not with the causes of wars, but rather how they must be fought, and particularly how a nuclear war must be fought, and won.

When I examine military science in Russia today, I see that much of the thinking I did in the 1950s remains relevant.  For proof, I refer you to the excellent work done in Vozdushno-Kosmicheskaya Oborona online (http://vko.ru/Default.aspx).  I also note that Vladimir Vladimirovich conducted an extensive and detailed discussion on the status of military planning and science with a large group of prominent experts in Sarov last year (http://www.diplonews.com/feeds/free/29_February_2012_131.php).  While your president gave a speech in Prague in 2009, I do not see him engaged at the level demonstrated by my national leadership on these matters.

Your Nuclear Posture Review and your efforts on the NATO Defense and Deterrence Posture Review are very elegant sociopolitical documents, but paraphrasing the view of the excellent Russian academic Yuri Trutnev, I note that weapon systems define the doctrine that exists in reality as opposed to the declared doctrine.  As I take a look at your systems, both current and planned, your pursuit conventionally-armed, long-rage strike options, and the fact that you can, as of today, if you sought to do so, neutralize many if not all of my strategic nuclear assets, require that I make assumptions about how you would execute nuclear missions against me at lower numbers and yet permit full implementation of the Russian nuclear war plan in response.  A treaty will not dictate stability in any crisis.  Systems, both extant and planned, will.  That is why last year Moscow conducted its largest, coordinated nuclear exercises in decades.  Your side opts for tests, but mainly of its missile defenses.  And you do not train for the military nuclear operation in the manner you once did–a conclusion contained in your own government’s Schlesinger Phase II report.  Your own allies also seem rather uninterested in serious NATO military exercises despite our own continued focus on the European theater.

The Americans are now telling us the probability of nuclear exchange with us is extremely low.  That assurance has had little effect on our views of your intentions and almost no effect on our plans for modernization.  When I examine the ways in which you engage in conventional conflict, I conclude that your fundamental principle is preemption.  Your use of SEAD to “set conditions” always precedes your use of any ground forces, primarily by using sea-launched, conventional cruise missiles.  Your new emphasis on cyber warfare also shows me that you would, if you were to fight me, pursue a disruptive campaign against my command and control that may not even be kinetic.  As a general matter, whether using ground forces or unmanned systems, you also execute many more war operations per day than does the Russian Federation.  For the moment, I can guarantee the General Staff that you could neutralize my strategic nuclear forces, or a least a major portion of them.  This is unacceptable.  Conversely, I cannot do the same thing to you–at present.  Notice, I have not mentioned missile defense.  That is because, at least until 2018, if your plans turn out to be true, you will not be able to interfere with my war plan, and even then, may only frustrate it.

I see dangerous trends in your nuclear force planning that would make my ability to detect your intent in time to respond during a crisis much harder thus making nuclear war much more likely.  Actions you appear to think stabilizing now will not be so in the future and by the time the New START Treaty expires in February 2021 you may have effectively constituted your forces in such a manner as to lead me to believe the only manner in which you would undertake nuclear operations against me will be preemptive.

Your ability to upload warheads in a crisis and my ability reload and re-fire certain of my assets is where the balance of these issues must be addressed, for the moment.  I must also state I am looking only at situations in which the absolute threat to the state is underway–i.e., crisis stability.

You have consistently refused to tell us how you will structure your forces in order to meet New START’s aggregate limits by 2018.  So, I must look at what you have said you might have in the future.

You have said you will seek “up to” 240 deployed Trident SLBMs, with various missile loadings on your submarines–sometimes 24, sometimes 20, and as of last year 16, per boat.  I view this a first strike weapon and the sole leg of your Triad which has the chance of surviving a nuclear war and your budget crisis.  It is also the leg on which you place the greatest value.  I can do nothing about an Ohio-class boat on patrol until it breaks surface tension, by which time it is too late for me to bother with prevention.  Here, you have a very long upload time but no timely capability execute reloads.  Even if you were to fully load your boats, it would take you a great amount of time based on your present policies–which may even include fewer boats.  But at 16 Tridents per boat during peacetime, the bulk of your nuclear forces are at sea.  I take this as a firm indication of where you will place nuclear munitions in a crisis.

Your W-88 is capable of neutralizing either my command and control or my garrisoned forces–silo-based missiles, submarines and bombers not dispersed, and mobile ICBMs at base.  For this problem, I must continue to field and improve my road-mobile ICBM force and diversify deployment options.  I do this not to ensure that Yuri Solomonov can continue his celebrity status, but rather because until such time as I can better see your Ohio-class operations, my only recourse for survivable options are highly mobile weapons that you cannot track after initiation of a crisis assuming we are at war and that all measures of active and passive concealment are employed–what we call maskirovka.   You usefully ended your continuous monitoring of my mobile missile production at Votkinsk, as well, so I may have advantages here that I must exploit.

You have declared you may seek “up to” 420 ICBMs, with one warhead each under your NPR.  Your upload here is readily observable and I have great understanding of how you operate your ICBM fields.  This said, should you ever take any steps to upload Minuteman front sections, I will view it as a useful if extremely grave warning of intent–but one that is observable.  Some former officials, such as your General Cartwright, have advocated eliminating these ICBMs completely.  I would welcome that as it would minimize my targeting burdens and (even at my present rates of deployment) free forces to threaten to conduct a credible neutralizing blow to your submarines at port and bombers at base.  You have also only mandated that these weapons exist to 2030 and you have delayed a follow-on to your Minuteman III.  I shall assume you do not wish to keep silo-based ICBMs, thanking you for the reasons stated above but also warning that you have now taken away a leg of your Triad that allows me to monitor your intent in any crisis wherein I can calculate that I have at least 30 minutes before your first warheads are delivered to targets.  I also do doubt your desire to eliminate silo-based weapons because you  would be unlikely to destroy warheads that your government kept off those ICBMs as you have spent and are spending great resources to extend their operating lives and even have made public plans for a common warhead for use on both your ICBMs and SLBMS.

Lastly, you say wish to have “up to” 60 B-2As and B-52Hs, saying over and again that bombers have no day-to-day nuclear missions. You appear committed only to a gravity bomb for the B-2A (your B-52H is unlikely to have any new ALCM).  You have a program for a new bomber and for long-range standoff attack (LRSO).  But we have noticed for many years that your air force does not much care to resource a truly credible bomber leg of your Triad.  My operating assumption going forward is that you will have no ALCMs.  I thank you for this fact since you are unlikely to be able to penetrate my improving air defenses with your B-2A, and I have a good sense how long it would take one of them to reach its targets in Russia, well before my radar lost track of it.  This not even mentioning the fact that your present state of nuclear planning and sharing in the NATO nuclear theater is, from a military not a political standpoint, dual-capable in only two ways:  NATO may still leave the nuclear realm in the near future (thanks to how much you would like to charge them for an F-35) and they have a rather spotty record even in conventional missions such as Libya.  You will have a high demand for conventional roles for your remaining heavy bombers and we suspect you will not invest in serious nuclear LRSO.  But if you do all of this you are also giving up on the single leg on which to rely in a crisis for fastest upload, signaling and recallable capability.  Just as with your ICBMs, we would again be faced with less visible elements of nuclear signal sending were you to do away with nuclear roles for heavy bombers and their nuclear munitions in crisis scenarios.

Therefore, let me summarize what I see as your future strategic force:  You may move many more megatons of warheads to the sea in the times of crisis.  While you try to convince me that these weapons are only for retaliation, the very fact that we have always viewed them only as fist-strike weapons and they now appear to be the ones you plan to keep cause us great concern.  To the uninitiated nuclear dilettante, it may appear a paradox that your desire for lower numbers and your historic protection of your submarines cause us to conclude that your plan for employment of your force is preemptive.  You came seeking to use some of our radars as a part of “cooperative missile defense.” It does not take a genius to realize that those radars primarily are intended to provide warnings of launches from waters into which you have placed many megatons of yield.  That ought to have told you more about how we feel about your current Trident II D-5 Fleet Ballistic Missile rather than your future SM-3 Block IIB.

I leave it to the diplomats and the arms control community to praise reductions.  What I hope to have explained to you here is my worry that your default reductions are leading to a period of instability because you do not seem to place much value in maintaing the Triad of forces that have prevented me from entertaining the belief that I can neutralize your forces and/or achieve conditions that would allow my leadership to dictate terms to your nation on the basis of nuclear threats–and we still make those.  You are also opting for forces that appear useful to me only as means of first strike.

I remind you that my war doctrine concerning employment of the Russian nuclear force has changed, and that I am improving my forces to more clearly match my doctrine, which is soundly stated in the 2010 Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation:

Nuclear weapons will remain an important factor for preventing the outbreak of nuclear military conflicts and military conflicts involving the use of conventional means of attack (a large-scale war or regional war).  (at http://merln.ndu.edu/whitepapers/Russia2010_English.pdf)

You have not done so.  Indeed, you appear to be going in the opposite direction.  You have become quite Soviet–mastering the rhetoric of global peace (now called global zero) while ignoring that the rest of the world, including the General Staff, look mainly at your systems and plans–none of which comport with your rhetoric.  Again, a very Soviet-style bureaucratic model.  You declare that you wish to reduce the roles and numbers of your weapons, but we detect that your smaller force may lead you to use it only as a means of preemption, not retaliation.  Your only options appear to rely on the destructive fear of a first strike as your lower numbers mathematically and physically dictate ineffective second-strike capability.  This could be seen as a major change in your doctrine–that nuclear weapons are for using, not deterring their use.  That, in turn, must cause us to plan for such scenarios.

Should you approach us seeking additional reductions, keep in mind that we fully understand we need no treaty or American President to encourage you to do that.  There is no deal to be made.  We are getting most of what we have long wanted thanks to your decline.  But any military professional must continue to plan against what he is certain may exist despite all other factors.  Perhaps you have given over your nuclear planning to the philosophers and sociologists.  I hope for your own sake that they are better today than they were in 1953.