Argument: US nuclear weapons help deter and constrain Russia

Issue Report: Abolition of nuclear weapons


  • Paul Robinson, President and Director, Sandia National Laboratories. “A White Paper: Pursuing a New Nuclear Weapons Policy for the 21st Century”. March 11, 2001 – “Russia today is the only nation that we can conceive of with the potential to threaten the U.S. national existence. It would be exceedingly foolish to allow our deterrent forces against Russia to weaken as long as that potential remains in place. Therefore, in the near term (say 10 years or so) our major plans and force decisions will continue to be based on hedging against Russia. The strategy and policy for continuing to deter Russia follows closely that which we developed during the Cold War. The current war-planning approach (the Single Integrated Operational Plan) and its configuration of forces have been transitioning somewhat in recent years, but are in surprisingly good shape. We would continue to focus on treaty-limited strategic weapons in configurations that lead to stability against surprise attacks and bound the uncertainties of each side’s intentions and actions toward the other. Our future arms control efforts with Russia must endeavor to somehow take account of the total nuclear arsenals of each side, not just those within the START framework. Each side will want to evaluate carefully its needs for nuclear forces beyond the mutual deterrence purposes and seek ways to harmonize its forces.
As long as there are large destructive forces in being, I believe that the deterrent policy and the force structure created during the Cold War cannot be abandoned entirely. One can imagine a continuum of nuclear weapons capabilities which at the high end could be used to deter Russia and at the low end could be adapted to deter other states. How the future unfolds [particularly with respect to theater nuclear planning] will determine whether and how such a policy and its accompanying capabilities would change over time. I expect the U.S./Russia relationship will change only slowly, although a warming would be welcomed, perhaps making it possible someday to eliminate the need for the high end of our nuclear arsenal, provided of course that that another powerful, potentially powerful nation does not arise to take its place. I will designate that portion of our strategic force capability that continues to be devoted to deterrence of Russia as Capability One.”