September 19, 2022

Escalation Management and Nuclear Employment in Russian Military Strategy

By Michael Kofman and Anya Loukianova Fink

This piece was originally published by War on the Rocks.

Russian nuclear strategy has been the subject of vigorous debates in recent years. Some believe it hides a plan to compel war termination through early use of nuclear arms after a case of aggression, i.e., escalate to de-escalate; others see it primarily as a defensive deterrent to be used in exigent circumstances. Analysts have argued that Russia’s lowered nuclear threshold is a myth, a temporary measure born out of conventional inferiority. Others believe that “escalate to de-escalate” does not exist as a doctrine, or that the term itself should be terminated because the real strategy is escalation control.

The Russian military doctrine breaks down conflict types into armed conflict, local war, regional war, and large-scale war.

The debate on escalate to de-escalate and Russia’s supposed lower nuclear threshold has often missed the plot and degenerated into two camps with broadly divergent interpretations. More importantly, the Russian military’s theory of victory and how it developed, or why the military thinks these specific stratagems might work, are often missing considerations.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

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