This is the first part in a series of two on Russia's tactical nuclear weapons (TNW). In this report we provide some background information on Russian TNW and discuss policy issues. Russia's nuclear force structure, including what is openly known about its TNW developments since 1991, is addressed. In particular, the three documents on foreign policy, national security (blueprint), and military doctrine, published in 2000, are analysed with regard to their TNW guidelines. Based on a review of the threats currently facing Russia and how they affect Russia's TNW requirements, we conclude with a section on the implications for Russia's neighbours and strategic partners.
We conclude that Russia is likely to maintain a sizeable fraction of its present TNW arsenal for the foreseeable future as a cost-effective and vital defence component. The main reasons for this conclusion are related to Russian concerns about a future potentially expansionist NATO and, to some extent, China. On the other hand, Russia's problems along its southern front and in Central Asia, while of significant magnitude, are believed to have little, if any, impact on its future reliance on TNW. An exception would be if nuclear proliferation were to occur in the Middle East region combined with rising anti- Russian sentiments among Moslems in the area.
Charles L. Thornton is a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, where he is a graduate research fellow in the School of Public Affair's Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland.