Explaining change in Russian nuclear strategy | 2021 | Events

Explaining change in Russian nuclear strategy
Kristen Ven Bruusgaard
Kristin Ven Bruusgaard
University of Oslo
March 31, 2021


 Despite contemporary controversy regarding its content, Russian nuclear strategy has displayed several elements of continuity in the post-Cold War era. This continuity is remarkable given the significant shifts in Russia s external environment in this period. Kristin Ven Bruusgaard will demonstrate how the correlation of conventional and nuclear forces and the Russian military s autonomy in formulating nuclear doctrine has impacted strategy choices in Russia in the post-Cold War period. A sustained military dominance of key nuclear policy decisions has ensured significant continuity in how nuclear weapons produce security for the Russian state. This military autonomy has produced incremental strategy changes in line with changing military assessments of the correlation of forces. Military actors’ dominance over nuclear doctrine is a feature of Russian civil-military relations that predates Putin and that is likely to endure beyond him, bar a significant overhaul of civil-military relations in Russia.


Dr. Kristin Ven Bruusgaard is a Postdoctoral Fellow (Assistant Professor) of Political Science at the University of Oslo, where she is part of the Oslo Nuclear Project. Her research focuses on Soviet and Russian nuclear strategy, nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence, escalation, and crisis dynamics in Europe. She has previously been a Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow and a Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University, a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS), and a senior security policy analyst in the Norwegian Armed Forces. She holds a Ph.D. in Defence Studies from King’s College London and an MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University. She is also a certified language officer in the Norwegian Army. Her work has been published in Security Dialogue, Journal of Strategic Studies, Survival, War on the Rocks, Texas National Security Review, Parameters and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. She was awarded the 2020 Amos Perlmutter Prize from the Journal of Strategic Studies for her most recent publication, Russian Nuclear Strategy and Conventional Inferiority