The West and Russia have increasingly different interpretations of strategic stability, according to a survey of U.S., Russian, and European experts conducted by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
These differences increase the risk of miscalculation, nuclear competition, and escalation.
Strategic stability is defined as a state of relations between nuclear powers that minimizes incentives for countries to use nuclear weapons or engage in an arms race. It also provides a degree of transparency and predictability during periods of heightened tension.
Based on the survey participants’ response, the initiative came to some conclusions. Russia has a broader interpretation of strategic stability than the West. Additionally, advances in nonnuclear capabilities and technologies are complicating strategic stability calculations, creating new competition and changing how countries perceive and respond to threats.
There is also some debate in Washington and Moscow about whether leaders can view the limited use of nuclear weapons as feasible and less catastrophic, as more controllable and more credible than the threat of massive retaliation.
What Russia finds destabilizing, the West finds stabilizing, and vice versa. If unaddressed, the differences in interpretations could impact stability and increase the risk of miscalculation or an accident between Russian and Western forces. This is the most serious crisis facing the West and Russia since the Cold War’s end.