Missile test

The Best Way to Control Nuclear Escalation Is Simply to Not Start It

October 05, 2022
Fyodor Lukyanov interviews Konstantin Bogdanov

This is a summary of an interview originally published by Mezhdunarodnaya Panorama/Russia in Global Affairs.

In this interview, Bogdanov says:

  • “If we look, for example, at the documents defining the Russian state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence, we will see that they explicitly say that ambiguity about the scale, composition and nature of the forces used constitute the basis of an effective nuclear deterrence. ... [W]e cannot give a potential adversary the opportunity to maneuver on a narrow patch, the adversary must always be afraid that the slightest additional escalation on his part will lead to ... instantly crossing the nuclear threshold. It is this fear that should deter the enemy.” 
  • “All nuclear deterrence is based on potentials, but in many respects these potentials exist in our minds, and since the wind is running in the minds now, the current state of affairs constitutes a specific situation that is testing the strength of the world order.”
  • “Many volumes have been written on escalation control theories, but no one knows how to manage it. ... [O]ne paradox is that the best way to control escalation is simply to not start it, because in the end everything will come to massive [nuclear] exchanges. It won’t lead to the death of humanity, but it will constitute the end of the modern type of civilization.”
  • “There are two problems [with regard to testing a nuclear weapon to signal resolve]. Firstly, the test will lead to the absolute destruction of international norms, and this is a very bad signal, including from the point of view of nuclear non-proliferation. Secondly, we will not demonstrate anything to anyone, since our visual culture, brought up on Hollywood blockbusters, will digest this nuclear explosion in a few seconds.”

This item is part of Russia Matters’ “Clues from Russian Views” series, in which we share what newsmakers in/from Russia are saying on Russia-related issues that impact key U.S. national interests so that RM readers can glean clues about their thinking.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the individual quoted.