Russian nuclear missile system

Strengthening Strategic Stability with Russia

July 01, 2017
Christopher S. Chivvis, Andrew Radin, Dara Massicot and Clinton Bruce Reach

This report was originally published by the Rand Corporation.

The likelihood of a strategic nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia has grown in recent years due to three sets of factors: those that increase the incidence of war involving the U.S. and Russia; those that increase the risks of escalation during wars; and those that reduce crisis stability. Central to these growing risks are ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria that have brought the U.S. and its allies into close military contact with Russian forces. The probability of such conflicts escalating to nuclear war is very low. However, if U.S.-Russian conflicts were to become more frequent or take place on a larger scale, or if anti-U.S. sentiments in Russia already pumped up by Kremlin propaganda were heightened, the risks of direct U.S.-Russian conflict could increase, and possibly even the risks of U.S-Russian theater or strategic nuclear exchange. Under current conditions, the paths toward strengthening strategic stability with Russia will be challenging and require sacrifice on both sides.

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin, shared under a CC-BY-SA-4.0 license.