In recently staged exercises, dubbed Zapad, Russian armed forces displayed a robust capacity to conduct sophisticated military operations. The upgrades made by ground forces that were seen in the Zapad maneuvers are also evident in Russia’s nuclear arsenal. The diversification of Russia’s nuclear options, along with the Kremlin’s strategic reliance on asymmetrical actions, heightens the risks of an atomic weapon being used in a future potential conflict.
Russia – taking advantage of the huge revenues generated by the export of natural resources in the early 2000s, especially oil & gas – has assiduously poured money into improving its armed forces. In having to play catch-up to the United States and its NATO allies, Moscow has always seen its nuclear arsenal as a critical asset from a national security standpoint.
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Joshua Noonan is an independent analyst based in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins’ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.