Russian nuclear forces

FFI-Report 2020

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Report number

20/00131

ISBN

978-82-464-3269-4

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PDF-document

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4.9 MB

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Steinar Høibråten Halvor Kippe

This report was written with the intention of gaining a better understanding of the nuclear weapons complex in Russia, the only nuclear-weapon state with a land border to Norway. The study includes not only a comprehensive overview of weapon systems and delivery platforms, but also a look at the overall picture with elements such as deterrence, organisation and command and control systems.

In 2019, Russia had around 6500 nuclear warheads including about 2700 strategic warheads and about 1800 non-strategic warheads. The remaining about 2000 warheads was in storage awaiting dismantlement. The total number of warheads is reduced by around 85 percent since its peak towards the end of the cold war. Today’s nuclear weapons are increasingly more modern, however, and presumably more reliable and precise than the weapons of the 1980s.

During the last decade, Russia has invested large amounts in modernising its defence. Modernisation of the nuclear-armed forces has been emphasised as especially important and has seen great progress. This demonstrates the importance of the country’s nuclear capabilities not only today, but also for the foreseeable future.

This report presents a large and varied selection of possible platforms capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Many of them have been modernised or are undergoing upgrades of different kinds. Russia is building new submarines, some of them with nuclear propulsion and some with conventional propulsion, new aircraft and new missile systems.

The 2019 withdrawals from the INF Treaty implies that Russia and the United States once again may deploy land-based ballistic or cruise missiles with a range between 500 km and 5500 km. This may seriously affect the security of Western Europe, which may be conveniently targeted from Russia with this kind of missiles.

The High North has been important to Russian defence for centuries, particularly to the Navy, which here finds ice-free, open access to the Atlantic and Arctic oceans all year. The establishment in 2014 in Severomorsk near Murmansk of Russia’s fifth joint command, OSK North, demonstrates the area’s continued importance today. As a consequence, in recent years, increasingly modern and more operational military forces have been more active close to Norwegian land and sea territory.

About publication

Report number

20/00131

ISBN

978-82-464-3269-4

Format

PDF-document

Size

4.9 MB

Download publication

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