Russia sets its highest value on its strategic nuclear forces. In November 2020, President Vladimir Putin stated, I want to emphasize that, despite the constantly changing nature of military threats, the nuclear triad remains the primary, key guarantee of Russia’s military security. From a broader perspective, this applies to global stability as well. Preserving this balance of power neutralizes the threat of a large-scale military conflict, making vain any attempts to intimidate or pressure our country.”
Russian attitudes about nuclear weapons are very rare in the world. In 2006, President Putin declared that the new Borei class ballistic missile submarine would “secure Russia’s glory as a great sea power.” Indeed, strategic nuclear forces are literally the highest priority of the Russian Navy. Talking about the “glory” associated with nuclear missile systems is uniquely Russian and reflects their world view concerning the role of nuclear weapons.
Russian naval nuclear strategy is a subset of what is contained in Russian military strategy documents. In 2017, President Putin signed into law a very important directive to the Russian Navy. Fortunately, this was translated into English by the Russia Maritime Studies Institute of the U.S. Naval War College. It dealt with the broad range of issues relating to the Russian Navy and its modernization, including nuclear weapons. It reflects Russia’s “escalate to de-escalate” (or “escalate to win”) nuclear strategy. Specifically, it says, “The key components of the strategic deterrence system are nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence. The general-purpose naval forces occupy an important place in meeting strategic deterrence challenges.” The Navy is directed to “maintain the combat potential of the naval strategic nuclear forces at a high level,” while stating that the first priority of the Russian Navy is “to modernize and maintain naval strategic nuclear forces at a high level as a part of strategic ballistic missile submarine groups.”