New START, Russia, and Changing Doctrines

Senior Defense Department officials said Russia appears to be on a path to meet its New START obligations despite recent tensions over Ukraine, but it has changed its doctrine on the use of its massive stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons. “We have mutual inspections in place, which are proceeding,” Principal Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon told the Senate Armed Services strategic forces panel on March 4. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) also pressed McKeon and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall about how the Defense Department measured the threat of Russia’s stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons. Kendall said Russia has demonstrated it is changing its doctrine with regards to such weapons and embracing a willingness to use the weapons in certain situations to control escalation, in contrast to the US which has moved away from tactical nuclear weapons. McKeon said the Pentagon’s view is that US and allied conventional and nuclear forces taken together are appropriately sized to “deal with that disparity.”