When playing with the possibility of nuclear annihilation, NATO should not be relying on probability
The Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) ensured that neither side had an incentive to use nuclear weapons, as doing so would result in the other side’s nuclear response, resulting in mutually assured destruction, hence the apposite abbreviation, MAD.
This strategic balance during the Cold War meant that nuclear war was unthinkable. But the development of a missile shield, particularly following the end of the Cold War, meant that nuclear war could now start to become thinkable. If one side could use nuclear weapons without having to worry about the other side responding in kind, then the resulting destruction would not be mutual. The use of nuclear weapons against a nuclear-armed opponent would no longer be MAD.
Russia has been watching with mounting concern not only NATO’s encroachment on Russia’s traditional sphere of interest (after having promised not to do so), but its determination to place its missile-shield elements right on Russia’s borders, to provide the best chance of intercepting a retaliatory response. Such systems can only serve one purpose: to nullify Russia’s nuclear deterrent and thereby allow NATO a nuclear first strike.
In response to this looming threat, Russia has been focussing on nuclear missiles that can penetrate NATO’s missile shield, and therefore deter NATO, such as the Bulava SLBM and the Topol and Topol-M road-mobile ICBMS, and now the Yars as successor to the Topol-M.
These inter-continental ballistic missiles seek to launch very fast, thereby limiting the vulnerable launch phase, then fly on an unpredictable trajectory, to make interception difficult, then in the terminal phase, not only engage in evasive maneuvers, but release multiple re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), while doing all this at a blistering speed. Moreover, these missiles are not silo-based but mobile, the Bulava being anywhere in the vast oceans, and the Yars being anywhere within Russia’s vast hinterland, thereby making them more survivable in the event of a NATO first strike.
But NATO nevertheless continues to surround Russia with its first-strike-enabling missile shield. Because, it seems, it no longer thinks nuclear war is MAD. Because, it seems, it no longer thinks Russia offers a credible nuclear deterrent. It probably thinks these sophisticated missiles will not penetrate their missile shield. Probably.
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