Deep-Strike Weapons and Strategic Stability

Russia and the Western powers agree that long-range conventional weapons are central to modern warfare but disagree as to whether such weapons are primarily defensive or primarily offensive. The United States and its allies have developed and deployed deep-strike weapons to counter, first, an armored assault by the Warsaw Pact against NATO and, later, an attack by nations such as Iraq and North Korea against Western friends in the Persian Gulf and East Asia. Russia, by contrast, claims to see such weapons as the cutting edge of a combined arms offensive, which would culminate in seizing and holding enemy territory. This disagreement about how deep-strike weapons are likely to be used heightens tension between Russia and the United States on nonproliferation policy and arms control and may be part of a gradual fissioning of the U.S.-Russian strategic relationship.

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