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The Russian Federation

Introduction: Russia inherited its arsenal from the Soviet Union, the second state to acquire nuclear weapons. The Soviet nuclear program was spurred by the success of the US nuclear program, and on August 29, 1949 Moscow conducted a nuclear weapon test of its own. On November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union conducted its first hydrogen bomb (fusion) test. The country acceded to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) in 1968.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, nuclear warheads remained on the territories of Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Under the terms of the Lisbon Protocol to the NPT these were transferred to Russia.


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By 2000, Russia issued a military doctrine whose main innovation was the concept of “de-escalation,” which is the idea that if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might response with a limited nuclear strike. This policy represented a reemergence of nuclear weapons’ importance in defense strategy after the tensions of the Cold War had decreased.

It is estimated that the Russian Federation possesses 1,582 strategic warheads deployed on 515 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers. The Federation of American Scientists estimates Russia has several thousand non-deployed strategic warheads and approximately 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads. An additional 3,700 are awaiting dismantlement.

In January 2015, a widening rift between Russia and the United States began to form. The US threatened retaliatory action for Russian development of a new cruise missile; the US states that Russia violated one of the key arms control treaties-the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty-of the cold war. The US has raised the possibility, in retaliation for this alleged breach, of redeploying its own cruise missiles in Europe after a 23-year absence. Russian submarines have been making trips across the Atlantic, carrying nuclear-capable cruise missiles. These actions coincide with Russia’s extensive upgrading of nuclear weapons, reflecting a renewed determination to keep pace with the US arsenal.

In 2015, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia was preparing to arm its nuclear weapons due o fear of attack at the height of the Ukraine crisis. Putin also revealed that as part of the operation to take control of the Crimean peninsula, Russia deployed K-300P bastion coastal defense missile as a military deterrent to the perceived threat of attack from the West.

On April 24, 2014, the Republic of the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit against Russia at the International Court of Justice for violation of customary international law regarding the obligation to negotiate for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament. The case is expected to last into at least 2016.


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