Academics and arms control wonks are poring over the painfully worded text of a new Russian policy, reading the tea leaves for insights into Russian nuclear strategy. But don’t mistake this new policy document for revelations of plans, or a disclosure on the nuances of Russian nuclear strategy. Declaratory policies should be taken for the contrived signaling documents that they are, seeking to deter with ambiguity.
On June 2nd Russia released the Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Sphere of Nuclear Deterrence. Characteristically, the long and awkwardly worded title preceded a brief six-page declaratory policy that is intentionally ambiguous on key considerations, substantiating a spectrum of nuclear employment options and strategies. True to its word, the policy offers some basic principles, wrapped in normative language to forearm Russian arms control negotiators, but its contents will not settle the debate on Russian nuclear strategy anytime soon.