Table of Contents

Entanglement, driven by the development of new non-nuclear technologies that can threaten nuclear weapons and their associated command, control, communication, and information (C3I) systems, is giving rise to the risk that a non-nuclear conflict—even a local one—between the great powers might escalate rapidly and unintentionally into a global nuclear war. This danger is underestimated by politicians and military experts—including in Russia—because of a deeply rooted idea about the nature of war as “a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means,”1 to quote the Prussian general and military strategist Carl von Clausewitz. This belief has led to a visceral assumption among contemporary Russian strategists that the decision to use force—including nuclear weapons—would be a rational step.

A corollary is that, since the great powers—Russia, the United States, and China—would inevitably sustain devastating damage in a nuclear war, none of them would consciously start one, making such a conflict extremely unlikely. This assessment is backed up by the apparent infallibility of mutual nuclear deterrence, and reaffirmed by calculations showing that neither the United States nor Russia could, by striking first in an effort to disarm its opponent, reduce the damage from retaliation to an acceptable level (whatever such a level might be). Russian military and political thinking largely ignores the possibility that the outbreak of a war may be unintended, the result of an uncontrolled escalation of a military action-reaction sequence.2 This may also be true of the new administration in the United States.

But as the history of wars has shown time and again, especially since 1945, a war between the great powers can arise not as the result of planned large-scale aggression but from a chain reaction of military operations by both sides that leads to the escalation of a crisis or regional war involving allies. In such situations, each side views itself as acting purely defensively, even if it carries out offensive actions, while believing that it is the enemy that has aggressive intentions or is reacting disproportionately.

In the Cold War, the superpowers managed to halt escalation before reaching the precipice of a direct conflict. In today’s more complex world order, this luck may one day run out.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 is a case in point: it was sheer luck that saved the world, at several points in this crisis, from a nuclear catastrophe, even though neither side wanted war and both feared its possibility. And, while this crisis may have been the most dangerous episode of the Cold War, it was not exceptional. Other crises and conflicts—including the Suez Crisis of 1956–1957, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, and the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars in the Middle East—also threatened to spiral out of control. In each of these cases, there was some risk of nuclear war because the Soviet Union and the United States were involved (to varying degrees).

In the Cold War, the superpowers managed to halt escalation before reaching the precipice of a direct conflict. In today’s more complex world order, this luck may one day run out, with terrible consequences, even though nuclear deterrence between Russia and the United States remains stable in the sense that neither can execute a disarming strike against the other.

Two trends give rise to this increased danger. The first is a general deterioration in international relations, including the tense militarized standoff over Syria and Ukraine between Russia on one hand and the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the other. This standoff encompasses a large region extending from the Mediterranean and Black Seas to the Baltic and Arctic regions. Tensions are also increasing in the Western Pacific between China and the United States and its allies—although they are presently less serious than in Europe.

The second trend is the development of new military technologies and exotic strategic concepts (such as “nuclear deescalation” and “limited strategic nuclear exchanges”). Of particular consequence is the development of new non-nuclear weapons that might be used in a conflict against an enemy’s nuclear arms, the bases at which those arms are deployed, and their associated command, control, communication, and information systems. Such entanglement erodes the traditional delineation between nuclear and non-nuclear arms, as well as between offensive and defensive systems, and creates the threat of a swift and unintended escalation of a local conventional armed collision between the great powers into a nuclear war.

More than a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, this combination of military and political factors has unexpectedly returned the threat of armed conflict—and even of nuclear war—between the great powers to the forefront of the international security agenda. Most worryingly of all, it is far from certain that today’s political and military leaders in Russia and the United States see this danger, for example, in Syria, Ukraine, or the Baltic region.

This chapter provides a Russian perspective on the risks stemming from entanglement. It is divided into three sections. First, relatively new Russian thinking about the concept of a large-scale war involving the use of “air-space weapons” is discussed. This concept is becoming central to Russia’s defense strategy and could exacerbate the escalation risks associated with entanglement. The second section focuses on Russian views about kinetic strikes by the United States against Russia’s nuclear forces and their C3I system using high-precision conventional weapons , as well as similar strikes by Russia against the United States. The third section discusses Russia’s capabilities for and thinking about threatening the United States’ satellites, which include crucial elements of its C3I system, as well as Russian views on analogous U.S. capabilities against Russian space assets. One common thread that runs through this analysis is the role of Russia’s new Air-Space Forces. Formed on August 1, 2015, from the merger of the Air-Space Defense Force and the Air Force, this new, unified element of Russia’s armed forces is responsible for both defending against an air-space attack and conducting airstrikes and space attack operations.3

One issue that is not discussed at any length here is cyber threats to nuclear weapons and their C3I systems. Given the high level of secrecy about these issues, it is impossible to say anything even remotely specific about the possible implications of cyber weapons for nuclear escalation risks. Moreover, because the command-and-control systems of strategic nuclear forces are isolated and highly protected, they are, in all probability, not vulnerable to cyber attacks. Radio channels for communicating with and controlling satellites—especially missile early-warning assets—are more vulnerable. Disabling these channels or using them to create false warning of a missile attack could spark an unintended nuclear war, especially while the United States and Russia both have in place plans and systems for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) upon warning of an incoming attack. (This danger may be exacerbated if long-range, high-precision hypersonic glide vehicles were deployed in the future because land-based radars could not confirm in a timely manner that an attack using such weapons was taking place, meaning ICBMs would have to be launched only upon receiving warning from satellites .) Because the consequences of cyber interference with C3I systems may include a spontaneous nuclear exchange, such an action is highly unlikely to be taken by any of the world’s great powers. It is more likely to be initiated by terrorists, or by rogue states in a crisis situation. The danger could be reduced by cooperation between the great powers in formulating a set of rules and procedures for detecting and exchanging information about, and jointly attributing the source of, cyber attacks.

Air-Space War

“Air-space war” is paradoxically one of the most important and widely discussed concepts in the Russian security discourse but, at the same time, one of the least defined aspects of the country’s contemporary strategic thinking. Russia’s current Military Doctrine states that the most important task of the military is to provide “timely warning to the commander in chief of the Russian armed forces of an air-space attack,” along with “guaranteeing the air-space defense of key sites in the Russian Federation and [ensuring] the readiness to repel an air-space attack.”4 The doctrine does not, however, define what an air-space attack is.

Similarly, professional military texts, which frequently discuss the theory of air-space warfare, do not provide a clear and precise definition of its aims and means. This absence does not, however, stop extensive explorations of the concept. Here is just one of numerous examples:

Analysis of the development of the military and political situation in the world shows that for now and in the near future, the main threat to the Russian Federation in terms of a potential strike against its strategic sites is an air-space attack. In fact, the level of the threat to Russia in the air-space theater will only grow . . . air-space itself will become the main and, at times, the only sphere of armed conflict, and military action in it will assume a crucial role and global scale. In these circumstances the enemy will get the opportunity to inflict coordinated, in time and space, high-precision strikes against virtually all targets on Russian territory, and indeed across the entire world.5 (Emphasis added.)

Against this background, Russian military and technical experts are currently engaged in efforts to elaborate strategies for fighting an air-space war. The following is an attempt to frame such an integrated doctrine by one of its main theoreticians, Colonel Yuri Krinitsky from the Military Air-Space Defense Academy: “The integration of aerial and space-based means of attack has transformed airspace and space into a specific field of armed conflict: an air-space theater of military operations. United, systematically organized actions of [U.S.] air-space power in this theater should be countered with united and systematically organized actions by the Russian Air-Space Defense Forces. This is required under the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation and Air-Space Defense Plan approved by the Russian president in 2006.”6 This document goes on to list the tasks of the Air-Space Defense Forces as “monitoring and reconnaissance of the air-space situation; identifying the beginning of an aerial, missile, or space attack; informing state organs and the military leadership of the Russian Federation about it; repelling air-space attacks; and defending command sites of the top levels of state and military command authorities, strategic nuclear forces’ groupings, and the elements of missile warning systems.”7

While picking apart in detail the organizational, operational, and technical aspects of the Air-Space Defense Forces (now part of the Air-Space Forces),8 military analysts step around the basic question of what constitutes “the means of air-space attack” (SVKN in Russian, MASA in English). This term and “air-space attack” are broadly used in official documents (including the Military Doctrine) and statements, as well as in the new names of military organizations (such as the Air-Space Forces), and in a seemingly infinite number of professional articles, books, and pamphlets.

If MASA refers to aircraft and cruise missiles, then what does space have to do with it? To be sure, various military communication and intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance satellites are based in space, but these assets also serve the Navy and Ground Forces without the word “space” tacked onto their names.

If MASA refers to long-range ballistic missiles, which have trajectories that pass mostly through space, then this threat is not new but has existed for more than sixty years. There was—and still is—no defense against a massive ballistic missile strike, and none is likely in the future in spite of U.S. and Russian efforts at missile defense. In the past (and possibly now), one of the possible tasks of ballistic missiles was to break “corridors” in the enemy’s air-defense system to enable bombers to penetrate it. But with ballistic missiles being armed with more warheads with improved accuracy, and with the advent of long-range air-launched cruise missiles, it is increasingly unnecessary for bombers to be able to penetrate enemy air defenses. Coordination between air and notional “space” systems has apparently moved to the background of strategic planning. Anyway, this tactic was never considered as air-space warfare before now.

MASA may be used in reference to potential hypersonic boost-glide weapons, which are discussed below. But their role and capabilities are not yet known, so it would clearly be premature to build the theory of air-space war on them, and even more so to start creating defenses against them. In any case, referring to those weapons as MASA is far-fetched: besides a short boost phase, their entire trajectory is in the upper atmosphere at speeds greater than airplanes but lower than ballistic missiles. It is, therefore, even less apt to describe such systems as space arms than it is to refer to traditional long-range ballistic missiles as such. Finally, as for theoretically possible space-based weapons that would conduct strikes against targets on the ground, at sea, and in the air, they do not yet exist, and their future viability is far from clear.

Even if the concept of air-space war is ill-defined, the military and technical experts who propound it reach a predictable conclusion with regard to the capabilities needed to fight one. They typically argue that Russia needs “to counter the air-space attack system with an air-space defense system. . . . A prospective system for destroying and suppressing MASA should be a synergy of anti-missile, anti-satellite, and air-defense missiles, and air units, and radio-electronic warfare forces. And its composition should be multilayered.”9

Such calls are being translated into policy. Most notably, the air-space defense program, for which the military’s top brass and industrial corporations lobbied, is the single largest component of the State Armaments Program through 2020, accounting for about 20 percent of all costs when the program was first announced in 2011—about 3.4 trillion rubles ($106 billion at the time).10 Along with the modernization of the missile early-warning system by the development and deployment of new Voronezh-type land-based radars and missile -launch detection satellites, the program envisages the deployment of twenty-eight missile regiments of S-400 Triumph air-defense systems (about 450 to 670 launchers), and thirty-eight battalions equipped with the next-generation S-500 Vityaz (recently renamed Prometey) systems (300 to 460 launchers).11 In total, the plan is to manufacture up to 3,000 missile interceptors of the two types, for which three new production plants were built. A new integrated and fully automatic command-and-control system is being created to facilitate operations by the Air-Space Defense Forces. The Moscow A-135 missile defense system (now renamed A-235) is being modernized with non-nuclear kinetic interceptors to engage incoming ballistic missiles (previously the interceptors were armed with nuclear warheads).12 The current Russian economic crisis, which has resulted in defense budget cuts in fiscal year 2017, may slow down the air-space armament programs and the scale of arms procurement, but the underlying momentum will be unaffected unless stopped or redirected by a major change in Russia’s defense posture.

The Russian strategy for air-space war is directly connected to the problem of entanglement.

In a sense, Russian policy may be explained by the visceral desire of the military to break out from the deadlock—the “strangulating effect”—of mutual assured nuclear destruction, which has made further arms development, high-technology competition, and supposedly fascinating global war scenarios senseless (indeed, it prompted U.S. and Soviet leaders of the 1970s and 1980s to agree that, as then U.S. president Ronald Reagan put it, “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”13) During the four decades of the Cold War, several generations of the Soviet military and defense industrial elite had learned and become accustomed to competing with the most powerful possible opponent, the United States, and such competition became their raison d’être. The end of the Cold War and of the nuclear arms race in the early 1990s deprived them of this supposedly glorious quest, and opposing rogue states and terrorists was not a noble substitute. U.S. and NATO operations in Yugoslavia and Iraq, however, provided a new high-technology challenge, defined in Russia as air-space warfare, which was eagerly embraced as a new and fascinating domain of seemingly endless competition with a worthy counterpart. Besides, this new dimension of warfare doubtless gave the military and associated defense industries an opportunity to impress political leadership with newly discovered esoteric and frightening threats, justifying the prioritization of national defense, and hence arms procurement programs and large defense budgets.

In any case, the Russian strategy for air-space war is directly connected to the problem of entanglement. Astonishingly—and this makes the concept look quite scholastic—its framers shed no light on the single most important question: Is the context for air-space war a global (or regional) nuclear war, or a non-nuclear war that pits Russia against the United States and NATO?

If it is the former, then in the event of the large-scale use of ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads (and in the absence of effective missile defense systems), the Russian Air-Space Forces would be unlikely to function effectively. Except for issuing warnings about incoming missile attacks, they would not be able to fulfill the tasks assigned to them by Russia’s Military Doctrine, including “repelling air-space attacks and defending command sites of the top levels of state and military administration, strategic nuclear forces’ units, and elements of missile warning systems.”14

Alternatively, if air-space war assumes a non-nuclear conflict, then the concept raises serious doubts of a different nature. Russian state and military leaders have regularly depicted terrifying scenarios of large-scale conflicts being won through non-nuclear means. Former deputy defense minister General Arkady Bakhin, for example, has described how “leading world powers are staking everything on winning supremacy in the air and in space, on carrying out massive air-space operations at the outbreak of hostilities, to conduct strikes against sites of strategic and vital importance all across the country.”15 It is difficult to imagine, however, that such a conflict, in reality, would not quickly escalate to a nuclear exchange, especially as strategic forces and their C3I systems were continually attacked by conventional munitions.

Right up until the mid-1980s, the military leadership of the USSR believed that a major war would likely begin in Europe with the early use by Warsaw Pact forces of hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons “as soon as [they] received information” that NATO was preparing to launch a nuclear strike.16 After that, Soviet armies would reach the English Channel and the Pyrenees in a few weeks, or massive nuclear strikes would be inflicted by the USSR and the United States on one another, and the war would be over in a few hours, or at most in a few days, with catastrophic consequences.17

After the end of the Cold War, the task of elaborating probable major war scenarios was practically shelved because such a war had become unthinkable in the new political environment. However, strategic thinking on the next high-technology global war apparently continued in secret (and probably not only in Russia). Now, at a time of renewed confrontation between Russia and the West, the fruits of that work are finally seeing the light of day. In all likelihood, the authors of the strategy imagine that over a relatively long period of time—days or weeks—the West would wage a campaign of air and missile strikes against Russia without using nuclear weapons. Russia, in turn, would defend against such attacks and carry out retaliatory strikes with long-range conventional weapons. Notably, in 2016 Russian Defense Minister Shoigu stated that “by 2021, it is planned to increase by four times the combat capabilities of the nation’s strategic non-nuclear forces, which will provide the possibility of fully implementing the tasks of non-nuclear deterrence.”18

In other words, the basic premise is that the U.S.-led campaigns against Yugoslavia in 1999 or Iraq in 1990 and 2003 (which are often cited by experts in this context) may be implemented against Russia—but with different results, thanks to the operations of the Russian Air-Space Forces, the Strategic Rocket Forces, and the Navy against the United States and its allies.

The emphasis on defensive and offensive strategic non-nuclear arms does not exclude, but—on the contrary—implies the limited use of nuclear weapons at some point of the armed conflict. Sergei Sukhanov, one of the most authoritative representatives of the defense industries as the constructor general of the Vympel Corporation, which is responsible for designing strategic defense systems, has exposed the whole panorama of Russia’s contemporary strategic logic on the interactions between offensive and defensive systems and between nuclear and non-nuclear systems:

If we cannot exclude the possibility of the large-scale use of air-space attacks by the U.S. and other NATO countries (i.e., if we accept that the Yugoslavian strategy might be applied against Russia), then it is clearly impossible to solve the problem by fighting off air-space attacks with weapons that would neutralize them in the air-space theater, since this would require the creation of highly effective air- and missile defense systems across the country. Therefore, the strategy for solving the air-space defense tasks faced in this eventuality should be based on deterring the enemy from large-scale air-space attacks by implementing an operation of nuclear deterrence at a scale that would avoid escalation but force the enemy to refrain from further air-space attack.19 (Emphasis added.)

In other words, because of the inevitable limitations in Russia’s ability to defend against air-space attacks, Sukhanov argues that Russia may have to resort to the limited use of nuclear weapons in order to compel the United States and its allies into backing down. This basic logic is widely accepted in Russia.

Judging by the available information, the United States does not have—and is not expected to have for the foreseeable future—the technological means or the operational plans to wage non-nuclear air-space warfare against Russia. However, the fact that a major war with the United States and NATO is seen in contemporary Russian strategic thinking as a prolonged endeavor involving an integrated technological and operational continuum of nuclear and non-nuclear operations, defensive and offensive capabilities, and ballistic and aerodynamic weapons creates a breeding ground for entanglement. The result could be the rapid escalation of a local non-nuclear conflict to a global nuclear war. The remainder of this chapter discusses how new and emerging military technologies might contribute to such an escalation.

Non-nuclear Strategic Arms and Entanglement

The first and most likely type of entanglement would be interactions between tactical nuclear weapons and non-nuclear arms. There is a risk that tactical nuclear weapons might accidentally be attacked in a conventional conflict because their delivery vehicles are collocated at bases with—and can be used together with—general-purpose forces and weapons. Moreover, they employ dual-use delivery vehicles operated by the Navy, Air Force, and Ground Forces (these include the Iskander and Tochka land-based missile systems operated by the Ground Forces, the Navy’s Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles, and the Navy’s and Air Force’s medium bombers and tactical strike aircraft). In addition, command posts and storage depots for tactical nuclear weapons at naval and air force bases, in particular, could be targets for deliberate strikes by non-nuclear attack systems.

The first and most likely type of entanglement would be interactions between tactical nuclear weapons and non-nuclear arms.

Conversely, of course, tactical nuclear weapons could be used to strike non-nuclear targets. Tactical nuclear arms may be effectively used against concentrations of ground force units and their bases, as well as against airfields, naval bases, submarines, and surface ships. Such use could provoke nuclear retaliation against naval bases and airfields. Moreover, land-based Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad region are openly advertised in Russia as weapons that can be used with nuclear or conventional warheads to attack U.S. ballistic missile defense installations in Europe, in particular the launchers for Standard Missile-3 interceptors and their associated radars in Poland (often referred to as Aegis Ashore).20 This danger is particularly great in light of new strategic concepts, developed by both Russia and NATO, for the early use of nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear conflict aimed at deescalating it.21 Such use could, in fact, have the opposite effect, triggering a rapid escalation with devastating consequences.

A large volume of scientific and political analysis has been devoted to the topic of tactical nuclear arms, however. For the remainder of this analysis, the problem of entanglement is viewed primarily in relation to strategic offensive and defensive weapon systems and their C3I complexes.

Limited strategic strikes (that is, limited strikes with ICBMs, sea-launched ballistic missiles, or heavy bombers, most likely against the U.S. homeland) in response to non-nuclear threats represent another form of entanglement. Russia’s Military Doctrine reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to “aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of non-nuclear weapons, when the state’s existence is put under threat,” but (like the doctrines of other nuclear-armed states) it does not specify either the meaning of “the state’s existence” or the scale of such nuclear weapons use.22 Presently, limited strategic nuclear strikes are not publicly mentioned in official Russian or U.S. documents in relation to this subject. Still, some information has leaked through the writings of professional military experts at think tanks associated with the Ministry of Defense. For example, a group of such Russian experts points out that

the main peculiarity is the limited nature of the initial nuclear impact, which is designed not to embitter, but to sober the aggressor, making it stop the attack and get down to negotiations. In the absence of such reaction it is envisioned to escalate the massiveness of nuclear weapons employment in numbers and yield. Hence, it is assumed that the first nuclear use by the Russian Federation is limited. The opponent’s reaction is calculated both as a massive and as a limited nuclear strike. The second in our view looks more probable. After all, it was the United States where the concept of a limited nuclear war was born.23

There are some reasons to suppose that analogous thinking is elaborated in the U.S. strategic community, which has adopted the concept of “tailored nuclear options for limited use.”24

Such concepts are as artificial as they are dangerous. If presented in a crisis to a cocky, inexperienced, and strategically ignorant leader, they might turn into a recipe for disaster. Together with the revived concepts of using tactical nuclear arms for deescalation in a local, conventional war between Russia and NATO, they are the most dangerous innovation in contemporary military strategies, creating a high probability of catastrophic entanglement.

An enduring notion has formed in the Russian leadership, and to a large extent within the expert community, about the real possibility that a massive, disarming strike using non-nuclear high-precision weapons could be conducted against key sites of Russia’s military nuclear infrastructure. This is an element of the air-space warfare mentality discussed above.

These concerns have even been voiced by President Vladimir Putin. During a speech at the Valdai Discussion Club in 2015, he stated: “A strategy already exists for a so-called first disarming strike, including with the use of long-range, high-precision non-nuclear weapons, the effect of which may be compared to that of nuclear arms.”25 A year earlier, the president had also talked about this concern when discussing a potential reduction in nuclear arms: “Today, the capacities of many kinds of high-precision [non-nuclear] weapons are already close to those of weapons of mass destruction, and in the event that nuclear weapons are given up completely or significantly reduced, countries that are the leaders in creating and manufacturing high-precision systems will have a clear military advantage.”26

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has made comments along similar lines, saying that a strike with high-precision conventional weapons could destroy 90 percent of Russia’s strategic forces in several hours.27 Meanwhile, Pavel Sozinov, the constructor general of the military-industrial Almaz-Antey corporation, which designs and manufactures air-defense systems, has spelled out this threat in more detail: “The main threat now is the massive use of cruise missiles early on in a strike. . . . Under the U.S. rearmament program, primarily for its sea-based forces, the country will in 2015–2016 have about 6,500–7,000 cruise missiles that could be used against key sites in the Russian Federation, and about 5,000 of those will be launched from the sea. . . . Such a massive use of cruise missiles during the first phase of military action could inflict colossal damage on Russia’s strategic nuclear sites.”28

U.S. and Russian Capabilities

U.S. subsonic cruise missiles: Currently, the United States is the clear leader in terms of the quality and quantity of its high-precision non-nuclear cruise missiles. The U.S. Navy alone has more than 600 Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles deployed on four Ohio-class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines, each carrying 154 missiles; twenty-five Virginia- and Seawolf-class attack submarines carrying a total of 500 missiles; and twenty-two Ticonderoga-class cruisers and sixty-two Arleigh Burke–class destroyers, which together carry about 4,560 missiles. In total, according to unconfirmed reports, by 2020 the United States could deploy about 6,300 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Work on improving this type of weapon continues. In 2014, for example, the U.S. Air Force announced the adoption of a new type of air-to-surface cruise missile, the AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range, commonly known as JASSM-ER.29

Russian subsonic cruise missiles: Faced with this reality, Russia is striving to dramatically increase its arsenal of high-precision cruise missiles. Currently, long-range missiles are in use that can be fitted with both nuclear and non-nuclear warheads, including the Kh-55SM missile, various modifications of the Kalibr missile, and the new Kh-101/102 air-launched cruise missiles. Public information about the total number of cruise missiles manufactured in Russia is not available. However, in 2013, Sergei Shoigu did announce that the number of cruise missiles in service of the Russian armed forces would increase fivefold by 2016, and thirtyfold by 2020.30 In 2014, the refitting of the Admiral Nakhimov nuclear-powered heavy cruiser began with the goal of turning it into the first Russian ship equipped with long-range high-precision cruise missiles. This move suggests that Russia is seeking to implement the strategy of developing a non-nuclear strategic deterrent, as envisaged by the new version of Russia’s Military Doctrine that was approved in December 2014.31 Regardless of the extent to which these proposed plans are actually implemented because of the current economic crisis, there are obvious signs of an arms race in this area .

The term “hypersonic weapons” generally incorporates two different technologies: hypersonic cruise missiles and boost-glide weapons. The former are being developed by a number of countries, including Russia and the United States, which has recently tested the prototype X-51A.

Hypersonic boost-glide weapons, which can travel over much longer ranges and at much higher speeds than hypersonic cruise missiles, are more significant from a strategic perspective. They are being developed and tested primarily in China, Russia, and the United States. These missiles are being designed to carry out high-precision strikes on various targets in a considerably shorter time period than existing subsonic cruise missiles.

U.S. boost-glide weapons: In the last decade, the United States has conducted flight tests of two intercontinental hypersonic boost-glide vehicles. One set of tests involved the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) glider, which Lockheed Martin began developing in 2003 and was intended to have a global range. This glider was tested twice, in 2010 and 2011. In both cases, the test was terminated prematurely after less than three minutes of aerodynamic flight due to different problems. Although this program has not been terminated entirely, it is now funded at a very low level, and no more flight tests are currently planned.

The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) program has seen more success. This glider is intended to have a range of about 8,000 kilometers (almost 5,000 miles) and has been tested twice. The U.S. Department of Defense has stated that the first test, in 2011 over a distance of 3,800 kilometers, was successful. A second test over a longer distance in 2013 failed before aerodynamic flight was even achieved because of a booster failure. Further flight tests of this system are expected. To date, the U.S. Department of Defense has not announced any plans for deploying the system.

Soviet and Russian boost-glide weapons: The first Russian development efforts and flight tests of hypersonic systems took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s, probably under the Albatross project (later reports have assigned this project the code name 4202). The start of intensive work in this area, as in many others, was prompted by the American Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), announced by Reagan in 1983. SDI envisaged a multilayered ballistic missile defense system consisting of space-, air-, sea-, and land-based components to defend against a massive Soviet ballistic missile attack.

In response to the SDI, the Soviet Union undertook a series of symmetrical and asymmetrical countermeasures. The Albatross project belonged to the latter group. The details of this project remain secret, although information about various versions of the system has recently begun to leak to the Russian media.32

According to that information, in 1987, the development of an actual missile system was begun by the Machine-Building Scientific Manufacturing Center after a government decree. In theory, the system was intended to use a liquid-fueled UR-100N UTTKh (SS-19) intercontinental ballistic missile to boost a hypersonic glide vehicle into space, after which it would turn back and accelerate toward the earth before gliding, initially at an altitude of 80 to 90 kilometers (roughly 50 to 55 miles), over intercontinental distances at hypersonic speeds. The glider, armed with a nuclear weapon, would make rapid cross-range maneuvers to evade U.S. missile defenses. The first Albatross flight tests were reportedly conducted in 1991 and 1992.33 According to media reports, further tests have taken place since 2001. These tests reportedly involved UR-100N (SS-19) missiles, launched from silos, the doors of which could not be closed because of the size of the glide vehicle. Various plans to deploy hypersonic glide vehicles on three-stage solid-propellant missiles—including the Universal ICBM (which was scrapped during the development phase) and the Topol-M (SS-27) ICBM—were developed but did not materialize. More recently, it has been reported that glide vehicles could be deployed on the next generation Sarmat RS-28 liquid-fueled heavy ICBM.34

Contrary to some descriptions, maneuvering to evade ground-based missile defense systems was probably not the main purpose of the Albatross glider, especially since its speed decreased significantly while descending through the atmosphere, rendering it vulnerable to interception even by U.S. Patriot anti-aircraft missiles. Instead, the flight trajectory was probably intended to reduce the likelihood of the reentry vehicle being intercepted by the space-based missile defense systems envisaged by SDI.

At present, there is no available information about how the gliders developed under the Albatross project attempt to defeat ground-based missile defenses while they are decelerating during the terminal phase of their trajectory. Judging by the information available from open sources, it is also not clear whether Russian hypersonic boost-glide weapons will be fitted with conventional warheads for the conventional deterrent purposes mentioned in Russia’s Military Doctrine,35 or with nuclear warheads. If the latter, the primary purpose of these weapons would be to ensure that a limited strike—perhaps even just one weapon—could penetrate any future U.S. missile defense system.36

The Effectiveness of Non-nuclear Disarming Strikes

This threat of a non-nuclear disarming strike is a central topic of discussion among Russian experts and government officials. The key bone of contention is whether the United States might attempt a massive conventional counterforce attack against Russia (which would inevitably be less effective than a nuclear counterforce strike), assuming that Moscow would be reluctant to respond with nuclear weapons given the certainty of follow-on nuclear retaliation by the United States. A particular issue of concern is that Russia’s emphasis on the threat of a conventional disarming strike could be perceived in the United States as evidence of Moscow’s unwillingness to use nuclear arms to counter such a strike, prompting the United States to start precisely this kind of conventional air campaign to attain escalation dominance in a local or regional conflict.

In reality, however, and in contrast to such strategic calculations, Moscow might retaliate early with a limited strategic nuclear strike in the event that the United States launched a conventional counterforce operation against Russia’s nuclear forces (in accordance with Russia’s launch-under-attack doctrine). Alternatively, Moscow might even preempt the United States with selective strategic nuclear strikes to thwart U.S. naval and air forces that were engaged in a conventional conflict and perceived as conducting a conventional counterforce offensive by launching attacks against airfields, naval bases, and their C3I facilities. In the latter case, Moscow would count on the United States’ responding selectively with “tailored strategic options” even after nuclear explosions had occurred on its territory. In reality, the U.S. response might be a large-scale nuclear attack against Russia, provoking a massive nuclear exchange. In any case, the more concerned that Moscow is about the survivability of its nuclear forces, the more likely escalation becomes.

Moscow might retaliate early with a limited strategic nuclear strike in the event that the United States launched a conventional counterforce operation against Russia’s nuclear forces.

Targets for a non-nuclear disarming strike might include super-hardened command centers at various echelons, ICBM silos, light shelters for land-based mobile missiles, exposed mobile ICBM launchers in the field, ballistic missile submarines at their bases, heavy bombers at main and reserve airfields, communication sites on land, early-warning radars, command centers for the missile early-warning system, and storage depots for nuclear weapons.

The vulnerability of these targets depends on how well they are defended and concealed, and on the effectiveness of countermeasures against incoming weapons. Early-warning radars, light shelters for mobile ICBM launchers, missile submarines at their bases, and heavy bombers at airfields, as well as C3I centers and sites that are not deeply buried, can be incapacitated relatively easily if the attacking weapons have sufficient range and good targeting.

In the event of a local or regional conventional conflict between Russia and NATO in Eastern Europe or the Arctic, airstrikes and cruise missile attacks against these sites would most likely cause rapid escalation to a nuclear war. In particular, early U.S. strikes against such targets might not be deliberate since Russian strategic submarines and bombers are kept at the same bases as general-purpose naval vessels and aircraft, and strikes designed to target the latter might inadvertently destroy the former. Unlike the logic that may be behind Chinese policies, the co-location of nuclear and general-purpose forces in the USSR and now in Russia was and is prompted by economic and administrative considerations, not by the strategic goal of trying to deter U.S. non-nuclear strikes against Russian general-purpose forces through the threat of nuclear escalation.

The interception of heavy and medium dual-use bombers in flight during a conventional conflict also makes entanglement virtually inevitable. These bombers might take part in conventional missions, but might also be sent out on patrol with nuclear weapons to decrease their vulnerability in case the conflict escalates. If these aircraft were destroyed while carrying nuclear weapons, there would be a real risk of escalation. A similar risk could arise from conventional threats to Russian nuclear-armed ballistic and cruise missile submarines in the Arctic, North Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.

There is more of a debate in Russia about the vulnerability of hardened sites, such as ICBM silos. While the official position is that such sites could be threatened by non-nuclear weapons, some analysts, including professionals from Ministry of Defense institutes, disagree. For example, in one article, the possibility of an effective disarming strike against ICBM silos using subsonic cruise missiles with non-nuclear warheads is dismissed on the following grounds:37

  • The destructive power of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons in a strike against hardened point sites is incomparable, which means a large number of non-nuclear weapons would have to be used.
  • The possibility of jamming cruise missile guidance systems, hence rendering the missiles less effective, would increase this number even further and require an aggressor to amass a very large number of cruise missiles and their delivery platforms.
  • It would be extremely difficult to plan simultaneous strikes of this nature against several hundred targets located across Russia’s vast territory (since missiles launched from different locations would almost inevitably reach their targets at different times, Russia would have the opportunity to launch at least some nuclear weapons before they were destroyed).
  • It would be necessary to assess the results of strikes, and repeat them if necessary.
  • An operation using cruise missiles would be impossible to implement in one attack wave, or even in one day, which would give Russia an opportunity to retaliate during the course of attack.
  • It would take a long time to generate the required forces for this operation. Such preparations would be impossible to conceal, giving Russia time to put its nuclear arms, early-warning systems, and command systems on high alert.

The authors cite calculations of the effectiveness of simultaneous attacks by cruise missiles against Russian ICBM silos in the deployment area of Tatishchevo (which could be reached by cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea), where about 90 silos are located. To be 95 percent certain of hitting just one silo would require 14 cruise missiles with an accuracy (circular error probable) of 5 meters. An accuracy of 8 meters would require 35 missiles, which would imply using altogether 3,150 cruise missiles against just one deployment area. Moreover, many other ICBM basing areas are simply out of range for sea-launched cruise missiles. The United States does not have the number of cruise missiles needed to carry out simultaneous attacks against all such targets, and will not for the foreseeable future.

Russia seeks to use defensive systems and offensive nonnuclear arms to postpone the need for nuclear retaliation at least during an initial phase of the air-space war.

In fact, there are many other measures that could be taken to counter attacks by cruise missiles: the location of mobile ICBM launchers could be changed frequently during high-risk periods; decoy targets that are superficially similar to real ICBM launchers could be deployed; strategic missile submarines could be sent to sea and protected by other naval forces; bombers could be dispersed and placed on strip or airborne alert; fixed strategic sites could be defended with highly effective Pantzir-S2 close-range anti-aircraft gun and missile complexes, as well as by other air- and missile defense systems.

The ineffectiveness of an attempted disarming strike by the United States with cruise missiles—as well as its lack of the required number of missiles—casts doubt on the validity of the concerns held by Russia’s leadership. These concerns may, however, be motivated by doubts about whether it is possible for Russia to deter such a strike with the threat of a massive nuclear response; after all, such a response would certainly invite massive nuclear retaliation by the United States. As a result, Moscow’s concerns about conventional counterforce remain unabated, and it has placed a heavy emphasis on air- space defense, conventional deterrence, and limited nuclear strike options, which, it is hoped, would not provoke massive nuclear retaliation by the United States, but would instead make Washington stop fighting and start negotiating.

The Russian strategy for deterring a counterforce strike with cruise missiles does not, therefore, rely on the threat of rapid nuclear escalation (which is possibly China’s approach). Instead, Russia seeks to use defensive systems and offensive non-nuclear arms to postpone the need for nuclear retaliation at least during an initial phase of the air-space war—at any rate, this is what the Air-Space Forces’ doctrine assumes. In practice, however, a real conflict might develop quite differently from how Russia hopes it would. In particular, if Russia were to conduct a limited nuclear strike against the United States at some stage, it is very unclear whether the United States’ nuclear response would be limited.

Looking forward, Russia’s leadership worries about the potential for hypersonic weapons to contribute to conventional counterforce. The likelihood of a counterforce attack by the United States using non-nuclear hypersonic systems also seems low in both political and military terms, considering the high risk of a retaliatory nuclear strike by Russia. Nonetheless, from a purely technical perspective, hypersonic weapons would have certain advantages for counterforce compared to existing weapons.

Hypersonic cruise missiles being developed in Russia and the United States would travel at much higher speeds than existing cruise missiles. Although they can be detected at quite long distances because of the altitude at which they travel, their speed makes it more difficult for both anti-aircraft systems and air-defense fighters to intercept them.

The main potential threat to strategic targets, however, comes from boost-glide weapons. Boost-glide systems could solve or alleviate some of the challenges associated with the use of existing subsonic cruise missiles:

  • Deploying intercontinental gliders in the United States would significantly reduce the time required to prepare for an attack, and make such preparations less noticeable by Russia.
  • Boost-glide weapons could reach their targets much more quickly than existing cruise missiles (in forty to sixty minutes for boost-glide weapons launched from the continental United States compared to two to two -and -a -half -hours for subsonic cruise missiles launched by aircraft and submarines in their forward launch positions. The duration of the first attack wave would also be much shorter.
  • Fewer missiles would be required since the defender’s ability to intercept them would be reduced.

Boost-glide weapons could also have certain advantages over ballistic missiles. To be sure, modern strategic land- and sea-based ballistic missiles, all of which are currently armed with nuclear warheads, travel at higher average speeds than boost-glide weapons and have shorter flight times. Moreover, there is no protection from a massive ballistic missile attack. However, boost-glide weapons have the potential to be much more accurate. Ballistic missiles use inertial guidance (supplemented by a celestial navigation system in some weapons), which typically gives them an accuracy of 100–200 meters—all that is required given they are armed with nuclear warheads. Boost-glide weapons, by contrast, are likely to utilize external navigation signals (such as those generated by the Global Positioning System), and could also have terminal homing capability (such as terrain mapping).

Even more importantly, there are key differences in the trajectories between ballistic missiles and boost-glide weapons. The trajectories of ballistic missiles are predictable and observable. Their launch can be detected by early-warning satellites in the first few minutes of their flight. Their trajectory can then be confirmed by missile early-warning radars ten to fifteen minutes before the impact of their warheads. In theory at least, these characteristics give the opponent’s missile defense system the chance to intercept the incoming missiles in the middle or at the end of their trajectories. More plausibly, they give the opponent the opportunity to carry out a retaliatory strike before the aggressor’s warheads detonate.

The launch of boost-glide weapons could, like ballistic missiles, be detected by satellites. However, they then enter the atmosphere and fly at much lower altitudes than ICBMs or sea-launched ballistic missiles at hypersonic speeds along unpredictable trajectories. Because of the altitude at which they fly, boost-glide weapons would be largely invisible to missile early-warning radars, leading to much-reduced warning times. Missile early-warning radars might only detect incoming boost-glide weapons three or four minutes before impact, while anti-aircraft defense radars might detect them less than three minutes before their impact.38

To detect such strikes with enough time to track and intercept them, Russia would have to dramatically modify its early-warning and command-and-control systems, and deploy new interceptors—such as the S-500 and Pantzir-S2 air-defense systems—in significant numbers, which would come with a large price tag.

Although there would be significant challenges to detecting and intercepting boost-glide weapons, it is questionable whether they would be accurate enough, if armed with non-nuclear warheads, to destroy hardened ICBM silos and command centers. Meanwhile, attacking land-based mobile systems would require course correction at the final stage of the incoming missile’s trajectory. If the required information was obtained though satellites or aircraft, it would create a vulnerability the defender could exploit by, for example, radio-electronic warfare to interfere with satellite signals. Alternatively, autonomous terminal homing would probably require a boost-glide weapon to decelerate sharply, giving the defender an opportunity to physically intercept it.

Finally, it is unclear whether the United States will manufacture boost-glide missiles, which would be expensive, in large enough quantities (in the hundreds) to present a threat to Russia’s strategic deterrent. Some Russian experts argue that such missiles, even in a limited quantity, could be used to hit crucial command centers in the Moscow region and other locations housing national leadership. Such concerns are unfounded, however, since Russia’s redundant command-and-control system for its strategic nuclear forces would be very hard to destroy. In fact, some command centers are hardened so they could withstand even a direct nuclear impact—never mind strikes by high-precision conventional warheads.

That said, military and civilian defense officials in Russia are obliged to consider a worst-case scenario. In particular, the trajectory of a boost-glide weapon could make it difficult to launch ICBMs under attack (launch-under-attack is still Russia’s main—but not exclusive—operational concept for a large-scale nuclear war and the main criterion for assessing the sufficiency of its strategic forces). Ground-based radars would only detect an incoming glider late in flight—too late, in fact, to launch ICBMs before they were hit. As a result, a launch-under-attack option would have to be executed exclusively on the basis of satellites’ detecting the launch of boost-glide weapons, without confirmation of an attack from ground-based radars.

Incidentally, an attack by boost-glide weapons against Russia’s strategic forces would be still more effective if the gliders were armed with nuclear warheads. For this reason, Moscow is seriously suspicious that U.S. boost-glide systems will be nuclear armed, although this concept has not been openly discussed in the United States since the end of the Cold War. That said, however boost-glide weapons are armed, their introduction—and the threat they would pose to Russia’s nuclear forces—would significantly increase the likelihood of a nuclear war resulting from a false alarm by early-warning satellites. This danger is probably the biggest risk created by entanglement involving boost-glide weapons.

Russia is responding to the threat posed by hypersonic weapons. The S-500 air-defense complexes (which are under development) are designed precisely to protect strategic nuclear sites from future hypersonic cruise missiles and boost-glide weapons. To this end, they are due to be integrated into a unified C3I system with both space- and land-based missile early-warning assets. To protect Russia’s military and political leadership from ballistic missiles and non-nuclear boost-glide weapons, Russia is modernizing the Moscow A-135 missile defense system as well as deploying the S-400 and, in the future, S-500 air-defense systems.

Non-nuclear hit-to-kill ballistic missile defenses exacerbate Moscow’s concerns about U.S. non-nuclear offensive systems. The most simplistic logic postulates that the United States would count on destroying the bulk of Russian strategic forces—90 percent, according to Rogozin, as noted above—through a conventional counterforce operation. The remainder—50 to 60 missiles, if 10 percent of the force survived—would be intercepted by U.S. and allied ballistic missile defenses deployed in Europe, Asia, Alaska, California, and, in the future, a possible site in the northeastern United States. At present, the number of U.S. interceptors is estimated in Russia at more than 300, including Ground-Based Interceptors in the United States, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system interceptors at various locations across the globe, and Standard Missile-3 interceptors in Europe and on ships. By 2020, their number is projected to stand at more than 1,000.39 A more sophisticated concern is that even though the U.S. missile defense system would be unable to stop a massive missile attack by Russia, it would be capable of thwarting selective or limited strategic strikes, which are envisioned as Russia’s answer to conventional air-space aggression. Future Russian conventional or nuclear boost-glide systems are considered as a potential means to penetrate such defenses, thus further blurring the line between conventional and nuclear warfare and aggravating the threat of entanglement.

At the moment, Russia’s capability to launch nonnuclear strikes against U.S. strategic sites lags far behind the United States’ ability to target equivalent Russian sites with non-nuclear means.

At the moment, Russia’s capability to launch non-nuclear strikes against U.S. strategic sites lags far behind the United States’ ability to target equivalent Russian sites with non-nuclear means. Russian capabilities mainly affect U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, and in particular targets such as depots of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, missile defense components (including radars and launchers), key industrial sites, and possibly British and French strategic forces (specifically submarines and aircraft at their bases).

It would be difficult for Russian heavy bombers, nuclear-powered attack submarines, and ships, which are the delivery platforms for high-precision conventional cruise missiles, to break through the defenses of the United States and its allies—though selective strikes are feasible against radars in Britain, Greenland, and Alaska that provide both warning of a missile attack and support for ballistic missile defense operations, as well as against some other strategic sites. Russia would have a greater chance of inflicting damage with potential hypersonic systems. If these systems were to be equipped with non-nuclear warheads, the result could be entanglement that could trigger escalation of a conflict to nuclear war.

Anti-space Weapons and Entanglement

In addition to high-precision conventional attacks against an opponent’s nuclear forces on land and at sea, along with their supporting infrastructure, the biggest threat of entanglement would come from the use, during a local or large-scale conventional war, of anti-satellite weapons equipped with non-nuclear warheads against satellites that are a crucial part of the opponent’s strategic C3I system.

Military satellites operate at all types of orbit. About 25 percent of them (including many intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance satellites) are located in low-earth orbit, while another 20 percent (including the satellites involved in navigation) occupy medium-earth orbit. The remaining 55 percent, which include early-warning and strategic communication satellites, operate in highly elliptical and geostationary orbits. The vast majority of defense spacecraft belong to the United States; funding for its military space program significantly exceeds that of all the other countries with such programs combined.40

Space systems have become an integral part of the combat capability of the armed forces of the world’s most powerful countries. Without them, military action by those countries would be virtually impossible or at least ineffective in today’s world. The space-based capabilities that make the biggest contribution to the effectiveness of military action are information and communication systems.

U.S. and Russian Capabilities

U.S. anti-satellite programs: The United States began serious work into anti-satellite technology in 1957. From 1963, nuclear-armed interceptors, based initially on the Nike-Zeus missile and then the Thor missile, were placed on alert on two Pacific islands. In 1974, these interceptors were withdrawn from service and mothballed.

In 1977, the United States reinvigorated its anti-satellite weapon efforts, including by developing the Miniature Air-Launched System (MALS). This missile, launched by an F-15 fighter, would carry a miniature homing vehicle designed to destroy a satellite kinetically up to an altitude of about 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles). In 1984–1986, this system underwent flight tests that included one test against a physical target in space. Russia anticipated that the United States planned to use the system to hit up to three satellites operating in low-earth orbit in twenty-four to thirty-six hours. In 1988, the MALS program was canceled. Moscow believes that preparing the system for use today would take several months.

In 1989, efforts to develop a ground-based anti-satellite system, the Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite program, were initiated. It was described as “ecologically friendly” because it was designed to minimize the risks associated with orbital debris. Russia believed that this system was intended to destroy all low-earth orbit military satellites within a week. This system was never deployed, even though the United States manufactured three kill vehicles, and funding eventually fizzled out in the early 2000s.

The United States also experimented with using a ground-based laser, the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser based at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, as an anti-satellite weapon. In October 1997, it was used in a test that reportedly damaged the sensor of a satellite operating at an altitude of 420 kilometers (about 260 miles).41

Interest in anti-satellite technologies was renewed during the administration of then president George W. Bush. Funding was provided to develop lightweight lasers, including for potential deployment in space. Moreover, U.S. missile defense efforts, which were scaled up significantly during that administration, have provided the United States with a significant anti-satellite capability—even if Washington has not acknowledged that such efforts are being pursued, at least in part, for this reason. The Airborne Laser, for example, which consisted of a powerful laser mounted on a Boeing 747 aircraft and was designed to intercept ballistic missiles during their boost-phase, could be used to attack satellites in low-earth orbit. This system was tested successfully against ballistic missiles on various occasions, and although it was cancelled in 2011, there has been some talk of its revival. From the perspective of anti-satellite operations, the most significant U.S. missile defense capability is the Standard Missile-3 interceptor, which is deployed on various U.S. Navy ships as part of the Aegis ballistic-missile defense (BMD) system. In 2008, one of these missiles was actually used to destroy a nonresponsive U.S. satellite in a decaying orbit, which U.S. officials claimed posed a threat to humans on the Earth’s surface.

Soviet and Russian anti-satellite programs: The destruction of an opponent’s space systems was seen in the Soviet Union as an entirely natural and legitimate aspect of a possible global nuclear war from as early as the 1960s.42 To this end, radio-electronic jamming systems and interceptors were developed as and when permitted by technology and financing.

The Soviet Union’s most important program was a ground-based, missile-launched co-orbital “satellite killer” designed to destroy satellites in low-earth orbit kinetically. The key elements of this system were in place by 1967, and the first successful interception was conducted on November 1, 1968. Field testing of this system, which was capable of destroying satellites at altitudes of between 250 and 1,000 kilometers (about 150 to 600 miles), began in February 1973 at the Baikonur space launch facility. After further development, including an increase in its interception range, the weapon entered service in 1978 with the designation IS-M.

In April 1980, the Soviet Union restarted testing of this anti-satellite system with the updated designation IS-MU. More than twenty full-scale experiments were carried out, of which one-quarter involved physical targets. The final test was conducted on June 18, 1982.43 The IS-MU remained in service until 1993, when then Russian president Boris Yeltsin ordered it to be withdrawn from service.44 This complex was designed to intercept enemy satellites less than one orbital revolution after its launch, which would prevent the United States from tracking it using ground stations and thus taking evasive actions. The biggest threat it posed was to U.S. KH-11-type reconnaissance satellites.45

The Soviet Union conducted work on other anti-satellite systems, too. The Kontakt air-launched missile system, which would have been carried by a MiG-31 fighter-interceptor and was similar to the U.S. MALS, was under development until the early 1990s. Funding ran out, however, before tests could be completed. This system would have enabled the interception of all low-Earth-orbit satellites flying over central Russia.

In August 1983, the Soviet Union pledged not to deploy any kinds of weapons in space first, “so long as other states refrain from deploying any kinds of anti-satellite weapons in space.”46 However, this did not stop its most ambitious research and development projects: the Kaskad and Skif orbital anti-satellite stations armed with missiles and lasers. The decision to develop them was taken in the late 1970s. Flight tests of the anti-satellite missiles were planned for 1985–1986, but were never carried out (probably because of then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s objections on political and economic grounds), and the orbital stations were never deployed.

Major Soviet efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons were reinvigorated in the early 1980s in response to the Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1985, all Soviet strategic development programs were refocused on countering U.S. space-based ballistic missile defense systems, including by developing capabilities to attack those systems directly (as well as by improving offensive missiles’ penetration capabilities and developing analogous Soviet space-based defenses).47 Soviet responses included, in particular, the SK-1000 “multi-purpose military space systems” program, which involved more than twenty research and development projects focusing on space strike systems, and about the same number devoted to space- and land-based information support systems. One of these projects, the Naryad-V, which aimed to develop an anti-satellite interceptor carried by UR-100N and UR-100UTTKh (SS-19) ballistic missiles launched from silos, was terminated halfway through the flight tests.

The first decade of the new century saw a renewed interest in space arms, prompted by the Bush administration’s military space programs and its uncompromising position on the militarization of space, including its refusal to discuss any proposals to limit space weapons. Given the traditional and increasing opacity of military plans and programs in Russia, the progress of recent efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons can only be judged using data from independent sources—with the important exception of a 2009 interview with then deputy defense minister General Vladimir Popovkin.48 It represents the last occasion on which official information on this subject was made available.

Popovkin said that in order “not to complicate global politics,” Russia was adhering to a “Lego” principle, in which separate parts of anti-satellite weapons were being developed and improved, but would only be assembled into combat systems when a clear enemy threat emerged. Popovkin also gave details of a number of specific programs and developments:

  • Command and information support systems were being modernized as part of the development of air-space defenses, including by the acquisition of new computer and information display systems.
  • Russia was also improving its space situational awareness. The OS-1 and OS-2 satellite detector centers were being updated. The entire system of ground-based missile early-warning stations was being modernized, including by gradually replacing old radars along Russia’s borders and in the Krasnoyarsk region with new and more effective Voronezh-type radars. (Early-warning radars are used not only for the detection and tracking of ballistic missiles in flight, but also for tracking spacecraft.)
  • Despite the withdrawal from service of the IS-MU anti-satellite system in 1993, its ground command computer and launch platform were preserved at Baikonur and kept in working condition.
  • Although work on the Kontakt air-launched anti-satellite system was stopped in 1995, all of the system’s elements—its command post, the ground-based Krona satellite recognition and targeting system, the MiG-31 jet, and the long-range missile—were continuing “to be refined.” In 2012, a second Krona complex was due to begin operating in Russia’s Far East, to enable the monitoring of satellites launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the western United States.
  • The IS-MD complex for intercepting satellites in geostationary orbit (which is based on the IS-MU system) remained under development. One of the system’s space tracking components—the Okno complex in Tajikistan—was functional. This complex identifies the coordinates of satellites in geostationary orbit and can assign targets for interception. A second complex was being built in the Maritime Province in Russia’s Far East to cover the equatorial zone’s skies visible from Russian territory.
  • The equipment stockpile for the Naryad-VN and Naryad-VR anti-satellite complexes had been preserved.
  • The Almaz-Antey Corporation was developing and testing a prototype air-launched laser complex to counter U.S. reconnaissance satellites and early-warning satellites used for detecting and tracking the launch of ballistic missiles.
  • A capability for targeting satellites in low-earth orbit was also envisioned for the S-400 and S-500 air-defense complexes.

Russian Thinking and Its Consequences for Entanglement

In recent years, Russian strategic thinking has put more emphasis on space as a new and crucial military domain, where Russia must be present, both technically and strategically. The professional literature on this subject abounds with references to the threatening nature of American plans and weapon systems. In 2008, for example, analysts with close links to official circles argued that “American [space] policy, and that of its allies—above all NATO—is unambiguously aimed at obtaining strategic military dominance over Russia and other countries and reducing her nuclear deterrent potential. And this is a fundamental position rather than a trend, and has nothing to do with ideological differences.”49

Unlike in the Soviet period, however, anti-satellite weapons are relevant not only to the strategy for a global nuclear war but also to non-nuclear conflicts. In such conflicts, according to Russian thinking, the United States and NATO will have superior high-precision long-range non-nuclear weapons. This capability will, however, depend on space-based C3I assets, creating a vulnerability that Russia cannot fail to take advantage of.

In recent years, Russian strategic thinking has put more emphasis on space as a new and crucial military domain, where Russia must be present, both technically and strategically.

This thinking is reflected in numerous professional publications by military experts. In one pragmatic expression from 2014, two such experts state that “it can now safely be said that a new field of armed conflict has emerged: a theater of military operations in space. And the importance of this sphere is growing constantly, as its nature means that the effectiveness of military action on land, at sea, or in the air is increasingly dependent on the efficiency of the use and capabilities of space weapons.”50

Similarly, in 2009, a retired lieutenant general wrote that “the widespread use and increasing importance of space systems for the functioning and defense capabilities of states makes them extremely attractive targets, destruction of which could become a deciding factor in one side’s victory in the event of an armed conflict. In this respect, anti-satellite systems can be viewed as being designed specifically to destroy another state’s information and intelligence infrastructure assets in space, one of their main purposes being to provide centralized military command systems.”51

The most detailed description of Russia’s military space thinking comes from specialists at the Vympel design bureau, which is involved in the development of anti-satellite weapons:

Taking into account that the effectiveness of using modern weapons is increasingly dependent on elements in space, the enormous cost of modern multi-purpose space systems, their role and place in the global economy, and their relative lack of protection from a range of hostile actions, the threat of attacking the enemy’s space systems can be viewed as an additional, and even, in many situations, decisive deterrent to potential aggressors. The clear advantages of establishing a deterrent based on weapon systems that have the potential to destroy satellites are the theoretical possibility of using them in conflicts of various levels, and the possibility of using them to inflict a decisive blow against the enemy without harming the population. . . . Considering the developing military and political situation, the overall trend of the militarization of space and its transformation into a key independent theater of military operations, the potential development of weapon systems by leading states and the focus of their military policies, and the presence of anti-satellite weapons in the U.S. and China, it is essential to promptly examine and introduce strategic decisions regarding a whole range of issues related to space defense (measures to counter the space-based weapons of the opposing side), including questions of priority funding for work in this field.52

Russia is also concerned about threats to its own satellites. It is not clear, however, whether the policy in Russia’s Military Doctrine of permitting the use of nuclear weapons in response to a non-nuclear attack “when the state’s existence is put under threat” is applicable to responding to strikes against space-based information and communication systems. Nonetheless, the combination of doctrine and technology does create risks of entanglement.

Earth-observation, communication, and navigation satellites would probably be considered legitimate targets for radio-electronic jamming or physical attack in the early stages of a hypothetical non-nuclear conflict—even a local or regional one—that pitted Russia against the United States and NATO. The most likely targets would be reconnaissance satellites in low-earth orbit. If the opposing sides deployed anti-satellite weapons with the necessary technical specifications, satellites operating in higher orbits would also be at risk. These would include navigation satellites in medium-earth orbit, currently Russia’s GLONASS system (Kosmos series) and the U.S. NAVSTAR constellation (which provides Global Positioning System signals). Communications satellites in geostationary and highly elliptical orbits—including the United States’ MILSTAR and Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellations and Russia’s Meridian, Raduga, and, in the future, Sfera-V series—could also become vulnerable.53 Indeed, in his 2009 interview, Popovkin stated that the Naryad-VN and Naryad-VR anti-satellite systems were capable of reaching geostationary and other types of high orbit, implying that they could pose a threat to exactly these U.S. military satellites.

Entanglement arises because some of these satellites simultaneously serve the United States’ or Russia’s strategic nuclear systems. As a result, their destruction would threaten to immediately escalate a war to the nuclear level, especially since strategic forces would probably be on top alert, even in the case of a local armed conflict. In particular, communication satellites are important for the command and control of missile submarines at sea and bombers on patrol, especially in a crisis or local war when as many submarines and aircraft as possible would be dispersed. 

From the point of view of entanglement, attacks on missile early-warning satellites could be even more dangerous. Such satellites are located in geostationary or highly elliptical orbits. At the moment, Russia has only two operational early-warning satellites of the new Tundra class, but it has plans, under the State Armaments Programs from 2020 to 2025, to deploy more as part of a Unified Space System for military command and threat detection.54 The United States meanwhile is replacing its older Defense Support Program satellites with the new Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites .

The logic of limited strategic strikes, as dubious as it is, implies preserving each other’s early-warning satellites in order to keep any nuclear exchange limited as long as possible.

These satellites would likely remain unaffected by anti-satellite operations during the course of a non-nuclear war. However, given the lack of clarity in Russian air-space military strategy, which blurs the lines between a global non-nuclear war and a nuclear one, it is difficult to be certain about the immunity of missile early-warning satellites. In particular, in order to achieve the desired effect, selective nuclear or conventional strategic strikes would have to penetrate the opponent’s limited BMD system, which might require, among other methods, neutralizing early-warning satellites in geostationary orbit and long-range land- and sea-based radars.

Since Russian ICBMs would be ready for launch-on-warning or launch-under-attack, the loss of early-warning satellites might be considered as a precursor to a counterforce strike and provoke Moscow to initiate the sequence to launch those missiles—though, under standard procedures, the actual launch would probably await attack confirmation by land-based early-warning radars or the destruction of those radars. If ground-based radars along Russia’s periphery were also attacked, simultaneously or beforehand, the danger would, therefore, be even higher. Moscow believes that the United States understands all the consequences of attacking this kind of Russian satellite, and that the United States would react in exactly the same way to an analogous attack on its own missile early-warning satellites. The logic of limited strategic strikes, as dubious as it is, implies preserving each other’s early-warning satellites in order to keep any nuclear exchange limited as long as possible. However, since dual-use communications satellites, which are also deployed in geostationary orbit, would be considered fair game for anti-satellite warfare, even in the course of a local or regional conventional conflict, there would be a very high probability that a few early-warning satellites would be inadvertently destroyed with all the ensuing consequences. This interaction constitutes yet another form of entanglement and serves as an argument against artificial and dangerous concepts of selective or tailored strategic nuclear options that are blurring the line between conventional and nuclear warfare and thus lowering the nuclear threshold.

Strikes against early-warning satellites would be particularly dangerous if hypersonic boost-glide weapons were deployed, due to the difficulty of detecting and tracking them using ground-based radars. In fact, disabling an opponent’s space-based missile early-warning system would practically “blind” it to an attack using hypersonic weapons.

Overall, attacks against early-warning satellites are probably seen in Moscow as more dangerous than attacks on space-based communication systems. Russia is less reliant on communication satellites than the United States, because most possible theaters of military operations are directly adjacent or close to its territory, and its ground forces, rather than its air force or navy, are likely to play the principal role in operations in those theaters. (The Russian operation in Syria is certainly an exception to this paradigm, but it was never conceived as a military action against the United States or its principal allies.) At the same time, since the main leg of Russia’s strategic forces is composed of silo-based ICBMs armed with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (including old and future types of heavy missiles), Moscow depends much more than the United States on saving this leg from destruction. As a result, Russia relies much more than the United States on launch-on-warning or launch-under-attack. Such strategies are not feasible without early-warning satellites to provide the first alarm signal to start the launch command sequence in the expectation that the attack could be confirmed by land-based radars. 


Political leaders in both Washington and Moscow should be informed about the danger of entanglement and prepared for the scenarios outlined above. They need to understand the potentially destabilizing role of new weapons and their associated operational concepts that create the threat of entanglement and perhaps an unstoppable plunge to global catastrophe. Preventing this threat would require monumental political will and diplomatic effort in addition to both strategic and technical expertise. All three are presently sorely lacking.

Political leaders in both Washington and Moscow should be informed about the danger of entanglement.

Bilateral strategic arms control, if it were ever revived, could provide a way of mitigating the risk posed by boost-glide systems. The counting rules for delivery vehicles and warheads in a follow-on agreement to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) could be applied to intercontinental boost-glide systems (such as the HTV-2, the AHW, and Project 4202), regardless of whether they were armed with conventional or nuclear warheads. Limiting their numbers in this way would alleviate Russia’s fear of their being used for a conventional counterforce attack, which endangers its military security and, even in peacetime, politically devalues its nuclear potential—one of the few remaining vestiges of Russia’s former superpower status. Land-based medium- or intermediate-range boost-glide systems should be banned by extending the provisions of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

The real or imagined threat of counterforce attacks by sea- and air-launched conventional cruise missiles could perhaps be managed through confidence-building and transparency agreements that would preclude the tacit massing of naval and air forces within range of each other’s strategic targets. Under such agreements, the redeployment of U.S. aircraft and surface ships to forward locations as well as the dispatch from port of more cruise missile submarines than are usually deployed would, if not accompanied by a notification and credible benign explanation, serve as a warning to Russia. In this case, Moscow could place its offensive and defensive forces on high alert and thus reduce the prospects for a successful surprise attack.

If Russia’s concerns about boost-glide weapons and conventional cruise missiles were managed by such agreements, Russia’s Air-Space Forces could be redirected from the exotic concept of an air-space war to the realistic threat of limited nuclear missile and air attacks against urban-industrial centers by third nations, rogue regimes, and terrorists. In this case, the cooperative development and operation of defense systems by the United States and Russia would become feasible again. 

In terms of the entanglement risks of anti-satellite weapons, the only good news is that, at present, neither the United States nor Russia is deploying dedicated operational anti-satellite weapons. The only existing anti-satellite capabilities are inherent to dual-use systems (such as U.S. Standard Missile-3 interceptors and Ground-Based Interceptors, and Russia’s S-400 and forthcoming S-500 air- and missile defense systems). Other anti-satellites capabilities are mothballed, or at various stages of research and development. This still leaves some chance to negotiate realistic and verifiable limitations on the testing and thus on the deployment of dedicated anti-satellite weapons. Key space-based nuclear C3I capabilities—early-warning and communications satellites, in particular—are in geostationary or highly elliptical orbits and could probably only be threatened by dedicated anti-satellite capabilities (dual-use air- and missile defense systems do not appear able to reach such orbits). As a result, an agreement that ensured the security of satellites critical to nuclear C3I, even if it could not reduce the anti-satellite threat posed by dual-use air- and missile defense systems, would still help to manage at least one dangerous aspect of entanglement.


1 Carl von Clausewitz, On War, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), 87.

2 One of the few exceptions is the 2016 version of the Russian official document, “The Concept of Russia’s Foreign Policy,” which mentions such a possibility, available from:

3 “Vozdushno-kosmicheskie sily RF pristupili k sluzhbe” [Air-Space Forces of the Russian Federation enter into service], Interfax, August 3, 2015,; and “Vozdushno-kosmicheskie sily” [Air-Space Forces], Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, accessed October 13, 2017,

4 “Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii” [Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation], President of Russia, 2014,

5 Andrei Demin, et al., “Sereznoi ugroze adekvatnyi otvet. Osnovnoi sferoi vooruzhennoi borby stanet vozdushno-kosmicheskoe prostranstva” [An appropriate response to a serious threat. The main area of armed conflict will be the air-space theater], Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, August 13, 2012,

6 Yury Krinitsky, “Nauchno-kontseptualnyi podkhod k organizatsii VKO Rossii” [A scientific and conceptual approach to the organization of Russian air-space defense], Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, February 19, 2013,

7 Ibid.

8 Vyacheslav Baskakov, “Kosmicheskie Voiska kak garantiya oborony strany” [Space Forces as a guarantee of the country’s defense], Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, October 1, 2004,

9 Demin et al., “Sereznoi ugroze adekvatnyi otvet.”

10 “Kazhdyi pyatyi rubl—na VKO” [Every fifth ruble—for air-space defense], Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer, February 21, 2012,

11 Vladimir Putin, “Being Strong: National Security Guarantees for Russia,” Archive of the Official Site of the 2008-2012 Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, February 20, 2012,

12 Alexei Arbatov, “Sovmestnaya PRO nikak ne poluchaetsya” [A joint missile defense system will never work], Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, June 17, 2011,

13 Ronald Reagan, “Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union—January 25, 1984,” American Presidency Project,

14 Krinitsky, “Nauchno-kontseptualnyi podkhod k organizatsii VKO Rossii.”

15 Viktor Myasnikov, “Protivoraketnaya i protivovozdushnaya oborona Rossii budet luchshei v mire” [Russia’s air- and missile defense system will be the best in the world], Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, December 12, 2014,

16 Oleg Grinevskyi, Perelom. Ot Brezhneva k Gorbachevu [The break from Brezhnev to Gorbachev] (Moscow: Olma-Press, 2004), 69–75.

17 Ibid.

18 “Proizvodstvo ballisticheskikh raket otstaet ot grafika” [The production of ballistic missiles lags behind schedule], Nezavisimoye voennoe obozrenie, January 27, 2017,

19 Sergei Sukhanov, “VKO eto zadacha, a ne sistema” [Air-space defense is a task, not a system], Vozdushno-losmicheskaya oborona, March 29, 2010,

20 “V Sovfede poobeshchali voennyi otvet na razmeshchenie PRO SShA v Rumynii i Polshe” [Council of Federation promised a military response to U.S. BMD deployment in Romania and Poland], Interfax,May 12, 2016,

21 Aktualnye zadachi razvitiya Vooruzhennykh Sil Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Critical tasks of the development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation] (Moscow: Ministerstvo Oborony, 2003); Konstantin Sivkov, “Pravo na udar” [Right to strike], Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer, March 5, 2014,; Markell Boytsov, “Terminologiya v voennoi doctrine” [Terminology of the Military Doctrine], Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, October 31, 2014,; and David Lerman and Terry Atlas, “Russia’s ‘Saber-Rattling’ Threatens Stability, U.S. Says,” Bloomberg, June 25, 2015,

22 “Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii.”

23 Dmitry Akhmerov, Yevgeny Akhmerov, and Marat Valeev, “Aerostat—drug ‘Sarmata’” [Balloon—a friend of ‘Sarmat’], Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer, October 12, 2016,

24 Daryl G. Kimball, “World War III? Into Uncharted Territory, Trump’s Authority to Use Nuclear Weapons: ‘Let It Be an Arms Race. We Will Outmatch Them…and Outlast Them All,’” Global Research, February 4, 2017,; Robert Legvold, “The Challenges of the New Nuclear Age in the 21st Century World (Dis)Order,” in The Multipolar Nuclear World: Challenges and Opportunities, edited by Alexei Arbatov and Vladimir Dvorkin (Moscow: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, forthcoming); and John M. Donnelly, “Pentagon Panel Urges Trump Team to Expand Nuclear Options,” Roll Call, February 2, 2017,

25 Vladimir Putin, “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,” President of Russia, October 22, 2015,

26 Vladimir Putin, “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,” President of Russia, October 24, 2014,

27 “Tekst vystupleniya Dmitriya Rogozina na press-konferentsii v ‘RG’” [Transcript of Dmitry Rogozin’s speech at the RG press conference], Rossiiskaya gazeta, June 28, 2013,

28 Myasnikov, “Protivoraketnaya i protivovozdushnaya oborona Rossii budet luchshei v mire.”

29 Eugene Miasnikov, “The Air-Space Threat to Russia,” in Missile Defense: Confrontation and Cooperation,edited by Alexei Arbatov, Vladimir Dvorkin, and Natalia Bubnova (Moscow: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013), 121–46.

30 “Sergei Shoigu: za tri goda Rossiya uvelichit kolichestvo krylatykh raket v pyat raz” [Sergei Shoigu: Russia will increase number of cruise missiles fivefold in three years], TASS, July 5, 2013,

31 “Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii.”

32 Alexander Raigorodetsky, “Proekt MBR ‘Albatros’ (SSSR)” [The Albatross ICBM project (USSR)], Dogs of War, August 15, 2011,; Alexey Ramm and Dmitry Korneev, “‘Albatros’ mirovoi revolyutsii, chast’ 1” [The Albatross of the world revolution, part 1], Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer, September 23, 2015,; and Alexey Ramm and Dmitry Korneev, “Gipersmert na podkhode” [Hyperdeath approaching], Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer, Mar. 25, 2015,

33Raigorodetsky, “Proekt MBR ‘Albatros’ (SSSR).”

34 “Proizvodstvo ballisticheskikh raket otstaet ot grafika.”

35 “Voennaya doktrina Rossiiskoi Federatsii.”

36 Ramm and Korneev, “Gipersmert na podkhode.”

37 Dmitry Akhmerov, Yevgeny Akhmerov, and Marat Valeev, “Po-bystromu ne poluchitsya” [It won’t happen fast], Voenno-promyshlennyi kurer, October 21, 2015,

38 James M. Acton, Silver Bullet? Asking the Right Questions About Conventional Prompt Global Strike (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2013), 33–63.

39 Briefing by Lieutenant General Victor Poznihir, deputy chief of the Main Operational Directorate, at the VI Moscow Conference on International Security, April 26–27, 2017.

40 Emma Luxton, “Which Countries Spend the Most on Space Exploration?,” World Economic Forum, January 11, 2016,

41 Boris Molchanov, “The Militarization of Space and Space Weapons,” in Nuclear Proliferation: New Technologies, Weapons, Treaties, edited by Alexei Arbatov and Vladimir Dvorkin(Moscow: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009), 160–85.

42 Vladimir Dvorkin, “Space Weapons Programs,” in Outer Space: Weapons, Diplomacy, and Security, edited by Alexei Arbatov and Vladimir Dvorkin (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2010), 30–45.

43 Molchanov, “The Militarization of Space and Space Weapons”; and Maksim Tarasenko, Voennye aspekty sovetskoi kosmonavtiki [Military aspects of Soviet space exploration] (Moscow: TOO Nikol; Agentstvo Rossiiskoi pechati, 1992).

44 Sergei Ivanov, ed., Entsiklopediya 21 vek. oruzhie i tekhnologii Rossii [21st century encyclopedia: Russian weapons and technologies], vol. 5, Kosmicheskie sredstva vooruzheniya [Space weapons] (Moscow: Publishing House “Weapon and Technologies,” 2002).

45 “Rossiya razrabatyvaet protivosputnikovoe oruzhie v otvet na shagi SShA v etoi sfere, zayavil v chetverg zhurnalistam v Moskve zamestitel ministra oborony RF po vooruzheniyu general armii Vladimir Popovkin” [Russia is developing anti-satellite weapons in response to the United States’ steps in this area, Deputy Defense Minister General Vladimir Popovkin told journalists on Thursday], RIA Novosti, March 5, 2009; and Alexander Khoroshikh, “Re: Protivokosmicheskaya oborona” [Re: Anti-space defense], Astroforum, December 13, 2009,,69231.msg1108417.html#msg1108417).

46 S. V. Cherkas, Sovremennye politiko-pravovye problemy voenno-kosmicheskoi deyatelnosti i osnovy metodologii ikh issledovaniya [Contemporary political and legal problems of military activity in space and basic methodology for studying them] (Moscow: MO, 1995).

47 Pavel Podvig,“The Window of Vulnerability That Wasn’t: Soviet Military Buildup in the 1970s—A Research Note,” International Security 33, no. 1 (2008): 118–38.

48 “Rossiya razrabatyvaet protivosputnikovoe oruzhie v otvet na shagi SShA v etoi sfere.”

49 Sergei Sukhanov, Vladimir Grinko, and Vladimir Smirnov, “Kosmos v voprosakh vooruzhennoi borby” [Space in issues of armed conflict], Natsionalnaya oborona, no. 7 (July 2008): 41.

50 Vasiliy Dolgov and Yury Podgornykh, “Gospodstvo v kosmose – pobeda na zemle” [Supremacy in space, victory on Earth], Vozdushno-kosmicheskaya oborona, June 8, 2014,

51 Evgeny Buzhinsky, “Kosmos: Novyi TVD ili sfera sotrudnichestva” [Space: New combat theater or sphere of cooperation], Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, April 10, 2009,

52 Sukhanov, Grinko, and Smirnov, “Kosmos v voprosakh vooruzhennoi borby”: 42.

53 Anatoly Zak, “Spooky World of Military Satellites,” Russian Space Web, December 17, 2016,

54 Vasily Myasnikov, “Edinaya kosmicheskaya sistema predupredit o yadernom napadenii” [A unified space system will warn of a nuclear attack], Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, October 17, 2014,; and Tatyana Gorina, “Rossiya ostalas bez ‘Oka’: kogda zarabotaet novaya kosmicheskaya sistema preduprezhdeniya o raketnoi atake?” [Russia without ‘Oka’: When will the new space missile attack warning system start work?], Moskovsky komsomolets, February 11, 2015,