Potential Russian nuclear contingencies in the Caucasus: implications for NATO
Wagner, Thomas E.
Yost, David S.
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There are three potential Russian nuclear contingencies in the Caucasus that merit analysis: a conflict internal to the Russian Federation; a conflict involving Armenia, Azerbaijan, and/or Georgia; and a conflict involving Turkey. The Caucasus is the region in which it is most plausible that Russia might resort to nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances This region has been in turmoil since the collapse of the Soviet Union; and the prospects for continued conflict are great, given ethnic tensions and competing strategic ambitions regarding the region's energy resources. Russia faces a gap between its geopolitical ambitions and its conventional military capabilities. Its conventional military forces are in disarray and efforts at reform have been unsuccessful. Many in the Russian military establishment, having been trained under the Soviet nuclear doctrine that upheld the efficacy of limited nuclear weapons employment, now see the limited use of nuclear weapons as a genuine option in regional wars. NATO must deal squarely with this potential problem by formulating options for conflict prevention and, if necessary, for response.
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