The Perils of Small-Group Thinking

Who would countermand an order by Vladimir Putin to cross the nuclear threshold first? Unlike US nuclear deterrence mavens who have gravitated toward minimalist nuclear options, there is no appreciable interest within Soviet/Russian strategic culture in such “tit-for tat” exchanges. Writing for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Alexei Arbatov has concluded that,

“If deterrence fails, the task of the armed forces is to implement assigned missions as massively and effectively as possible. A hint of this traditional way of thinking emerged from Putin’s speech at the Valdai forum of 2015, when he said: “I learned one rule on the streets of Leningrad fifty years ago—if a fight is inevitable, strike first.”