Routine Nuclear Operations

  • Paul Bracken
Part of the Studies in Disarmament and Conflicts book series (SDC)


Two arms competitions exist between the United States and the Soviet Union. The first is the classical arms race where each side accumulates nuclear missiles, bombers and submarines. This competition has been studied extensively. It focuses on questions of deterrence, perceptions, mutual interactions, and arms control programmes to eliminate or restrain numbers of weapons. The START negotiations, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) negotiations and the Anti-ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty are all structured to take account of this dimension of the arms race. There is, however, another more obscure competition that goes on between the two nations. That is the operation of military forces. A virtually continual game of feint, bluff, and stand-down goes on, involving the airplanes, submarines, ships and other forces of the two sides. This game, which has received relatively little attention, has become such an ingrained feature of the superpower nuclear relationship that for all practical purposes it is widely seen as ‘routine’ by those inside the respective national security establishments. Why are submarines brought in close to any enemy coast, or bombers flown up to his air defences? The answer, for the Soviet and American security and intelligence bureaucracies, is that they have always done it.


Nuclear Weapon Military Force Foreign Ministry Routine Operation Military Organisation 
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Copyright information

© Unione Scienzati per il Disarmo Convegno Internazionale 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Bracken

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