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Tactical Nuclear Weapons

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Russia and the US have significantly reduced their tactical nuclear weapons over the past twenty years. The remaining weapons have been moved from active service and stored separate from their delivery systems. However, both still keep tactical nuclear weapons available for eventual deployment, and Moscow maintains not only a larger but also a much more diverse stockpile of such weapons than the US. The prospects for designing an arms control regime covering TNW are complicated by a series of factors. Technically, verifying any limitations or reductions of non-deployed weapons is an extremely sensitive and challenging task as it would require opening nuclear depots for inspection. Politically, the two countries differ in the assessment of a future role of nuclear arms. While the US anticipates that further development of its advanced conventional capabilities would lead to diminishing the role of nuclear weapons, it is exactly the weakness of its conventional forces which causes the Russian defence establishment to project a growing role for nuclear weapons. These two distinct trajectories largely explain the differences in the two countries' approaches to the TNW arms control and make any agreement less likely to materialize any time soon. They also explain why Moscow has become increasingly sceptical with regard to including TNW within an arms control regime.


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