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CNA has released a collection of six papers that explore the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine war for strategic stability and the evolving regional and international security landscape. These reports are written by experts on Russia, nuclear strategy, and escalation dynamics from across the Euro-Atlantic region. The CNA project has been supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 2021 to 2024. Three of these papers explore escalatory political-military dynamics and the impacts of the war on political, economic, and security arrangements. The other three focus on technologies and capabilities employed in the war, assessing their impacts on escalation dynamics.

Vladimir Putin's February 2022 decision to invade Ukraine has had profound implications for strategic stability and Euro-Atlantic regional security. The war, initially intended as a quick regime change operation by the Russian government, has since resulted in hundreds of thousands of military and civilian deaths and levels of destruction not seen in Europe since World War II.

The Russian leadership has fought this conflict "under the nuclear shadow," at times raising the possibility of employing nuclear weapons and invoking concerns about the possible use of weapons of mass destruction. As a result of the war, the United States and Russia have halted the Strategic Stability Dialogue aimed at reducing risks of nuclear war, and Moscow has suspended its participation in the New START arms control treaty and has unratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The deterioration of US-Russian relations has also contributed to the further unraveling of the nuclear nonproliferation regime that was built by Moscow and Washington during the Cold War.

Russian leadership and political-military elites have maintained that this is a war in which the United States and its Western allies seek to inflict "strategic defeat" on Russia through economic, political, and military means. In Europe and North America, the war has contributed to decisions to expand the NATO alliance and facilitated debates about the role of nuclear weapons and other offensive strike, defensive, and enabling capabilities in national and collective defense.

The following are short summaries of the papers:

In US/NATO-Russian Strategic Stability and the War in Ukraine , Mary Chesnut analyzes the impacts of the war on crisis stability and on arms race stability. She first examines the dangers of horizontal and vertical escalation in Ukraine stemming from Russian and Western actions and explores the challenges of managing escalation across numerous possible pathways. Chesnut systematically reviews Russia's approaches to threatening nuclear use, depicts the inherent ambiguities of these threats, and details Western attempts to deter escalation. Her paper then traces the damage to US-Russian arms control and global nonproliferation norms. Chesnut argues that "while the United States has attempted to prevent the deterioration of crisis stability from having a spillover impact on arms race stability by de-linking the two issues, Russia has consistently stressed throughout the conflict that it could not divorce the matter of bilateral arms control from 'geopolitical realities.'"

In Western Sanctions on Russia and Strategic Stability , Richard Connolly reviews coordinated Western financial, trade and energy, technology, and "spontaneous" sanctions of "unprecedented … intensity and scope," and Russian responses. He also explores the limits of such punitive measures and their implications for Russia and the West. His paper concludes that, while a "necessary" response in the "face of Russian aggression in Europe," sanctions have "had a negative bearing on strategic stability," in part because they have diminished the prospect of future US-Russian cooperation.

In Russia and the Global Nuclear Order , Nicole Grajewski explores the implications of the war on Russia's role in the global nuclear order and on the institutions created as a result of US-Soviet cooperation during the Cold War that underpin that order. She argues, "Russia's engagement with the global nuclear order has been characterized by alternating phases of cooperation and contention, often rooted in differing interpretations of the order's rules from the West." The war in Ukraine, she posits, is challenging for the global nuclear order for reasons that include Ukraine's status as a former nuclear state that was provided security assurances as well as Russia's attacks on civilian nuclear infrastructure in Ukraine. Her paper further explores the implications of the war in terms of cooperation to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons and Russia's undermining of the global nuclear order by claiming double standards in its treatment. She concludes that "the implications of Russia's actions within the global nuclear order extend beyond the realm of nonproliferation. They raise concerns about Moscow's broader geopolitical objectives and its willingness to leverage international organizations to advance its interests, even when such actions run counter to established norms."

In Strategic Stability in Outer Space After Russia's Invasion of Ukraine , Andrey Baklitskiy explores the impacts of the war on strategic stability in outer space. He highlights potential scenarios of nuclear escalation involving space systems and argues that a common understanding between the US and Russia about the strategic nature of certain space systems has been the basis of the taboo on kinetic attack against satellites. Since the beginning of the war, however, non-kinetic attacks on satellites as well as the use of civilian satellites for military purposes including reconnaissance and targeting of strategic assets have contributed to the emergence of views that certain satellites could be legitimate military targets. In turn, the suspension of New START has the potential to contribute to the deterioration of a norm-developed during the Cold War and enshrined in US-Russian arms control-not to interfere with or obstruct the view of satellites used for monitoring strategic nuclear weapons. Baklitskiy further traces the negative impact of Western sanctions on Russia's space capabilities, including its ability to monitor ballistic missile threats. His paper concludes by noting that the absence of bilateral US-Russian channels "may aggravate any contradictions that might arise between the states and make crisis prevention much less likely."

In Strategic Stability and the Ukraine War: Implications of Conventional Missile Technologies , Fabian Hoffmann focuses on the implications for strategic stability and regional security of the deployment and use of offensive conventional missile capabilities and air and missile defenses during the war. He explores the types of systems and how they have been employed. He argues that implications for strategic stability relate to "the decreased first-strike stability resulting from the proliferation of long-range strike weapons; the credibility of Russian missile doctrine, which may suffer because of Russia's long-range strike track record in Ukraine; and the feasibility of successful conventional counterforce engagements, which Russian decision-makers may deem more likely." He concludes that these further stress crisis and arms race stability.

In Tomorrow's Technology in Today's War: The Use of AI and Autonomous Technologies in the War in Ukraine and Implications for Strategic Stability , Rita Konaev assesses the strategic impact of the use of systems leveraging these technologies on both sides in the conflict. She explores the role AI and autonomy in strategic stability, nuclear risk, and conflict initiation and escalation. Her paper traces the applications of these technologies during the war, including in drones and loitering munitions, AI for battlefield information processing, and AI in cyber and information warfare. She argues that "because AI has yet to see extensive battlefield deployment, or large-scale adoption across military organizations, its potential effects are still debated." She also notes the "tenuous connection" between the employment of these systems up to this time and nuclear escalation risks, but points to the potentially destabilizing effects of AI-enabled disinformation. She analyzes international discussions on military uses of AI and the challenges of confidence-building measures and risk-reduction engagements at the intersection of these emerging technologies and escalation management.

Collectively, these papers suggest that bilateral engagements to reduce the risk of nuclear war will be elusive for a wide variety of reasons. The war in Ukraine is heralding a shift in the combat employment of offensive strike, defensive, and enabling military capabilities with potential implications beyond the Euro-Atlantic region. Russian policies and choices are also contributing to the transformation of global nuclear institutions and related nonproliferation norms. Against this backdrop, US policymakers will need creative solutions to balance the pursuit of crisis stability and arms race stability with the changing needs of deterrence and defense.

Visit the Russia Studies Program page on to learn more about CNA's analyses of Russian military capabilities and the Russian way of war.