How Russia does and Understands Deterrence in the Early 21st Century

Western military strategists argue that three ingredients are essential for the successful deterrence of an adversary. The first is that the deterring state must make clear that its adversary should not undertake a particular course of action intended to revise the status quo. The second is that the deterring state must also indicate that it would inflict unacceptable harm on the adversary if and only if the adversary engages in that undesirable action. The third is that the threat to issue this harmful response must be believable. To this end, military strategists often argue that the credibility of a threat hinges on the willingness and ability of the issuer to carry it out. For example, the deterring state could signal that its adversary will experience difficulties in achieving its battlefield objectives (that is, deterrence-by-denial). Alternatively, the deterring state could retaliate with devastating force in the event that the adversary undertakes the proscribed action (that is, deterrence-by-punishment). Simply put, geopolitical interests and military capabilities shape the credibility of the deterrent threats and promises that states convey to others.