There are just 58 SS-18! That's barely enough to cover the US Air Force missiles. How can something be a first strike weapon when it CANNOT ACHIEVE FIRST STRIKE? Do you even know the definition of first strike?!?
If Russian forces have a first strike posture, why do their bombers NEVER patrol with nuclear weapons on-board? Why do their submarines NEVER sail with nuclear armed cruise missiles or torpedoes on-board?
These are simple questions. If you can't answer them, either you are being disingenuous, or you simply don't understand what the hell we are talking about here.
Road mobile missiles are a second strike weapon.
Nuclear armed bombers are a second strike weapon.
SLCM's are a tactical weapon.
No, the fact that Russia is keeping their second strike weapons locked up and not readily deployed while their first strike weapons are at the ready isn't really comforting.
Instead, we see this:
Russian strategic force relies on ICBM.
Russian air defense system is massive to repel a second strike from bombers.
Russian missile defense system is set up to protect major cities (Moscow) from retaliatory strike (if it were aligned against a first strike, it would be deployed to protect Siberian missile fields).
Maintained a launch on warning policy until very recently, and may still do so.
Tactical nuclear weapons still have a major role in Russian warfighting doctrine.
Meanwhile in the USA:
Backbone of nuclear arsenal are SLBMs.
ICBM force is cut to the bone.
Stealth nuclear cruise missiles were given up.
No launch on warning policy.
Tactical nukes were given up, except for ~500 gravity bombs.
Missile defense based in Alaska, too small to adequately protect anything against a second strike from a major power. Missile defense in Poland will have no effect on Russian ability to target the USA.
I'm not saying that Russia is planning a first strike, but they should look at their own posture before they start reading into other nations' intentions.
Russian nuclear forces cannot outright destroy or overwhelmingly attrite US nuclear forces due to significantly higher US SSBN OpsTempo. Hence, Russian forces don't possess first strike capability. That's the freaking definition. I don't get how you can argue with this.
Russia relies on ICBMs because it is a land power and has a wealth of expertise in lang-based missiles. This has nothing to do with nuclear posture. And the ability to defend Moscow is hardly equal to first strike capability. Since US forces would still be able to massively retaliate against the rest of Russia, the second strike option is always maintained on both sides.
"In the future, Russia will frankly acknowledge its nuclear first strike policy. It is obvious that, for the new military doctrine to call for nuclear deterrence of conventional war, implies abandoning the 'no first use' pledge, since logically this requires readiness to use nuclear weapons first...Russia may acknowledge the possible pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons at an early stage of conventional war."--Alexei Arbatov, Russian MP, Committee for Defense, June 11, 1993.
First strike posture is different from first strike capability.
How does it signal a first strike posture? There is a saying in nuclear strategy: Offense is defense, defense is offense. Weapons that kill weapons are bad, weapons that kill people are good. This is simple, yet complex. Any questions?
Military Doctrine of Russian Federation, Feb 5 2010, http://news.kremlin.ru/ref_notes/461Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to a use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against her and (or) her allies, and in a case of an aggression against her with conventional weapons that would put in danger the very existence of the state.