Nuclear Arms Control: Coming Back from Oblivion, Again
10 Journal of National Security Law & Policy 429 (2019)
16 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2020 Last revised: 13 Aug 2020
Date Written: March 9, 2020
This symposium essay analyzes the comparison of our present moment -- one of rising nuclear tensions and an arms control regime in retreat -- with the Cold War’s frigid and perilous depths in the early 1980s. I argue that the historical analogy is not perfect, but it is instructive. The Cold War teaches us both that nuclear arms racing is hazardous and that arms control can come back from oblivion.
Our top priorities right now should be enhancing strategic stability and preparing for arms control's future return. Extending the last Washington-Moscow bilateral accord on the books -- New START (2010) -- has only upsides, including its stability-enhancement and intelligence collection functions. The arguments against New START extension have little merit. With the benefits of New START captured for another half-decade, this piece urges use of the present moment to generate a pragmatic slate of actionable stability-enhancing proposals can be ready off-the-shelf when leadership and geopolitical currents change and prospects for nuclear arms control recover. This article identifies a menu of options: a US-Russia-China cap on INF-range missiles in Asia; a three-way deal on all missiles (including China's conventional missiles); a bilateral package deal including allowance of a limited Russian INF force, a ban on MIRVed land-based missiles, and US abandonment of planned sea-launched cruise missiles; a code of conduct for nuclear forces that among other things bans close approaches to each party's airspace and waters; regular data exchanges on warheads, INFs, and/or tactical (non-strategic) nuclear hardware; and indefinite extension of New START's inspection regime and data exchanges. Arms control is not easy today, but of course it never was. It produced massive successes and can again. The time to prepare for major progress on arms control is precisely now, when the outlook is grim.
Keywords: nuclear weapons, arms control, Russia, nuclear deterrence, treaties, Cold War, Russia, national security, national security law, international law
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation