Aligning Disarmament to Nuclear Dangers: Off to a Hasty START? (Strategic Forum, Number 244, July 2009)
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Confronted by a daunting array of nuclear threats, and having pledged to reinvigorate the application of disarmament tools to address these dangers, the Obama administration has decided to focus its initial efforts on negotiating a new bilateral agreement with Russia to replace the Cold War-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty START, which expires at the end of this year. Critics have suggested that reviving the U.S.-Russian strategic disarmament agenda is at best a distraction from a host of more pressing security challenges that the United States needs to address now and in the years ahead. There is no debate that it would be useful from a U.S. perspective to preserve the transparency that START provides. But Washington has little to gain directly, at least in traditional military terms, from further reductions in the legacy arsenal of its erstwhile Cold War adversary. By contrast, for reasons both political and military, Russia has an urgent incentive to achieve a strategic parity through negotiations that it otherwise could not sustain. The key issue is whether the Obama administration can achieve a modest agreement at little cost, or alternatively leverage the negotiations to gain a wider set of benefits beyond the straightforward bilateral reductions in question. The analysis deduces that a positive outcome would provide modest ancillary benefits for several higher priority objectives e.g., incentivizing China to participate in a wider follow-on strategic nuclear arms reduction process, or bringing greater international pressure to bear on nuclear proliferators such as Iran. However, these spinoff benefits would not be sufficient to warrant high costs in terms of major concessions of U.S. strategic interests relative to Russia. Any such costs could only be justified by the inclusion of favorable external linkages, meaning explicit Russian offsets to address higher priority nuclear dangers in return for concessions favoring Moscows strategic interests.
- Government and Political Science
- Nuclear Weapons