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The Case for Unilateral Nuclear Force Reductions

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Since the end of the Cold War, the United States U.S. and Russia have made great strides in reducing their nuclear arsenals. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty START I reduced accountable strategic warheads by over 50. In 1991, the Bush administration made bold unilateral policy changes, eliminating many forms of non-strategic nuclear weapons and placing all others into storage. These unilateral U.S. moves were quickly met with similar Russian initiatives. However, the pace of reductions has slowed over the last three years. Although signed by Presidents Bush and Yeltsin in 1993 and ratified by Congress in 1996, the Russian legislature has, for political reasons, failed to ratify the START II treaty. In addition, Congress passed legislation in 1997 that prohibits the Department of Defense DoD from reducing its strategic nuclear forces below START I levels in an attempt to influence Russian ratification. This paper will examine the national security implications of a unilateral reduction of U.S. nuclear forces below START I levels. First, U.S. nuclear policy and strategy will be examined. Complete nuclear disarmament is not in the best interests of the U.S. given the current world political order instead, nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence will continue to be a vital part of U.S. national security today and in the near future. Second, the effect of unilateral reductions on nuclear deterrence will be examined, concluding that the U.S. does not need to maintain a strict parity of nuclear forces with Russia in order to maintain a capable, credible nuclear deterrent posture. Next, this paper will address the potential effects of unilateral nuclear reductions on other areas of national security and international relations. This paper concludes with a recommendation that Congress repeal its restrictive legislation and allow the DoD to unilaterally reduce strategic nuclear forces below START I levels.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Nuclear Weapons

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