Just two years after Russia and the United States began implementing the New START Treaty, the two sides are coming under increasing pressure to define their positions on future rounds of strategic arms control. The direction in which the United States and Russia head is of key importance for not only the relationship between the two states but the nuclear future of the entire globe. Holding over 90 percent of global nuclear-weapon stockpiles, Washington and Moscow are destined to be fashion-setters in the global discussion on nuclear weapons: the agreement of non-nuclear-weapon nations not to acquire nuclear arms, as stipulated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, hinges on the progress of nuclear-weapon states toward nuclear disarmament. Yet the prospects for further disarmament will remain bleak until both the United States and Russia show a readiness to critically review their nuclear postures and adapt them to changes in the strategic environment and public perceptions of nuclear weapons.
In particular, the attainment of Russia’s key policy goals vis-à-vis the United States (constraining intervention in Russia’s internal affairs or use of force against Russia’s allies) no longer requires hedging against the possibility of nuclear use in a crisis. Having internalized this new reality, Moscow and Washington can proceed with further nuclear cuts and exert joint pressure on other nuclear-weapon states that have so far refused to take part in arms control.
Assured Destruction vs. Low-Intensity Deterrence: Can Russia and the United States Adjust Their Nuclear Postures?
PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 266
by Mikhail Troitskiy