Tensions between the United States and Russian Federation have spiraled in recent years and the outlook for the bilateral nuclear arms control regime has become ever more grim. Comparisons to the early 1980s Cold War are common.
Now, as then, Washington and Moscow are geopolitical adversaries. A key arms control agreement has been abandoned. Nuclear modernization accelerates. Old nuclear hands warn that the risk of nuclear war is rising. Amid growing unease, practitioners and commenters debate nuclear policy priorities, how the arms control process might resume, and how best to reduce nuclear risks.
Dakota Rudsill’s essay analyzes the comparison of our present moment of nuclear destabilization with the Cold War’s frigid and perilous depths in the early 1980s. It argues that the analogy is not perfect but it is instructive. The Cold War teaches that arms control can come back from oblivion. By focusing on the right priorities—strategic stability in particular—and generating ideas now, a pragmatic slate of actionable stability-enhancing proposals can be ready when the geopolitical currents change and prospects for nuclear arms control recover.
This article provides an analysis of the benefits a Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty and its ratification process would have on international norms, order, and the prosperity of all States involved. In a comprehensive call to action, Matsick recommends an insightful four-sided bargain by four of the largest nuclear powers that would suppress strategic fears and argues that this bargain might be more politically feasible than once believed.
The aftermath of the Second World War and the ensuing nuclear arms race that followed in the Cold War has had an array of impacts throughout the globe and on the international system.
Nuclear nonproliferation and non-testing norms were the expected solution to quash many of those same impacts from bleeding into the future. Rob Matsick focuses the reader on myriad recent developments that have put these norms under siege, and the need for a comprehensive treaty on nuclear testing to resolutely affirm and strengthen the existing legal regime.
The risk of Weapons of Mass Destruction materials falling into the hands of criminals continues to be a major security concern following 9/11. Efforts to curb the threat culminated in 2004 with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540. Resolution 1540 created an international institution—the 1540 regime—that was intended to prevent WMD proliferation by closing legal gaps in every U.N. member state. In addition to prohibiting states from engaging in proliferation activities, the instrument obliges states to address WMD trafficking at home through both criminal law enforcement and regulatory oversight.
Since its creation, scholars and policy makers have come to view 1540 as an important foundation of the global nonproliferation and counter-terrorism regime, in part because 179 states have submitted domestic implementation country reports, and on average, countries report more than 145 new or existing domestic measures to comply with Resolution 1540 obligations. Yet, despite the alleged success of the 1540 regime, there are still gaps in the system. Drawing on fifty-two in-depth interviews, fieldwork, and observation data, Sarah Shirazyan’s article presents a novel assessment of the 1540 regime’s development and performance.
Sarah Shirazyan’s article on “Building a Universal Counter-Proliferation Regime” proceeds in four steps. First, it provides an assessment of 1540’s origins and its past performance, based on the 1540 Committee’s own metrics of success. Second, it demonstrates the regime’s weak performance, examining its effectiveness and accomplishments thus far. Third, it explains how the creation of the 1540 regime and its early institutional choices shaped its current structure and performance. In particular, how 1540’s legitimacy-building strategies have constrained the institution’s ability to effectively manage the implementation of the resolution. Finally, the article briefly explore options on how to strengthen 1540 regime to halt non-state actor proliferation.