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.
David Jonas and Dyllan Taxman’s insightful article— “JCP-No-Way: A Critique Of The Iran Nuclear Deal As A Non-Legally-Binding Political Commitment” —examines the Iran Nuclear Deal and its place in prior US arms treaties.
By positioning the Iran Nuclear Deal within the historical context of past agreements, American treaty-making, and national and international political norms, the authors conclude that the use of a non-binding political commitment to rein in Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions was both novel and inappropriate.
Instead, the authors argue that the Obama Administration should have used one of the available legally binding agreement options when negotiating with Iran. While the Trump Administration has since withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Deal, this article highlights the importance of the US prioritizing future arms agreements that carry the force of law.
JCP No Way: A Critique of the Iran Nuclear Deal