Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
During the latter part of the Cold War, many strategists thought of nuclear deterrence and arms control as two of the most essential stabilizing elements of the same strategy in managing an adversarial relationship. The renewed crisis between the West (the United States and NATO member states) and Russia demonstrates how critical these elements are to the strategic nuclear relationship. As a result of recent setbacks between Washington and Moscow in the past few years, arms control has taken a back seat, and the risk of conflict due to miscalculation is the highest it has been since the 1980s. If the United States and Russia want to rebuild trust and continue reducing the risk of nuclear use, a meaningful dialogue is needed to reconcile nuclear deterrence and nuclear arms control. How can the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers re-establish the harmony that once existed between deterrence and arms control? What should a stable framework look like for managing that nuclear relationship, taking into account other regional security challenges? The answer to these questions lies in establishing a new, common interpretation of US–Russian strategic stability. Both parties need to find mutually acceptable solutions to the challenges of reconciling nuclear deterrence and arms control. In general, the most important issues include disputes surrounding strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, global ballistic missile defense capabilities, and the problems of conventional precision-guided munitions.