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View the Policy Memo (PDF) - PONARS Eurasia

View the Policy Memo (PDF) - PONARS Eurasia

• Breakthrough

• Breakthrough upgrades of conventional first-strike technologies and theirsuccessful testing, coupled with doctrinal shifts toward more assertive and risktakingpolicies and/or commitments;• Interventionist policy practiced despite Russian objections, even if Russia canhardly compare on most counts to any of the target states, such as Libya or Syria.If Washington decides to welcome the shift in Russia’s nuclear posture, theUnited States should consider a number of parallel moves of reassurance. Mostimportantly, the United States would be advised to:• Continue to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons, demonstrating acommitment to reducing their role in the United States’ deterrence posture;• Welcome an opportunity to work with Russia toward a new comprehensive (ifpossible, multilateral) nuclear arms control agreement;• Refrain from statements to the effect that the United States’ edge in high-endmilitary technologies can be used for offensive purposes in the absence of directthreats to U.S. interests;• Display a clear interest in discussing with Russia developments in othercountries’ nuclear deterrence strategies and their impact on U.S. and Russiandeterrence postures.ConclusionIf implemented, this set of measures by Russia and the United States could help test thefoundations of a world in which nuclear deterrence is increasingly de-emphasized. Insuch a world, consensus would emerge on the inability of nuclear weapons to deter anadversary at high levels of escalation. It already does not make a strategic differencewhether a nuclear-weapon state forswears, in its military doctrine, the first-strike optionagainst other nuclear powers. From a strategic viewpoint, most, if not all, such claimsare either not credible, pointless, or both. Major nuclear players only need to beginacting on this assumption.Facing the grave consequences of a “limited” regional nuclear war, second-ratenuclear-weapon states like China, India, and Pakistan would be discouraged fromincreasing the launch readiness of their nuclear forces. Other smaller nuclear-weaponstates as well the aspiring members of the nuclear club might realize that their securitycan also be guaranteed without ready-to-launch nuclear weapons. Great Britain mayfind it expedient to resume debates on complete voluntary nuclear disarmament. Francewould have to reassess the extent to which nuclear weapons enhance its nationalprestige.In a way, a new nuclear world would signify the triumph of diplomacy, whichwould be entrusted with the task of forestalling high levels of conflict escalation. Justlike a government that proves incapable of defusing social conflict before it takes theform of mass protest or violence, diplomats who fail to reach the compromises necessaryto avoid nuclear saber-rattling must be given no mercy.6

© PONARS Eurasia 2013. The statements made and views expressed are solelythe responsibility of the author. PONARS Eurasia is an international networkof academics that advances new policy approaches to research and security inRussia and Eurasia. PONARS Eurasia is based at the Institute for European,Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at George Washington University’sElliott School of International Affairs. This publication was made possible bygrants from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. and CatherineT. MacArthur Foundation. www.ponarseurasia.org7

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