Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


including regime change where that is a feasible alternative. Indeed,

the more that timely conventional responses to nuclear

use are seen to be a credible deterrent to that use, the more

that this will strengthen deterrence rather than weaken it.

Fourth is the issue of extended deterrence and the extent to

which one country, the United States in particular, might be

willing to risk its own vital interests, at least to some extent, to

provide guarantees to others against the use of nuclear weapons.

Extended deterrence is about perception, and many of the

policy issues we will face in the future relate to perceptions of

whether past commitments to extended deterrence can be sustained.

There is an argument around the North Atlantic Treaty

Organization (NATO) strategic concept in this regard, but there

is also an argument about the extent to which extended deterrence

will play an enhanced role in the Middle East were Iran to

acquire a nuclear capability, even if this were a latent capability.

The presence of conventional forces and possibly nuclear forces

can play an important role here as a tripwire and as an indication

of resolve. But one should never underestimate, whatever

the force deployments, the critical importance of the demonstration

of political will, the political processes of consultation, and

the general foreign policy orientation on key issues which will be

necessary to lend political credibility to those guarantees.

We should also be aware that the need for deterrence is balanced

by the need not to provoke. A good example of this was

a recent suggestion—perhaps not seriously floated, but nevertheless

floated in a recent article by a US Air Force officer—that

nuclear-capable aircraft based in Aviano, Italy, should be redeployed

to Poland. In pure deterrence terms, this indeed might

make some sense in enhancing NATO deterrence against the

possibility of a Russian advance westwards. It would also be

entirely compatible with the spirit of equality within NATO. But

there are many people who would argue that there would also

be some likely negative impact in terms of the likely response

from Russia, and it would be at the very least premature to

take such a course given the currently very low probability of

Russian aggression in such member states as Poland.

Fifth and finally, in relation to arms control, arms control

has now returned in a big way into the debate about nuclear

weapons, most of all as a result of the initiatives by the US


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