Dreams and Realities of Arms Control

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-11-5-16

A. Arbatov (alarbatov@gmail.com),
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation 

Abstract. Against the background of the comprehensive crisis of the nuclear arms control treaties three new principle schools of strategic thinking have emerged and are affecting the governments of the great powers. One of them is “neo-hawks”, who are claiming that disarmament agreements are detrimental by hindering the development of new nuclear arms, which have once again become an effective tool of policy and war after deep reductions during the last thirty years. These experts advocate new programs of nuclear, conventional, and dual purpose weapon systems and elaborate strategic concepts of limited nuclear warfare, controlled escalation, and victory in a nuclear war. Another school – “idealists” who call for ending with nuclear weapons by a single grand treaty of the kind they managed to promote in the UN in 2017 – the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The third school is “revisionists” who argue that nuclear multipolarity, proliferation and new military technologies (hypersonic missiles, cyber warfare, long-range armed drones, space weapons, etc.) have made traditional arms control outdated. They propose to revise the notions of parity and strategic stability, the practice of nuclear arms reductions and limitations, numerical ceilings and meticulous verification procedures. As a replacement they promote the idea of various multilateral dialogues with the goal of enhancing mutual nuclear deterrence, predictability, and trust among nations. A closer scrutiny demonstrates extreme danger of the first type of thinking which is leading to a nuclear war. The second school’s idea, for all good intentions of its authors, is impossible to implement. It mistakenly treats nuclear disarmament as a technical issue, while it is an extremely complex political and strategic problem. The third group may do still more harm by persuading state leaders and public opinion that the collapse of the arms control is not dangerous: allegedly it is possible to enhance security without long and exhausting negotiations and complex agreements. In contrast to the above ideas, provided political will of the leaderships of the major nations, it is still possible to save or revive some important treaties and move forward addressing many novel weapons and technologies by arms control talks. Dynamic changes of the world order, military hard- and software, and strategic thinking – all these are making arms control more vital for the Russian and international security than ever before. 

Keywords:  Arms control, nuclear weapons, limited nuclear war concepts, nuclear escalation, strategic conventional arms, dual purpose systems, hypersonic weapons, space arms, cyber warfare, remote control systems


1. Arbatov A. Kontrol’ nad yadernym oruzhiem: konets istorii? [The End of History for Nuclear Arms Control?] Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2015, no. 5, pp. 5-18.

2. Vladimir Putin’s Annual News Conference. December 20, 2018, Moscow (In Russ.) Available at: http://www.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59455 (accessed 30.01.2019).

3. Joint U. S. – Soviet Statement. Pravda, 22.11.1985 (In Russ.)

4. Basic Principles of Relations Between the Soviet Union and the United States (In Russ.) Available at: http://www.grinchevskiy.ru/1945-1990/osnovy-vzaimootnosheniy-mejdu-sssr-i-swa.php (accessed 24.01.2019).

5. Perry W. My Journey at the Nuclear Brink. California, Stanford Security Studies, 2015. 276 p.

6. Khramchikhin A. Chem opasen konets odnopolyarnogo mira [The Dangers of the Collapse of a Bipolar World]. Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, 11.01.2019. Available at: http://nvo.ng.ru/concepts/2019-01-11/1_1029_welt.html (accessed 02.04.2017).

7. Ketonov S. Amerikanskii “Avangard” ne sushchestvuet dazhe na bumage. Yadernyi paritet v nashu pol’zu [American “avant-garde” does not exist even on paper. The patiry is in our favore]. Voennopromyshlennyi kur’er, 04.06.2019. Available at: https://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/50604 (accessed 01.06.2019).

8. Akhmerov D., Akhmerov E., Valeev M. Aerostat – drug “Sarmata” [Balloon – a Friend of “Sarmat”]. Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er, 12.10.2016. Available at: https://vpk.name/news/165525_aerostat__drug_sarmata.html (accessed 02.02.2018).

9. Shirokorad A. Oruzhie Sudnogo dnya [The Doomsday Weapon]. Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, 13.07.2019, no. 19, p. 6-7.

10. Sivkov K. “Khvason” – primer dlya “Sarmata” [Hwasong: Example for Sarmat]. Voenno-promyshlennyi Kur’er, 23.10.2018. Available at: https://vpk-news.ru/articles/45824 (accessed 30.01.2019).

11. Tukembaev Ch. Tsunami s pritselom na Vashington [Tsunami Aiming at Washington, DC]. Voenno-promyshlennyi Kur’er, 25.12.2018. Available at: https://vpk-news.ru/articles/47228 (accessed 30.01.2019).

12. Colby E. If You Want Peace Prepare for Nuclear War. Foreign Affairs, 2018, vol. 6, no. 97. Available at: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-10-15/if-you-want-peace-prepare-nuclear-war (accessed 02.02.2019).

13. Joint Publication 3–72, Nuclear Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff, 11 June 2019, pp. III-3, V-3. Available at: https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3_72.pdf (accessed 15.06.2019).

14. Gerasimov V. Genshtab planiruet udary [The Genaral Staff is Planning Strikes]. Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er, 11.03.2019. Available at: https://www.vpknews.ru/articles/48913 (accessed 02.04.2019).

15. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (In Russ.) Available at: http://undocs.org/ru/A/CONF.229/2017/8 (accessed 28.11.2018).

16. Operationalizing the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) Initiative. Working paper submitted by the United States of America. Available at: https://undocs.org/NPT/CONF.2020/PC.III/WP.43 (accessed 26.05.2019).

17. Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament (CCND). Working paper submitted by the United States of America. Available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/1806176E.pdf (accessed 25.01.2019).

18. Speech by Ms Alice Guitton Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament Head of the French Delegation (Geneva, 23 April 2018). Available at: http://statements.unmeetings.org/media2/18559222/france-newl.pdf (accessed 25.02.2019).

19. Statement by H. E. Ambassador KIM In-chul, Deputy Permanent Representative Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN Secretariat and International Organizations in Geneva. Available at: http://statements.unmeetings.org/media2/18559181/republic-of-korea-2018-npt-prepcom-general-debate_rok.pdf (accessed 25.02.2019).

20. Statement by Director General Vladimir Ermakov, Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation. Available at: http://statements.unmeetings.org/media2/18559211/russia-printer_20180424_105255.pdf (accessed 25.02.2019).

21. Statement of the Republic of Poland General Debate – II NPT Preparatory Committee. Available at: http://statements.unmeetings.org/media2/18559156/poland-180420-statement-pl.pdf (accessed 25.02.2019).

22. Karaganov S., Suslov D. Sderzhivanie v novuyu ehpokhu [Deterrence in the New Era]. Russia in Global Affairs, 2019, no. 4. Available at: https://globalaffairs.ru/number/Sderzhivanie-v-novuyu-epokhu-20174 (accessed 13.09.2019).

23. Kortunov A. Konets dvustoronnei epokhi. Kak vykhod SShA iz Dogovora o RSMD menyaet mirovoi poryadok [The End of the Bipolar World. How U. S. Withdrawal from INF Treaty Changes the World Order] Available at: https://carnegie.ru/commentary/77551 (available at 24.10.2018).

24. Manzo V. Nuclear Arms Control without a Treaty? Risks and Options after the New START. CNA’s Strategy, Policy, Plans, and Programs Division (SP3). This report was written by CNA’s Strategy, Policy, Plans, and Programs Division (SP3). Available at: https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/IRM-2019-U-019494.pdf (accessed 24.06.2019).

25. Arbatov A. Dialektika Sudnogo Dnia: Gonka Vooruzheniy i ih Ogranichenia [Doomsday Dialectics: Arms race with Arms Control]. Polis, Political Studies, 2019, no. 3, pp. 27-48. DOI:https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2019.03.03

26. Cohn J., Walton N., Lemon A., Yoshihara T. Leveling the Playing Field. Reintroducing U. S. Theater-range Missiles in a Post-INF World. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. May 21, 2019. Available at: https://csbaonline.org/research/publications/leveling-the-playing-field-reintroducing-us-theater-range-missiles-in-a-post-INF-world (accessed 24.06.2019).

27. McNamara R. The Essence of Security: Reflections in Office. New York, Harper and Row, 1968. 176 p.

28. Dvorkin V. Sokrashchenie nastupatel’nykh vooruzhenii [Offensive arms reductions]. Politsentrichnyi yadernyi mir: vyzovy i novye vozmozhnosti [Polycentric nuclear world: New Challenges and Opportunities]. Arbatov A., Dvorkin V., eds. Moscow Carnegie Center, Moscow, Politicheskaya entsiklopediya, 2017, pp. 54-74.

29. Borger Julian. US arms control office critically understaffed under Trump, experts say. The Guardian, 01.07.2019. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/01/us-arms-control-office-understaffed-trump (accessed 05.07.2019).

30. SIPRI Yearbook 2011: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford University Press, 2011. 564 p.

31. SIPRI Yearbook 2018: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford University Press, 2018. 592 p.

32. The President’s Address to the Federal Assembly. March 1, 2018, Moscow (In Russ.) Available at: http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/56957 (accessed 15.03.2019).

33. Antonov A., Ayumov R. Kontrol’ nad obychnymi vooruzheniyami v Evrope – konets rezhima ili istoriya s prodolzheniem? [Conventional arms control in Europe – the end of the regime or the story of the continuation?] Nauchnye zapiski PIR-Tsentra, 2012, no. 1(27). Available at: http://ns2.pircenter.org/media/content/files/9/13948093580.pdf (accessed 15.03.2019).

34. Arbatov A. Chem opasen dlya Rossii vykhod SShA iz Dogovora o raketakh srednei i men’shei dal’nosti [What Makes the U. S. Withdrawal from the INF Treaty Dangerous to Russia]. Moscow Carnegie Center. 23.10.2018. Available at: https://carnegie.ru/commentary/77543 (accessed 23.10.2018).

35. Arbatov A. Uskol’zayushchaya materiya (Predotvrashchenie gonki vooruzhenii v kosmicheskom prostranstve) [Intangible Matter (Prevention of the arms race in the outer space)]. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2019, vol. 63, no. 1, pp. 5-17. DOI:10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-1-5-17

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Arbatov A. Dreams and Realities of Arms Control. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2019, vol. 63, no. 11, pp. 5-16. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-11-5-16

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 5
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • Are There Any Ways to Break Through the Korean Nuclear Impasse?
  • Contemporary U.S. Taiwan Policy: Balancing on the Edge
  • The Gulf Monarchies’ Vision of the Global Order Transformations and the Russian Place in It
  • At Post-Soviet Space
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.