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 have made traditional arms control outdated.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


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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

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