Nonproliferation
Policy Paper

Russia’s Approach to Deep Reductions of Nuclear Weapons: Opportunities and Problems Second Edition

in Program

Much has happened regarding the Russian approach to nuclear disarmament since the original writing of this paper in the first half of 1996. Although much of the earlier analysis remains valid, some important trends have become clearer and, in light of new developments, merit a second look. This is true, in particular, for the impact of NATO enlargement on Russia’s approach to nuclear arms reduction and the role of new actors in the policymaking mechanism. While bilateral US-Russian arms control is stalled at this writing, chances for unilateral reduction of strategic arms have improved over the past year. This requires serious attention as well, especially since the long-term consequences of favoring unilateral over negotiated reductions are not necessarily positive for either Russia or the West.

The US-Russian relationship in the disarmament area has reached a critical juncture. If the arms control process is not restarted in the next year or two, then five to seven years from now it will be overtaken by the deployment of a national ballistic missile defense system in the United States and a comprehensive modernization program in Russia, which will cover both strategic and tactical delivery vehicles. This outcome is by no means preordained (some mitigating factors will be explored below), but the chances of unfavorable developments will be too high for comfort. Unilateral reductions might play an important role, but as a precursor to negotiated disarmament rather than as an independent method.

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