These are dark days for strategic arms control. Events in Ukraine have brought U.S.-Russian relations to a post-Cold War low point, and Russia increasingly relies on its nuclear arsenal for signaling and prestige. Yet, if Russia hopes to achieve its aim of being a great power or at least being perceived and treated as one, arms control is a status symbol and cost savings mechanism that it cannot afford to waste.
Stutter Steps in Arms Control
Arms control has never been easy, but today, many claim it truly is on its last legs. In his classic 1961 treatise on the subject, international relations scholar Hedley Bull defined arms control as “restraint internationally exercised upon armaments policy, whether in respect of the level of armaments, their character, or deployment of use.”6 Above all, arms control is a management and confidence-building tool. It does not always seek to reduce the size of arsenals but rather to reduce risks by promoting transparency and dialogue about existing weapons.
The Need for Arms Control
Preparing for Optimism
7. Alexey Arbatov, Presentation at the 2014 EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference, Brussels, September 5, 2014, http://www.iiss.org/en/events/eu%20conference/sections/eu-conference-2014-4706/special-sessions-6020/special-session-10-7a22 (session on deterrence, nonproliferation, and disarmament) (hereinafter Arbatov presentation).
10. PIR Center, “From Words to Actions: Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament From 2010 to 2015 and Beyond” (presentation at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference, New York, May 20, 2015), http://www.pircenter.org/media/content/files/13/14317274020.pdf.
12. Levada Center, “Vladimir Putin: Successes and Failures, His Strengths,” September 15, 2014, http://www.levada.ru/eng/vladimir-putin-successes-and-failures-his-strengths.
15. “Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation,” No. Pr.-2976, December 25, 2014, http://www.rusemb.org.uk/press/2029.
16. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation,” February 12, 2013, http://archive.mid.ru//brp_4.nsf/0/76389FEC168189ED44257B2E0039B16D.
22. Andrey Movchan, “What Can We Learn From Russia’s 2016 Budget Proposal?” Carnegie Moscow Center, November 19, 2015, http://carnegie.ru/commentary/2015/11/19/what-can-we-learn-from-russia-s-2016-budget-proposal/im3h.
23. Jeffrey Lewis, “Russian Cruise Missiles Revisited,” Arms Control Wonk, October 27, 2015, http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/7816/russian-cruise-missiles-revisited.
24. Paul Richard Huard, “Russia’s Blast From the Past: Beware the Tu-95 Bear Strategic Bomber,” The National Interest, August 22, 2015, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/russias-blast-the-past-beware-the-tu-95-bear-strategic-13669.
26. The Russian Air Force, in particular, remains a Soviet legacy with extremely poor performance. For example, in 2015 between June and mid-August, it had eight crashes as a result of technical failure or pilot error. Matthew Bodner, “Russia’s Military Is a Paper Tiger in the Baltic,” Institute of Modern Russia, August 26, 2015, http://imrussia.org/en/analysis/world/2389-russias-military-is-a-paper-tiger-in-the-baltic.
29. Heather Williams, “Two Russian Tales, Same Ending: Doubling Down on Defense,” Aspenia Online, May 25, 2015, https://www.aspeninstitute.it/aspenia-online/article/two-russian-tales-same-ending-doubling-down-defense.
31. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is of unlimited duration, but section 2 of Article XV states that “[e]ach Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to withdraw to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from this Treaty. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.”
Heather Williams has been a MacArthur Postdoctoral Fellow since January 2015 in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, where she received her Ph.D. in 2014. Her research focuses on U.S. and Russian nuclear policies, deterrence theory, and trust building in international relations. Previously, she was a research fellow at Chatham House and at the Institute for Defense Analyses.