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June 2, 2022
Books of Note
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Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
By Paul Lettow, Random House Inc., February 2005, 327 pp.

On the basis of recently declassified documents, Oxford scholar Paul Lettow argues that President Ronald Reagan’s strategic thinking was inspired by his anti-nuclear beliefs. Rather than a strategic move to ensure U.S. military superiority, Lettow contends that Reagan’s signature Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was pursued in order to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. Reagan envisioned the development of a shared missile defense creating a “balance of safety rather than a balance of terror.” Lettow traces Reagan’s life and career, from his 1945 recitation of an anti-nuclear poem called “Set Your Clock at U-235” to Reagan’s discussions with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1987 Reykjavík summit, when the leaders came close to signing away their nuclear forces.

Preventing Nuclear Meltdown: Managing Decentralization of Russia's Nuclear Complex
Edited by James Clay Moltz, Vladimir A. Orlov, and Adam N. Stulberg, Ashgate Publishing, November 2004, 258 pp.

In this collection of essays, Russian policy experts review the complex changes that have occurred in the governance and operation of Russia’s nuclear facilities since 1991. Focusing on Russia’s underprotected stockpile of nuclear weapons, separated weapons-grade material, and radioactive spent fuel and waste, the authors assess efforts to secure these materials. With case studies spanning critical nuclear areas—Russia’s Northwest and Far East and the Urals, Siberia, and Volga regions—the contributors note the growing influence of regional political and economic forces and cite evidence of security breaches and threats. They suggest that international threat reduction assistance be more closely linked to specific regional challenges.

The Russian Military: Power and Policy
Edited by Steven E. MIller and Dmitri Trenin, MIT Press, September 2004, 239 pp.

A group of Russian military experts examines Moscow’s efforts to define its military infrastructure and position in the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although its amassed stockpiles of resources have kept it going despite the odds—it has been trying to run a military used to $450 billion per year on a $40 billion budget—necessary reform has lagged. The Kremlin has not been willing to spend the political capital needed to ensure the greater civilian control, transparency, and modernization that the military needs to put it on a par with its European and U.S. counterparts. Nor has Russia really updated its national security doctrine; nuclear weapons continue to play a key role and its overall forces are geared up for an all-out war with the West rather than the threats it faces from terrorism and regional conflicts. The authors conclude by assessing how and whether Russia might try to leverage its growing economy to help finance its military reform.

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