The Superpowers and Nuclear Arms Control: Rhetoric and Reality

By Dennis Menos | Go to book overview
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applying in their arms control dealings "a spirit beyond national interests" (the quote is from President Reagan's 1983 address before the U.N. General Assembly) and they abandon the game playing and search for unilateral advantage that now occupies so much of their time.

In summary, the superpowers are pursuing arms control only when it serves their own long-term interests. The worldwide outcry for an end to the arms race, the marches and peace demonstrations, are irrelevant to the process. So is Article VI of the NPT, which calls upon them to pursue negotiations toward a treaty on general and complete disarmament. Arms control must serve the superpowers' own interests or it serves no purpose.

The superpowers are aware that the odds are extremely low that areas of potential agreement will ever be found. Accordingly, while pursuing the search for illusive deals, they also act to convey to the world an earnest effort at finding solutions. For the benefit of world public opinion: they publicize their unfailing opposition to the nuclear arms race but continue to build bigger and better weapons; 41 they warn of the irrationality of nuclear war but blindly pursue actions likely to increase the risk of nuclear war; they preach of the need to reverse the process but refuse to take even the most minute risks on the route to nuclear sanity.

In many ways, the superpowers are playing games with nuclear arms control, the kind in which points are scored for gaining national advantage rather than for practical measures to end the nuclear arms race.

Richard Nixon, 1999: Victory without War ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), p. 66; and Harvard Nuclear Study Group, Living with Nuclear Weapons ( Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), p. 5. For the opposite view, that nuclear weapons can be totally "eliminated," see George F. Kennan, The Nuclear Delusion ( New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), p. 72.
Jerry F. Hough, "Soviet Decision Making on Defense," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, August 1985, pp. 84-88; George G. Weickhardt, "The Military Consensus Behind Soviet Arms Control Proposals," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, September 1987, pp. 20-24.
Harvard Nuclear Study Group, Living with Nuclear Weapons, p. 195.
George Shultz, "Realism and Responsibility: The U.S. Approach to Arms Control," in U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Realism, Strength, Negotiation: Key Foreign Policy Statements of the Reagan Administration ( Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984).
Robert M. Gates, "The Uneven Cycles of Kremlin Reform," Washington Post, April 30, 1989. See also Interview with Gen. John Galvin, NATO commander, "Keep the Power Dry," Time, May 29, 1989.
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Security and Arms Control: The Search for a More Stable Peace ( Washington, DC: U.S. Government Print


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