Stepping Back: Nuclear Arms Control and the End of the Cold War

Stepping Back: Nuclear Arms Control and the End of the Cold War

Stepping Back: Nuclear Arms Control and the End of the Cold War

Stepping Back: Nuclear Arms Control and the End of the Cold War


Vogele provides a contemporary history of the nuclear arms control negotiations of the 1980s, tracing these negotiations from their initiation at the beginning of the decade through the agreements that were reached by the end. Two chapters provide background on arms control efforts from the mid-1950s through 1980. The work is an analytical history of nuclear arms control bargaining processes, and an evaluation of the utility of alternative negotiation strategies for producing agreement. Thus, the history of these negotiations offers lessons for the continuing pursuit of arms control and other cooperative security arrangement in the post-Cold War international order.


[The] process of attaining new accords may require extended and patient negotiations lasting for years. The tribulations of such negotiations, however, are more than justified if they help to avoid the outbreak of nuclear war. It is possible that arms control negotiations may be one of the roads or even the main road leading to significant future East-West accords. In that event, the negotiations would truly be a highway to peace and increased security. The West should remain in a position to travel speedily over that highway if and when its direction and destination become apparent.

Bernard Bechhoefer

If arms control was a "highway to peace and increased security" during the thirty-five years following Bechhoefer's optimistic comment, then it was a rather bumpy ride. The United States and the Soviet Union engaged each other in arms control negotiations almost continuously. And they achieved a handful of agreements. Some treaties, like the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty, placed significant restrictions on weapons development and deployment. Others, like the 1970 treaty on the Denuclearization of the Seabeds, banned weapons that neither side had any interests in developing.

Nevertheless, technological advances and the accumulation of new weapons often outstripped political efforts for arms limitations. In the most obvious example of this dynamic, the SALT agreement of 1972 limited the number of offensive nuclear delivery vehicles but did nothing to stop the multiplication of weapons thro the development of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Throughout the first three decades of arms control, moments of political détente and accord were often quickly dispelled by distrust and recrimination. By 1981 and the advent of the Reagan administration in the United States . . .

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