Beyond the Nuclear Shadow: A Phased Approach for Improving Nuclear Safety and U.S.-Russian Relations

By David E. Mosher; Lowell H. Schwartz et al. | Go to book overview

SUMMARY

The last decade has brought significant changes in the relations between the United States and Russia. At the political level, these changes have most recently been demonstrated, in extraordinary fashion, by Russia's providing active assistance in the war on terrorism, even helping the United States establish basing rights in Central Asia. Changes at the nuclear level have also been notable, as evidenced by the May 2002 signing of the Moscow Treaty statements in which Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin each agreed to reduce long-range nuclear forces to 2,200–1,700 over the next 10 years, down from more than 10,000 each in 1990.

Many of the nuclear dangers that characterized the Cold War—a surprise nuclear attack or a crisis in Europe or Asia that could lead to nuclear war—have receded. Now that there is no longer an ideological conflict as motivation or armies poised in Central Europe to spark a crisis, neither country views nuclear war with the other as likely.

Yet despite the steps taken by both countries to put Cold War hostilities behind them, an important nuclear risk remains—specifically, that of accidental and unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. This risk persists for three reasons. First, although both countries have significantly reduced their nuclear forces, they still retain nuclear postures and deterrence doctrines formulated when tension between them was much higher than it is today. Inherent in these nuclear postures, which are based on rapid delivery of a massive nuclear retaliatory strike, are concerns about the potential for an accidental or unauthorized launch.

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