Deterrence and Nuclear Proliferation in the Twenty-First Century

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

2

Rethinking Deterrence: A New Logic to Meet Twenty-First Century Challenges

Lewis A. Dunn

For nearly five decades deterrence was at the center of U.S. national security policy. Initially, deterrence via the threat of nuclear punishment was seen as the most critical means to implement the Cold War policy of containment of Soviet aggression in Europe. Over time, mutual nuclear deterrence between the United States and the former Soviet Union came to be viewed as the key to containing the threat of mutual nuclear devastation. Over those decades U.S. officials periodically debated and redefined the requirements of stable nuclear deterrence, while putting in place a robust set of theater and strategic nuclear and nonnuclear military capabilities designed to convince their Soviet counterparts of the fearful damage that would result from aggression. With the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the former Soviet Union, and the emergence of hostile proliferators armed with chemical or biological weapons (CBW), or possibly even nuclear weaponry, it is timely—and necessary—to begin to rethink in three important respects the role and requirements of deterrence in American security policy.

First, while nuclear weapons continue to provide a hedge against a breakdown of the slow process of political reform in Russia, the logic of nuclear deterrence could well impede rather than support the emergence and regularization of a more cooperative U.S.-Russian political-military relationship. Instead, the logic of mutual nuclear deterrence needs to be first complemented, then gradually subordinated to, and

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