Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements*

By Woolf, Amy F.; Kerr, Paul K. et al. | Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico, October 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements*


Woolf, Amy F., Kerr, Paul K., Nikitin, Mary Beth D., Current Politics and Economics of the United States, Canada and Mexico


Introduction

National Security, Arms Control, and Nonproliferation

For much of the past century, U.S. national security strategy focused on several core, interrelated objectives. These include enhancing U.S. security at home and abroad; promoting U.S. economic prosperity; and promoting free markets and democracy around the world. The United States has used both unilateral and multilateral mechanisms to achieve these objectives, with varying amounts of emphasis at different times. These mechanisms have included a range of military, diplomatic, and economic tools.

One of these core objectives-enhancing U.S. security-generally is interpreted as the effort to protect the nation's interests and includes, for instance, protecting the lives and safety of Americans; maintaining U.S. sovereignty over its values, territory, and institutions; and promoting the nation's well-being. The United States has wielded a deep and wide range of military, diplomatic, and economic tools to protect and advance its security interests. These include, for instance, the deployment of military forces to deter, dissuade, persuade, or compel others; the formation of alliances and coalitions to advance U.S. interests and counter aggression; and the use of U.S. economic power to advance its agenda or promote democratization, or to impose sanctions or withhold U.S. economic support to condemn or punish states hostile to U.S. interests.

In this context, arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that have occasionally been used to implement the U.S. national security strategy. They generally are not pursued as ends in and of themselves, and many argue that they should not become more important than the strategy behind them. But many believe their effective employment can be critical to the success of that broader strategy. Many analysts see them as a complement to, rather than a substitute for, military or economic efforts.

Effective arms control measures are thought to enhance U.S. national security in a number of ways. For example, arms control measures that promote transparency might increase U.S. knowledge about and understanding of the size, make-up, and operations of an opposing military force. This might not only ease U.S. military planning, but it might also reduce an opponent's incentives for and opportunities to attack U.S. forces, or the forces of its friends and allies. Transparency measures can also build confidence among wary adversaries. Effective arms control measures can also be designed to complement U.S. force structure objectives by limiting or restraining U.S. and other nations' forces. In an era of declining defense budget resources, arms control measures may also help ensure reciprocity in force reductions. Indeed, some analysts consider such arms control measures essential to the success of our national military objectives.

Similarly, U.S. officials from several Administrations have identified efforts to prevent the further spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery to be an essential element of U.S. national security. For one reason, proliferation can exacerbate regional tensions that might escalate to conflict and involve or threaten U.S. forces or those of its friends and allies. Proliferation might also introduce new and unexpected threats to the U.S. homeland. Furthermore, proliferation can greatly complicate U.S. national military strategy, force structure design, and conduct of operations. And these weapons could pose a threat to the U.S. homeland if they were acquired by terrorists or subnational groups. Hence, the United States employs diplomatic, economic, and military tools to restrain these threats and enhance its national security.

During the Cold War, arms control played a key role in the relationship between the United States and Soviet Union. Although the agreements rarely forced either side to accept significant changes in its planned nuclear forces, the arms control process, and the formal negotiations, were often one of the few channels for communication between the United States and Soviet Union. …

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