Russia Still Needs Arms Control

By Williams, Heather | Arms Control Today, January/February 2016 | Go to article overview

Russia Still Needs Arms Control


Williams, Heather, Arms Control Today


These are dark days for strategic arms control. Events in Ukraine have brought U.S.-Russian relations to a post-Cold War low point, and Russia increasingly relies on its nuclear arsenal for signaling and prestige. Yet, if Russia hopes to achieve its aim of being a great power or at least being perceived and treated as one, arms control is a status symbol and cost savings mechanism that it cannot afford to waste.

Perhaps Leon Trotsky would direct one of his vitriolic outbursts at today's supporters of arms control: "You are pitiful, isolated individuals! You are bankrupts. Your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on - into the dustbin of history!"1 Russia appears to be on the verge of sending arms control to the dustbin of history given its reliance on nuclear weapons. After years of modernization and investment, there now appears to be little incentive for Russia to limit its arsenal.

Russia's "nuclear sabre-rattling"2 certainly suggests it is no longer interested in engagement with the West. It insists further arms control is not possible unless any future agreement incorporates missile defense and longrange precision conventional weapons or is expanded to include other nuclear possessor states. In a June 21, 2015, interview with the Financial Times, Sergey Ivanov, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, observed, "To be frank, there are practically no channels for interaction left" with the United States.3 Russia went so far as to threaten suspending verification of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in response to Western sanctions,4 and talks on a New START follow-on agreement and on missile defense collapsed in 2012.5

From the U.S. perspective, alleged Russian violations of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty undermine trust between the two countries. From the Russian perspective, there is no political expediency to arms control at present. Moscow's interests lie elsewhere, and any overtures at dialogue would undermine its desired impression of standing up to the West and promoting a more multipolar world. Arms control is dead and no longer a priority for Russia. At least, that is the dominant narrative.

There is an alternative story line, namely that Russia needs arms control more than the United States. Verification under New START expires in 2021, with a possible five-year extension. At that time, Russia will face the prospect of losing insight into the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the symbolic value of a treaty legally binding it to parity with the United States, and a venue for it to showcase its nuclear weapons and portray itself as a great power. This narrative is far less prominent, but leads to a more useful approach of examining the arms control landscape two, five, and 10 years from now. From this perspective, it is not only conceivable but actually quite likely that well before New START verification expires, Russia will be more open to further arms control.

Stutter Steps in Arms Control

Arms control has never been easy, but today, many claim it truly is on its last legs. In his classic 1961 treatise on the subject, international relations scholar Hedley Bull defined arms control as "restraint internationally exercised upon armaments policy, whether in respect of the level of armaments, their character, or deployment of use."6 Above all, arms control is a management and confidence-building tool. It does not always seek to reduce the size of arsenals but rather to reduce risks by promoting transparency and dialogue about existing weapons.

Past instances of U.S.-Russian arms control were inspired by various factors that changed the strategic balance. In the case of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, technological developments in delivery vehicles and defensive measures, namely missile defense, brought Americans and Soviets to the negotiating table. Oversized arsenals and costly excesses in defense procurement were among the shifts that inspired the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Russia Still Needs Arms Control
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.