WASHINGTON—President Obama has identified the goal of creating the conditions that would allow for deep reductions in nuclear arsenals. In a report released today at the 2011 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, James M. Acton lays out a detailed policy agenda to reduce U.S. and Russian stockpiles by a factor of ten—to 500 nuclear warheads each—and those of other nuclear-armed states to no more than half that number. To do so, Washington must follow a practical and multi-pronged approach.
- Take a comprehensive approach on arms control. U.S. arms control policy must be geared towards three key goals: verifiable elimination of warheads, deterrence of rearmament, and reduction of the incentives to strike first in a crisis.
- Engage with U.S. allies to review security threats and responses. Washington must convince its allies in Europe and East Asia to support deep reductions by identifying security threats and appropriate non-nuclear responses, and by demonstrating that reducing the size of its arsenal does not represent a reduced commitment to their continued security.
- Address conventional imbalances. In the short term, the United States should pursue conventional arms control efforts in Europe to reduce the chance that Russia will link them into the next round of nuclear negotiations. In the long term, deep reductions will only be possible if Washington and Beijing can accept rough equality of capability in the West Pacific.
- Push for a transparent and multilateral process. Enhanced transparency from France, the United Kingdom, and especially China will advance a multilateral arms control process. But, before that is possible, Washington and Beijing must engage in a program of mutual strategic reassurance.
"While cutting the number of nuclear weapons so significantly is a formidable challenge, the United States, Russia, and other nations can do much in the short term to advance this goal," Acton writes. "Washington should lead this process to ensure that it at least gets started."
James M. Acton is an associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment. A physicist by training, Acton specializes in nonproliferation, deterrence, and disarmament.
The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.
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