A U.S.-Russian arms race in strategic conventional weapons is an unfortunate possibility—but it is not an inevitability. The U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike program is in the research and development phase. No procurement decisions have yet been taken and, if the U.S. does ultimately move forward, deployments are unlikely before the mid-2020s. Similarly, Russia also appears to be some years away from being able to field long-range, hypersonic conventional weapons.

James M. Acton
Acton holds the Jessica T. Mathews Chair and is co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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Moreover, even if both states do deploy such weapons, cooperation could stabilize any competition. One possibility would be to make all long-range, hypersonic conventional weapons (including non-ballistic systems) accountable in a future arms control treaty. Unfortunately, given that the arms control process is stalled, Russia and the United States should focus on other forms of confidence building for the time being. To this end, reciprocal declarations of acquisition plans, data exchanges, inspections and launch notifications could all help build mutual security.

The United States is not considering acquiring Conventional Prompt Global Strike weapons for use against Russia. In the final analysis, therefore, I remain hopeful that such weapons can be managed to avoid a costly and potentially dangerous arms race.

This article was originally published on the Russian Council