Competing Views on Strategic Arms Reduction

Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START) I and II are intended to strengthen nuclear stability by eliminating those weapons in both the Russian and U.S. arsenals that are most capable of carrying out a surprise attack. During the five years since START II was signed, that treaty has been widely portrayed in Russia as depriving Moscow of its most potent strategic weapon (heavily armed land-based missiles) and as making Russian nuclear forces potentially vulnerable to U.S. long-range conventional weapons and ballistic missile defenses. These criticisms may be giving rise to a new, more Russia-specific strategic doctrine. This emerging challenge to the official U.S.-Russian consensus on strategic stability probably will not lead Russia to reject START II (particularly in view of 1997 modifications to the treaty), but it does indicate that Moscow would be unlikely to accept the large additional reductions envisaged in several recent unofficial proposals for a “minimum deterrent” force.

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