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As long as the retaliatory forces are composed primarily of liquid-fuel missiles and airplanes--as they will be until the middle sixties--the side which strikes first will have a perhaps decisive advantage unless the defender's retaliatory force is in a.

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Login Sign up. Department of Defense, National Museum of the U. As long as the retaliatory forces are composed primarily of liquid-fuel missiles and airplanes--as they will be until the middle sixties--the side which strikes first will have a perhaps decisive advantage unless the defender's retaliatory force is in a Loading, please wait Stay informed.

Of course, it was based on real nuclear forces and operational plans for their use. This qualitative shift laid the foundation for formulating the philosophy that nuclear weapons play a predominantly political role, rather than a military one.

Nuclear Deterrence: A Guarantee or Threat to Strategic Stability?

The origins of this concept lie in analytical developments of the late s at the RAND Corporation. Its first author at the official level was Robert McNamara, who served as U.

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Both of our nations would benefit from a properly safeguarded agreement first to limit, and later to reduce, both our offensive and defensive strategic nuclear forces. These agreements did not stop the arms race, however. It was only constrained, but gained momentum in other areas of the nuclear balance and types of nuclear weapons.

The number of U. In the Soviet Union, by the end of the s, the number of weapons reached a maximum of 30, with a total destructive potential of 35, megatons. Together, the two superpowers—which accounted for approximately 98 percent of the global nuclear arsenal—had accumulated a destructive power equivalent to about 3 million Hiroshima-class bombs.

But by the end of the s, the Cold War was winding down, major changes were beginning to take place within the Soviet Union, and the absurd redundancies of accumulated nuclear capabilities became obvious to the ruling elite on both sides. Against this favorable backdrop, the concept of strategic stability became a legal norm. This concept radically revised conventional wisdom.

During the Cold War, each side ideologically perceived the enemy as an imminent aggressor, regardless of the specific content of its military doctrine or composition of its weapons arsenals. Now, both sides subscribed to the premise that a first nuclear strike is an act of aggression, no matter which state committed it. The basic assumption was that the goal of a first strike was to prevent or substantially weaken the retaliatory potential of the enemy by defeating its strategic forces at their starting positions, and to mitigate the impact of surviving weapons with ballistic missile defenses BMD.

It is important to emphasize that the content of strategic stability was agreed upon during the negotiations for START I, signed in , the complex provisions of which embodied all the principles of this concept.


As major parallel measures, deep parallel reductions were conducted regarding tactical nuclear arms, negotiations to conclude a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for military purposes Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty began in , and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty CTBT was signed in The permitted levels of strategic weapons have been reduced about sixfold for warheads, almost threefold for deployed delivery systems, and by about thirtyfold for total megatonnage.

Even more importantly, the strategic balance has become much more stable in substance—in terms of its definition, that is, the elimination of incentives for a nuclear first strike. Nevertheless, strategic stability as one of the models of mutual nuclear deterrence is now deteriorating due to the evolution of strategic concepts and operational plans on both sides, as well as the beginning of a large-scale cycle of nuclear and advanced conventional arms races. These processes are naturally exacerbated by what is essentially a new Cold War between Russia and the West, which has accelerated the collapse of nuclear arms control.

Meanwhile, U. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all. Both powers embrace not only retaliatory strikes in the event of an attack using nuclear weapons, but also their first use in response to an attack using conventional forces, as well as in some other situations. They contribute to the deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attack; assurance of allies and partners; achievement of U.

The positive incentives in arms control

It turns out, however, that the Russian military doctrine is highly flexible. I would like to ask all of you and those who will later analyze and in one way or another interpret my every word here, to keep in mind that there is no provision for a preventive strike in our nuclear weapons doctrine.

Arms Race and Disarmament in Internation Relations (CH-03)

Our concept is based on a launch-on-warning strike. This means that we are prepared and will use nuclear weapons only when we know for certain that some potential aggressor is attacking Russia, our territory. I am not revealing a secret if I say that we have created a system which is being upgraded all the time as needed—a missile attack early warning system. This system monitors the globe, warning about the launch of any strategic missile… and identifying the area from which it was launched. Second, the system tracks the trajectory of a missile flight.

Third, it locates a nuclear warhead impact zone. Only when we know for certain—and this takes a few seconds to understand—that Russia is being attacked will we deliver a counterstrike. Of course, this amounts to a global catastrophe, but I would like to repeat that we cannot be the initiators of such a catastrophe because we have no provision for a preventive strike. Any aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable, and they will be annihilated.

Public attention focused mostly on that last, emotional phrase.

This is something the Soviet Union declared in though no one in the world took it seriously then and that Russia abolished in which everyone believed. Of the nine states that currently possess nuclear weapons, the only countries to have undertaken such a commitment are China though few believe it and India though it has provided some reservations.

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Furthermore, although Putin referred to nuclear weapons in general, it is possible that the concept he outlined relates only to the use of strategic nuclear forces, and above all the silo-based strategic rocket forces. Besides, Putin implicitly reaffirmed the conviction shared by the Soviet Union and the United States in the s and s that a nuclear war would be a catastrophe for humanity, and therefore it cannot be fought and won.


In any case, the historic importance of the above statement depends on whether or not the next edition of the Russian military doctrine is amended accordingly. In all other respects, compared to the period of former U. In the Obama years, Moscow had not expressed alarm over U. For its part, Washington had worried about Russian sub-strategic tactical nuclear weapons and general-purpose forces. In turn, Russia has clearly shifted emphasis in recent years to its long-range high-precision conventional offensive weapons, which finally aroused U.

Historical analysis shows that strategic asymmetries have periodically created considerable difficulties for nuclear arms control negotiations. However, the current symmetry of strategic capabilities and views on their importance does not guarantee a resumption of dialogue and reduction of the nuclear threat.

The dual nature of nuclear deterrence arises from the blurred distinction between the use of nuclear deterrence as a political tool to prevent war and the practical use of nuclear weapons as a means of warfare. After all, any deterrence is only feasible if it relies on the material basis of nuclear weapons and the willingness to use them in accordance with military doctrine, strategy, and operational plans.

At the same time, no weapons system is actually created for deterrence, because it is too general and amorphous a concept for the military planners and arms designers. The development of all nuclear weapons systems integrates the latest technical achievements to perform specific military tasks: the destruction of certain military and civilian targets in the specified conditions of conflict. At the same time, certain technical aspects of weapons and related operational plans may increase the likelihood of a military conflict or its escalation.

Today, all of this is happening under the influence of technological and military developments and new strategic concepts among the leading nuclear powers, and is being exacerbated by the growing political tensions between Russia and the United States. The enormous destructive power and technical complexity of existing nuclear forces have effectively left critical political decisions hostage to strategic concepts and operational plans developed in military offices long before an outbreak of armed conflict.

And these plans are dictated by the technical specifications of the weapons and their command-and-control information systems.

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With regards to the present day, the classical Clausewitz postulate can be reformulated as follows: war at least global nuclear war is no longer the continuation of policy by other means. It is the continuation of military doctrine and the technical specifications of weapons systems that determine the plans and methods of their employment. An illustration of this is the concept of launch-on-warning as outlined by the Russian leadership.

It is mainly driven by the vulnerability of strategic forces to a massive nuclear missile strike. However, this only relates to ICBMs in hardened silo launchers, underground command posts, missile submarines in bases, and bombers at airfields. Meanwhile, the concept of launch-on-warning carries a fair risk of unintended nuclear war. In the short term, this risk may grow significantly along with the development of military hardware and changes to the strategic balance.

For example, space weapons and cyber warfare are likely to have the ability to disable early warning systems or trigger false alarms. The development of hypersonic systems will deprive ground-based radars of the ability to determine, in a timely manner, the trajectory of enemy missiles and their impact area, which means that a launch-on-warning response will have to be authorized immediately upon detection from satellites, which periodically signal false alarms. According to statements by authoritative military commanders, this might force Russia to accept the concept of a preemptive nuclear strike.

And if the United States accepts the concept of a preemptive strike, any possible crisis situation would force both sides to speed ahead of the other: not for any political reasons, but because of the vulnerability of Russian strategic forces and command-and-control system to the first strike by the other side. Another example of the self-destructive tendencies of nuclear deterrence is the concept of a limited or selective nuclear war. The perennial question that strategic planners have fought over for decades is what to do if nuclear deterrence fails.

These scenarios include if an attack by an enemy using conventional weapons threatens imminent defeat including destruction of nuclear forces in bases using high-precision non-nuclear capabilities , if the other side uses nuclear weapons in any kind of limited way, or if it uses other weapons of mass destruction or cyber attacks. Changes began many years later. It should be noted that, since then, subsequent editions of Russian military doctrine and other official strategic documents have made no mention of such concepts.