Loose Cannon

Whereas the principal aim of American nuclear policy during the Cold War was to deter a strong and aggressive Soviet Union, the nuclear risks we face today stem from Russian weakness.

Issue: Summer 1998

Peter Pry, War Scare (Atlanta: Turner Publishing).

Graham Allison et al., Avoiding Nuclear Anarchy: Containing the Threat of Loose Russian Nuclear Weapons and Fissile Material (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996).

Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, One Point Safe (New York: Anchor Doubleday, 1997).

Whereas the principal aim of American nuclear policy during the Cold War was to deter a strong and aggressive Soviet Union, the nuclear risks we face today stem from Russian weakness. Russia's conventional forces have declined to the point that they can no longer protect Russian territory, and into this vacuum has rushed a growing reliance on nuclear weapons--including the prospect of their first use early in any serious conventional conflict. To make matters worse, the nuclear forces themselves have become vulnerable. Budget shortages prevent Russia from dispersing its weapons into the sanctuaries of the oceans and forests, to the point that, in their present configuration, its strategic forces could not ride out a U.S. attack. Consequently, Russia today faces far stronger pressures to "use or lose" its nuclear arsenal than at any time since the early 1960s.

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