Are Arms Control Agreements Losing Their Value?
Perhaps there is something mystical about the thirtieth anniversary. The 1972 ABM treaty survived for thirty years until it was abrogated by the United States. The INF is in bad shape and might not see the end of its thirty-first year. More pertinently, in 2021 we will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the START process, which began with the signing of START I in 1991. New START is set to expire in 2021. If we do not negotiate a replacement or, even better, a new framework for nuclear arms reductions before that date, then we will have one more opportunity for sad reflections.
Like the INF, the START process has significant drawbacks—it cannot address nonstrategic nuclear weapons, it classifies all strategic-delivery vehicles as nuclear, it is bilateral, etc. Perhaps it’s time is, indeed, coming to an end. But instead of allowing it to die quietly, we could negotiate a new agreement—one that addresses nuclear weapons rather than delivery vehicles and one that includes other nuclear states. One is left to hope that the sad fate of the INF treaty will serve as a lesson, not as an example.
Dr. Nikolai Sokov is a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.