Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age


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Report by Matthew Kroenig. Although the Obama administration identified the Russian violations, support for a US withdrawal from the INF Treaty did not gain steam until the start of the Trump administration. New Atlanticist by David A. Over the past decade, Russia has made nuclear weapons a predominant element of its national security strategy and military doctrine, while NATO has consciously de-emphasized its nuclear posture. Issue Brief by Matthew Kroenig.

Eurasia Center. Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. Future Europe Initiative. Rather […]. Report by Taisuke Mibae. The future course of US-North Korea and inter-Korea negotiations over denuclearization and building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula is […]. Report by Taisuke Mibae and James L.

It is important for NATO to revive the role of its nuclear deterrence posture through clear messaging and effective confidence-building measures that will strengthen its security in future threat environments. New Atlanticist by Aaron Richards. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko recently advocated building intermediate-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles to target and presumably use against Russia. No doubt Poroshenko calculated that he might gain a political advantage during the final days of a tough campaign for reelection by adopting this hawkish stance.

And he may have also thought it made military […].

Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age - Keith B. Payne - Google книги

UkraineAlert by Stephen Blank. This represents a lower proportion of supporters than the over deputies who voted on three occasions to change the constitution to include those two goals.

Batkivshchina Fatherland party and the Radical […]. Surrounded by two oceans, facing weak countries on its borders, and possessing command of the commons and overwhelming conventional, economic, and soft power superiority, would the odds of the American homeland being invaded increase at all? It is not clear whom, in this scenario, nuclear deterrence is keeping at bay.

The unlikeliness of an invasion or conquest is not simply a product of the post—Cold War world. Fifty years ago, a similar decision by the United States was unlikely to make the Soviet Union or any other potential adversary more inclined to invade and conquer the United States. In fact, by removing the need to target alerted U.

Center for Strategic & International Studies

This revealing if unanswerable counterfactual is not presented to make a case for or against deterrence or disarmament. Nor is it to avoid the obvious point that the United States had and has interests and ambitions that go far beyond protecting its homeland. Rather, this hypothetical presents us with a puzzle to be explored. Few countries have or have had less need for the most important benefit nuclear deterrence provides: protection from invasion and conquest.

Yet no other state has been as determined to build large numbers of weapons married to the most sophisticated delivery systems, employed in comparatively aggressive strategies, while working hard to deny independent nuclear weapons capabilities to others. Furthermore, the most dangerous nuclear crises involving the United States—the Korean War, the Berlin crisis, and the Cuban Missile Crisis—engaged political issues that were far from existential, and arguably would have been handled very differently in a world without nuclear weapons, if they had happened at all.

How are we to explain these apparent puzzles and this tension between theories of nuclear deterrence and the history of American nuclear statecraft? If the United States has little fear of invasion, to what purpose does it put its nuclear weapons? Why does the United States threaten to use nuclear weapons, or to unleash a process that might lead to catastrophic nuclear use, over conflicts that are not remotely existential—such as the political status of a city deep in enemy territory fifty-five years ago, or the defense of a Baltic country or man-made islands in the South China Sea today?

Are these insights applicable to other countries? There is very little in the classic literature on nuclear deterrence that provides satisfactory answers to these questions. This paper will examine the concept of nuclear deterrence through the lens of the history and the grand strategic goals of the United States. I suggest strategists may have missed important elements of U. My point will not be to criticize earlier strategists, who built impressive deductive tools and developed keen insights into nuclear deterrence; but rather to emphasize how complex and often obscure nuclear dynamics can be, and how difficult it is to correctly identify those elements of international relations that are shaped by nuclear weapons and those that are not.

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There are immense challenges to making sense of nuclear politics and statecraft since , some of which I will highlight below. Finally, I will offer an admittedly basic framework to better understand American nuclear statecraft in order to capture its complex and often crosscutting strategies and goals. This framework—labeled multiple and interactive deterrence, assurance, and reassurance MIDAR —attempts to capture the complex, wide-ranging missions that the United States tries to implement through its nuclear weapons strategy. As will become clear, the strategy of MIDAR is aimed at allies, adversaries, and neutrals alike, often involving basic and extended deterrence, at other times assurances, and sometimes even compulsion and coercion.

Various parts of the mission have been emphasized at different times, based both on geopolitical realities and the preferences of shifting presidential administrations.

The Structure of the Second Nuclear Age

Some of the missions—simultaneously deterring and assuring allies, while deterring and assuring adversaries—find themselves in deep tension. The main point of the framework is to reveal that what the United States incorporates into its overall grand nuclear weapons strategy goes well beyond the basic ideas of deterrence against invasion and conquest highlighted by early strategists and embraced by most nuclear weapons states.

If nothing else, I hope to convey how much work there is still left to be done on topics once long thought settled: how and why the United States uses nuclear weapons, and what influence these decisions have on international relations. In other words, developing nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and strategies aimed toward prevailing in a nuclear conflict is pointless, expensive, and dangerous. Since there is both uncertainty and risk in any nuclear crisis, and the consequences of getting it wrong are so horrific, both sides have powerful incentives to act responsibly.


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Conquest and invasion are too costly in such a world to even contemplate. Deterrence theorists developed other concepts as well, including the framework for strategic arms control. If mutual vulnerability was the goal between nuclear pairs, then negotiated treaties might prevent other external factors from undermining the desired goal of strategic stability. Arms control would stem the action-reaction cycle of the arms race and restrain the domestic and organizational forces keen on building more nuclear weapons.

Deterrence theory and the nuclear revolution also had consequences for thinking about the spread of independent nuclear weapons programs. If nuclear weapons prevent conquest and guarantee security, then one would have expected every economically and technologically advanced state to seek them. Nor should other states, especially self-proclaimed status quo powers like the United States, be unduly alarmed by nuclear proliferation, since by limiting interstate war they increased global stability.


  • The Case for Deterrence by Denial - The American Interest.
  • Tales of Luna C.
  • Conventional Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

How well did deterrence theory and its natural offshoots do in predicting nuclear statecraft? It certainly got its major claim or prediction correct—great power wars of conquest have largely disappeared from the global landscape. There were dangerous crises and the risk of war between the Soviet Union and the United States, but the Cold War ended peacefully.

While dangers abound, interstate relations are certainly more stable today than they were in, for example, , , or It is, of course, hard to prove that the nuclear revolution is responsible for decreasing large-scale interstate war; a variety of other alternative explanations, from increased globalization to norms to the increased costs of conventional war and conquest have been offered. While American leaders did pursue strategic arms control, they simultaneously sought expensive and potentially destabilizing counterforce nuclear systems that went well beyond what was required for strategic stability.

Relatedly, the United States was quite or fairly active in its extensive efforts to prevent other countries from acquiring independent nuclear weapons. It applied a variety of measures, from alliances to norms to threats, addressing friend and foe alike, in its nonproliferation efforts. How do we reconcile the clear, powerful, and parsimonious predictions of nuclear deterrence theory with the complex, messy, and often obscure history of nuclear statecraft? There are at least two challenges.

First, there are the methodological challenges to fully understanding nuclear dynamics and statecraft. Second, and the issue I will focus on, is recognizing and attempting to integrate the competing, parallel, and at times contradictory narratives and perspectives of the nuclear age.

This is a massive and multifaceted undertaking, and the most one can do here is to highlight profitable paths for future scholarship. I have written elsewhere about the methodological challenges to generating a clear and comprehensive understanding of nuclear dynamics and statecraft. While accessing declassified documents from around the world has become easier, it is still a monumental task to piece together the various national and international histories of nuclear statecraft.

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Second, what is it we are actually studying when assessing and analyzing nuclear deterrence? Nuclear statecraft is primarily concerned with what has not happened since —namely, a nuclear war. Nuclear deterrence is a nonoccurrence; it is when something is prevented from happening that would have otherwise occurred in the absence of the deterrent.

What this means is that it is not observable and hard to generalize upon. Third, it is very hard to disentangle the development of nuclear weapons and arms races from the Cold War rivalry between the superpowers and other important historical drivers of the post world. That difficulty will be discussed below. The fourth challenge, which also will be discussed below, involves separating the history of how knowledge and thought about nuclear weapons was developed—i. In the past, the powerful allure of these deductive theories, which were meant to describe what scholars thought should happen, were inserted as explanations for what did happen.

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Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age
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Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age
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