A New Start with Old Strategies: U.S. Nuclear Policy in the 21st Century
27 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 5 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2012
This paper analyzes U.S. nuclear policy beginning with a review of the prevailing theoretical arguments for arms control during the Cold War at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse through to the recent passage of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The debates vacillate between realist arguments for creating security stability through capability distribution, deterrence, and balancing, and liberal institutionalist arguments of predictability and stability through iteration and transparency. Normative arguments against nuclear weapons and in favor of full disarmament emerged in the last decade and transformed the nuclear debate. After conducting the theoretical review, contemporary nuclear policy opinion will be explored. Of particular importance is the slim passage of New START in the U.S. Senate. In contrast to previous arms reductions agreements New START faced unprecedented opposition. What remains to be seen is whether this opposition was the result of party politics or conflicting visions of U.S. nuclear policy. Since the fall of the Soviet Union new nuclear threats have manifested in the forms of regional proliferation or terrorist acquisition of nuclear material and the U.S. has yet to form consistent policy to deal with 21st century security issues. Having laid out the New START debate, an assessment of current U.S. plans will be conducted followed by exploration of the implications for future policy and U.S. grand strategy.
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