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The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with the new report “Future of arms control: views from the United States”

29.01.2021

MOSCOW. JANUARY 29, 2021. PIR PRESS. The Security Index Occasional Paper Series came out with the new report “Future of arms control: views from the United States” that consists of two articles: “How to Multilateralize Arms Control” by Tom Countryman and “Challenges to Broadening the Scope of U.S.-Russian Arms Control” by Anya Fink.

These papers were produced for the joint PIR Center – CSIS series of seminars "Reducing Nuclear Risks During Great Power Competition" (November 12 – December 9, 2020). We thank our partners in CSIS for their cooperation and support for this publication.

Tom Countryman. How to Multilateralize Arms Control

The article analyzes prospects for multilateral arms control including China, Great Britain, and France. Although the Russian-American strategic relationship remains the most crucial issue, it will be increasingly difficult to restrain new proliferation efforts without establishing multilateral arms control among all countries of the P5. Engaging China is a difficult task, but it is possible if a trilateral security dialogue cements the perception of China’s superiority to the UK and France. London and Paris themselves will be willing to join a multilateral dialogue only after a deep reduction in the American and Russian arsenals. The extension of New START is a precondition for such a dialogue.

Key findings:

  • Although multilateral arms control is an important goal, the Russian-American strategic relationship remains the most crucial issue the world faces.
  • Without global confidence that arms control will be embraced by all of the P5, it will be increasingly difficult to restrain new proliferation efforts in the Middle East and Asia.
  • Under certain circumstances, one could conceive of China joining a trilateral security dialogue, if only to cement the perception of their superiority to the United Kingdom and France.
  • Without a deep reduction in the American and Russian arsenals, France and Great Britain will be as reluctant as Beijing to put their relatively small force on the negotiating table. Until such a reduction occurs, there is no clear argument available that would persuade the UK and France to enter a P5 negotiation.

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Anya Fink. Challenges to Broadening the Scope of U.S.-Russian Arms Control

The article analyzes the challenges of broadening the scope of U.S.-Russian arms control. The author elaborates on the incorporation of new elements into a future arms control negotiating framework, comments on weapon systems that require immediate attention, and shares her viewpoint on bilateral and multilateral approach towards key strategic issues. The article also defines possible instruments and mechanisms that could be used independently of legally binding treaties.  

Key findings:

  • It is not entirely clear that Russia wants to negotiate on non-strategic nuclear weapons and novel capabilities due to its perceived need for regional deterrence capabilities. This raises questions of a minimum level of nonstrategic or novel nuclear capabilities that Russia would need and specific U.S. capabilities that could be considered for tradeoffs.
  • There is no one “most highly destabilizing weapon system” because risks have more to do with how sides plan to use certain capabilities. 
  • Any arms control framework will need to be resilient to political fluctuation in the bilateral relationship.
  • After a New START extension, the United States may be able to work bilaterally (with Russia and China, and maybe others) on key strategic stability issues while also engaging in various multilateral and international venues. However, a neat negotiating framework for all these new elements is unlikely because, as noted, many of them still need to “ripen” through dialogue.

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