Page 2

trally controlled authoritarian regime, such a government would likely be too preoccupied with internal problems to engage in external aggression. Beyond this, the future Soviet Union, or any successor government with control over its nuclear weapons, may well wish, for reasons of cost, security, and diplomacy, to continue reducing the nuclear arms competition with the United States and to seek some level of cooperative security arrangements with the United States and the new European community.

In the face of these uncertainties, we believe it is possible and desirable to seek a new nuclear policy, with appropriate hedges against unanticipated adverse outcomes. The challenges to the United States lie in developing policies and procedures that would encourage any future Soviet leadership to continue engaging in actions that would reduce military expenditures, increase international stability, and encourage joining with the West in a variety of cooperative ventures.

The reduced Soviet threat and political changes in Eastern Europe have further decreased the already declining European willingness to rely on nuclear weapons for defense. European governments are actively seeking a new organizational framework involving some level of cooperative security, probably including a measure of joint management of nuclear weapons. Joint management would serve to reduce incentives for proliferation and further constrain the role of nuclear weapons to that of ultimate deterrent.

In East Asia the situation is not as clear, and there is more potential for nuclear arms competition and proliferation. Opportunities exist, however, to reduce the risks to regional security. These could extend to cooperation with China on command and control problems, enhanced cooperation on security and safety measures for nuclear weapons, and broadened agreements on verifiable deployment and exercise restraints. Taking advantage of these opportunities will also require careful attention to sustaining United States-Japanese cooperation in security matters.

Conflicts involving major U.S. interests remain possible in many parts of the world. The danger of nuclear proliferation in unstable areas may increase. The increased commercial availability of the advanced technologies supporting nuclear weapons and their delivery systems has now put nuclear weapons technically within reach of a growing number of developing countries, as well as all of the major industrial nations. Successful efforts to control nuclear proliferation will require reducing the political demand for nuclear weapons as well as much more effective efforts to control the supply of the specific technologies.

While defenses against nonnuclear tactical missiles are, under some circumstances, feasible and desirable, United States and Soviet strategic nuclear missiles continue to have an advantage over any defenses thus far considered. This study assumes no strategic antimissile systems beyond the minimal capability permitted by the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement