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The Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
Russia seeks to be an active member of the global economy. The fundamental economic imperatives driving Russian reform are especially important to creating the impetus for Russia to cooperate with the international community.
Although less certain, considerable military and political cooperation also may develop. The regional security challenges of the Middle East, South Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Europe no longer reflect the old Cold War context. Nuclear weapons still remain a key element of Russia's political and military status, but they will not determine its success or failure as an international actor. That will be defined mainly by the country's overall economic success.
Russia's desire for economic advancement is more clearly established than its political and strategic position. The prospect of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe has triggered deep-seated Russian concerns about its future security that have been easily exploited by extreme nationalists and antidemocratic groups. The rhetoric differs sharply, however, from the past seven decades, since it is no longer animated by a hostile ideology.
The United States and its allies have recognized the desirability of close engagement with Russia, despite the uncertainties inherent in its continuing transition. The reduction and destruction of the vast nuclear arsenals developed during the Cold War are among the most important domains of such collaboration. Substantial progress has already been made in adapting the nuclear forces of the United States and Russia to the post-Cold War environment. The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), the last Cold War arms agreement, was signed in 1991. It is now being implemented by both countries and will reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads from about 11,000 for Russia and 13,000 for the United States to about 8,000 on each side.1 START II, signed in 1993 and ratified by the United States in early 1996 but (at this writing) not yet ratified by Russia, would further limit the actual number of deployed strategic warheads to 3,000 to 3,500 on each side (see Box 2.1). Through unilateral actions, the United States has reduced the number of its deployed nonstrategic warheads by 90 percent, from over 10,000 to about 1,000 warheads, all of which are bombs to be carried on dual-purpose aircraft. In reciprocal initiatives, Russia has made substantial (but less quantifiable) reductions in its nonstrategic warheads.
In addition to reducing their arsenals, both sides have undertaken a number of other measures. They have ended nuclear testing, and for the first time since World War II the United States is developing no new types of nuclear weapons or nuclear delivery systems.2 The United States has taken all of its strategic bombers off alert and its airborne military command posts no longer fly continuous-alert missions. The United States and Russia have agreed not to target their missiles against each other on a day-to-day basis as a precaution against the consequences of an accidental launch. Production of weapons-grade fissile material has stopped in the United States and is continuing to a small extent in Russia only until such time as the reactor cores in three dual-purpose plutonium production reactors have been converted.3