Arms Control Myths and Realities in a World in Disarray

December 12, 2019

A crisis in arms control has emerged in recent years, said Dr. Alexey Arbatov, head of the Center for International Security at the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, speaking at the 2019 Georgy Arbatov Memorial Lecture at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey on November 25.

This crisis emerged after “a time of great euphoria and achievements” in bilateral arms control and disarmament, which bred “complacency and hope that it would go forever.” But the demise of the arms-control framework has been comprehensive: “it is not just one treaty” that has been abandoned, he said, “One after another is crumbling,” pointing to not just the end of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the uncertainty of a follow-on to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but also the dubious future for both the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the 2002 Open Skies Treaty.

Moreover, he warned, the upcoming 2020 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons “is almost doomed to be a failure.” The world order has changed, he argued, and thus the old approach to arms control—bilateral, focused on limits and ceilings—is outdated and must be replaced with something new. “We have to change the mode of arms control,” he said, “to encompass also discussions on enhancements to nuclear deterrence, and providing for transparency and predictability. That is the way of the future. We have to do something new.”

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The Georgy Arbatov Memorial Lecture series was named after the former Soviet negotiator who later founded the Institute for USA and Canada Studies in Moscow. He was also the father of this year’s speaker, Mr. Alexey Arbatov.

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