Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

How to Avoid the Dark Ages of Arms Control

| Apr. 01, 2022

There are two possible pathways after Ukraine. One of them is harrowing.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is upending one long-standing geopolitical norm after the other, with nuclear arms control potentially one of the next to go. In 2021, the United States and Russia extended the 2010 New START pact—the only remaining major nuclear agreement between the two countries—through 2026. Russia is now threatening to halt U.S. military inspections required under the agreement, but there are challenges for the future of arms control that go beyond the fate of New START.

There are two possible pathways for arms control after Russia’s war in Ukraine. The first, less likely scenario is an arms control renaissance. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, for example, was a wake-up call for the United States and Soviet Union to the dangers of nuclear escalation. The decade after the crisis saw a suite of arms control efforts, including the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and a series of risk-reduction measures, such as the Incidents at Sea Agreement. The Ukraine crisis may prove another impetus for post-conflict cooperation, albeit a costly one.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Williams, Heather.“How to Avoid the Dark Ages of Arms Control.” Foreign Policy, April 1, 2022.

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