THE CRISIS OF NUCLEAR ARMS CONTROL
In their 1961 book Strategy and Arms Control, Thomas Schelling and Morton Halperin define arms control as ‘all the forms of military cooperation between potential enemies in the interest of reducing the likelihood of war, its scope and violence if it occurs, and the political and economic costs of being prepared for it’.1 This definition captures neatly the nature of cold war bilateral arms control efforts. The aim was to make the ongoing confrontation less dangerous and more stable. This could be achieved by providing a degree of predictability, transparency and restraint regarding the development of each side’s strategic forces and reducing the likelihood of one side aiming at or achieving a qualitative or quantitative breakthrough in armaments, which would inevitably cause the other side to react (arms race stability).
The arms control system was also intended to reduce the incentives for launching a surprise strike or escalating to the nuclear level during a crisis (crisis stability). Arms control thus differed from the disarmament-focused approach and was pursued in parallel with non-proliferation efforts. The resulting strategic stability-focused approach resulted in a series of arms control negotiations and treaties focused on ‘narrow, technical constraints on military capabilities or behaviour that potential adversaries [could] devise to reduce the risks and costs of competition’.2 This was the essence of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), launched in the late 1960s, which led to, among other things, the SALT 1 agreement, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the SALT 2 agreement.3 In the late 1980s and early 1990s, these were followed by the 1987 IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1) and the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs). It is notable that strategic stability logic continued to be applied even after the end of the cold war, when the relationship between the USA and Russia was supposedly founded on the basis of common values and interests.