Junior Ambassadors Program 2018 - Dmitry Solovyev

Four Steps Towards Arms Control Revival

by Dmitry Solovyev


Even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, arms control has remained an important item on the world’s agenda. Many bilateral and multilateral treaties were signed in the 20th and the 21st century, but most of them are outdated and need replacement. Moreover, the exclusive club of states with nuclear capabilities - above all, Russia and the United States – serves virtually as the only pillar for the nuclear and conventional arms control edifice. As the world's top exporters of conventional military weapons, the two countries command tactical and strategic nuclear arsenals that can erase any actor from the map. Thus, international peace and security hinge largely on the extent of US-Russian cooperation.

Unfortunately, recent developments have caused a serious deterioration in the two countries' relations, challenging the current system of conventional and nuclear arms control: both the US and Russia have accused each other of building missiles in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, thus undermining both regional and national security. Such a downward spiral in the relationship needs to be reversed through small practical steps, transparent initiatives and mutual concessions.

Firstly, the United States and Russia should resume their dialogue on European security issues, in particular with regard to the INF Treaty. For instance, Russia could provide evidence that the range capability of its missiles complies with the INF Treaty. In return, the US could offer to equip its anti-ballistic-missile systems with functionally related observable differences (FROD). Another significant gesture would be a joint decision to adopt a No-First-Use policy and to reduce the operational readiness of the two countries' nuclear forces.

Secondly, it is essential to include other countries in arms control efforts. Most countries (with the exception of the UK, France, and China) lack full-fledged strategic weapons systems. For that very reason, it remains necessary to adopt criteria – such as stability, strategic parity, proportionality, etc. – in order to assess how these countries obligations to reduce their arsenals compare to the obligations of the major nuclear powers.

Thirdly, there should be negotiations on reversing the militarization of outer space as soon as possible. The 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) does not cover conventional weapons, which may pose a major threat to international stability in the long term. A large number of Russian, American, and Chinese military satellites have already been operating in outer space for decades and their weaponization is only a question of time.

Fourthly, the Arctic region should emerge as a demilitarized zone. Nowadays, both Russia and NATO forces tend to expand military infrastructure and conduct drills there. International law hardly regulates military activities in the region. Once started, a spiraling arms race involving the Arctic is unlikely to be reversed.

Back in October 1962, the US-Russian mutual dialogue provided the window of opportunity that stopped the Cuban missile crisis turning into Armageddon. After all, no matter how effective the proposed stabilization measures are – without mutual trust, they are doomed to fail.


Dmitry Solovyev ist Masterstudent der Internationalen Beziehungen am Staatlichen Moskauer Institut für Internationale Beziehungen, Russland.