The New Arms Race

February 14, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 7
Are new treaties needed to control modern nuclear weapons?
By Jonathan Broder


In recent years, the United States and Russia have withdrawn from several major agreements developed over 40 years to control the spread of nuclear weapons, citing violations by the other side. Those treaties created a climate of strategic stability, minimizing the chances of nuclear war. Without them, a new arms race, reminiscent of the Cold War years, has begun, as both sides develop ultramodern, super-fast weapon systems capable of delivering a nuclear device anywhere on the globe within 15 minutes. U.S. and Russian military leaders also have embraced doctrines that maintain that a limited nuclear war using small, tactical nuclear weapons can be won. The last remaining treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals will expire next February unless both countries agree to extend it. President Trump says he prefers to negotiate a broader pact that includes China, but Beijing has said it is not interested, and critics say a year is not enough time to negotiate such an ambitious accord. Meanwhile, a stalemate in talks over North Korea's denuclearization has added uncertainty to the future of arms control, as has the U.S. withdrawal from an international agreement halting Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

Russia's Avangard vehicle (Getty Images/TASS)
Russia's Avangard vehicle, illustrated here, can deliver its nuclear warhead to any target on Earth in 15 minutes, traveling at more than 20 times the speed of sound. Washington and Moscow are in a new race to develop ultramodern nuclear weapons and faster delivery systems after withdrawing from several arms control agreements in recent decades. (Getty Images/TASS)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Arms Control and Disarmament
Feb. 14, 2020  The New Arms Race
Dec. 13, 2013  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Mar. 2010  Dangerous War Debris
Oct. 02, 2009  Nuclear Disarmament Updated
Jan. 27, 1995  Non-Proliferation Treaty at 25
Dec. 24, 1987  Defending Europe
Feb. 22, 1985  Arms Control Negotiations
Jun. 08, 1979  Strategic Arms Debate
Apr. 09, 1969  Prospects for Arms Control
Mar. 15, 1961  New Approaches to Disarmament
Feb. 25, 1960  Struggle for Disarmament
Nov. 07, 1958  Arms Control: 1958
Jun. 11, 1957  Inspection for Disarmament
Jul. 11, 1955  Controlled Disarmament
Oct. 09, 1933  The Disarmament Conference, 1933
Jan. 05, 1932  World Disarmament Conference of 1932
Apr. 08, 1929  Efforts Toward Disarmament
Mar. 13, 1928  The League of Nations and Disarmament
Feb. 22, 1927  The United States and Disarmament
Alliances and Security Agreements
Arms Control and Disarmament
Cold War
Defense Industry
General Defense and National Security
International Law and Agreements
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
U.S. at War: Cold War
U.S. at War: World War II
World War II