Prospects for Arms Control

April 9, 1969

Report Outline
Question at stake in Arms Competition
Steps Toward Arms Control Since 1945
Future Decisions on Weapons of War
Special Focus

Question at stake in Arms Competition

Complications in Efforts to Halt Arms Race

President Nixon asserted at a news conference on March 14 that his decision to deploy a modified antimissile system, far from being provocative, would provide “an incentive for… avoidance of spiraling U. S. and Soviet strategic arms budgets.” Whether the decision will actually damp down the arms race remains to be seen. A current measure more directly conducive to easing of arms competition is the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, which on March 13 received the approval of the Senate by a vote of 83–15. By contrast, the new anti-missile program faces determined opposition in Congress.

Decisions on arms policy highlight the fateful dilemma of modern weaponry. On the one hand, escalation of the arms race increases the chances that a nuclear Armageddon, in which all or a large portion of the human race would be annihilated, will someday occur. On the other hand, each major nation or power bloc feels that if it does not maintain a military capability commensurate with (or superior to) that of a potential foe, it may lay itself open to an attack which it will be unable to repel.

Unwillingness to take the latter risk leads to accelerating, and seemingly uncontrollable, expenditures in pursuit of security. To break out of the spiral is particularly difficult because a move toward either of two avenues of escape depends on prior exploitation of the other. Thus, a halt in arms competition, which is the most direct solution, is thought to depend on achievement of trust between the confronting nations or at least on relaxation of tensions between them. But achievement of trust or of relaxation is thought to depend in turn on an end to arms rivalry and on a consequent reduction of the capacity of each side to inflict unacceptable injury on the other.

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
Arms Control and Disarmament
International Law and Agreements