Avoiding Nuclear Destabilization Seminar

Dec 6-7, 2018 |
Moscow, Russia
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On December 6-7, 2018, the American Academy and Pugwash convened a seminar on “Avoiding Nuclear Destabilization.” The seminar produced the following ideas to address strategic stability and non-proliferation:

  • A range of options could address the serious problems of missile development at the global level. At the extreme end, one proposal was a total ban on nuclear cruise missiles, although it was noted that in Russia at least there was interest in limitations rather than eliminations. In a post-INF scenario, both the US and Russia could pursue a commitment on the non-deployment of short- and medium-range missiles in Europe.
  • Russian participants felt that missile defense systems have a destabilizing role regionally. Measures that could be discussed include quantitative limitations to BMD and agreed geographic limitations, both of which would contribute to the issue of promoting stability.
  • Discussion indicated that a key measure to prevent a future arms race would be a global agreement or binding commitment that nuclear weapons must not be hosted by third countries. Of course, this would require a commitment not to initiate further deployments (for example in Baltic states) but also the withdrawal of American tactical nuclear weapons from the five European countries, considered a clearly stabilizing step by Russians. In fact, such a commitment is already contained in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and would provide an inherently positive emphasis for non-proliferation.
  • Most participants felt that extension of the New START for a five-year period was an important step. This could provide time to examine how a follow-on Treaty to New START Treaty can be made multilateral. While such an effort was tentatively proposed by Russia in 2007 there was no technical discussion of how such mechanisms could be designed to accommodate the regional differences.
  • While for over two decades Russia felt forced to maintain security through increased reliance on nuclear deterrence, there is an opportunity to reconsider how both Russia and US frame their deterrence posture: a Non-First-Use policy in line with China is the clearest option, but as intermediate steps both states could clarify that nuclear weapons would not be used in retaliation to, for example, chemical or biological weapons attack.
  • In lieu of the challenges to negotiating and ratifying treaty-based reductions or limitations, a “Code of nuclear responsibility” could be developed.