Academy Article
Apr 13, 2021

Two Essays, One International Nuclear Future


“Prominent voices in both Russia and the United States warn that the danger of nuclear war is again growing,” begins the introduction to a new publication, Nuclear Perils in a New Era: Bringing Perspective to the Nuclear Choices Facing Russia and the United States. The prefatory letter, from David Oxtoby, the President of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and Alexander Sergeev, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, frames the joint publication and outlines its intent to inform policymakers who will shape the relative safety or danger of the future international nuclear environment.

The two essays in Nuclear Perils in a New Era – “Mad Momentum Redux? The Rise and Fall of Nuclear Arms Control” by Alexey Arbatov (Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Moscow) and “The Rise and Decline of Global Nuclear Order?” by Steven E. Miller (Harvard University) – had been previously published but were revised in the context of deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States and a collapsing arms control architecture. The resulting publication is a compelling primer on the current state of the global nuclear order.

Among the complex and evolving themes explored in these essays are the technological advances that enhance conventional weapons systems and space-based capabilities, new cyber frontiers with unique dangers, and the emerging challenges of other nations with nuclear capability – including China, India, and Pakistan. Against this backdrop, the United States and Russia have decisions to make about the costs of force modernization, the desirability of pursuing arms control measures, and the implications of these choices for national security.

Robert Legvold (Columbia University), who co-chairs the Academy’s project on “Meeting the Challenges of the New Nuclear Age”, recognized that these two essays together would serve as a reminder of the historical significance of arms control and the value of pursuing it even when relations are strained. The Academy is pleased to present them online in their entirety, along with a brief summary document.

The essays, which will also be made available in Russian, are part of the American Academy’s project on “Promoting Dialogue on Arms Control and Disarmament” led by Miller. The initiative was launched in late 2018 in recognition that connecting experts, fostering dialogue, and producing shared materials is essential to reduce tensions and minimize the potential risks of nuclear escalation and arms racing. The next publication in this series will explore the issue of missile defense from the perspective of U.S., Russian, and Chinese experts.

The project builds on the Academy’s enduring expertise – beginning with the seminal 1960 Daedalus on arms control – in examining national and international options for managing the global nuclear era.

Funding for the project and publication has been provided by the Raymond Frankel Foundation.




Promoting Dialogue on Arms Control and Disarmament

Steven E. Miller