By John Erath
As 2022 ends and 2023 begins, it is customary to look back at the previous year and evaluate developments during the past 12 months. This blog post, however, looks forward. Rather than dwell on the past, it seems more appropriate to consider the year to come and what we hope to see in the areas of arms control and non-proliferation.
- The practice of threatening to use nuclear weapons in order to achieve foreign policy goals should not become the norm. Russia has repeatedly made such threats, thus far to little avail, but raising the possibility of nuclear war, even in a minuscule way, is highly irresponsible.
- Russia should stop its war of aggression and the associated war crimes and address whatever issues it may have with its neighbors via the rules-based international order — not threats and blackmail.
- As Russia deals with the consequences of its decisions, it should understand that at this point triggering a new arms race would be contrary to its interests and unsustainable.
- Similarly, governments worldwide should avoid wasteful arms races and look for where arms control can build stability. Good arms control, meaning a mutual, verifiable arrangement that increases the security of all concerned, is extremely difficult to accomplish, but the potential reward is well worth the effort.
- As we aspire to effective arms control in the future, non-proliferation should be a task for the present. Nuclear disarmament is not viable in an environment in which new nuclear states, or new types of weapons for current nuclear powers, are emerging.
- As the pandemic has shown, all problems are global problems and are increasingly connected. Dialogue on future arms control should not be limited to the United States and Russia, but should include all nuclear states. An inclusive arms control and non-proliferation process would be in everyone’s interest.
- While Russian aggression and Chinese militarism have highlighted the need for deterrence and a strong military, security is more than throwing money at the issue. The United States needs to be smarter in its defense spending, for example by not funding systems the Pentagon says it does not need.
- North Korea should refrain from additional nuclear tests, which can only increase tensions on the Korean peninsula. Both Koreas should prioritize diplomacy over confrontation.
- Iran should return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in return for sanctions relief. The JCPOA may not be ideal, but it would be better than alternatives for all concerned.
- For the new year, we should be open to new ideas in arms control and non-proliferation. Although there are important lessons to be learned from studying the Cold War, we need to move beyond Cold War thinking and be open to embracing new ideas and discarding outdated ones.