Senior Policy Director John Erath wrote an op-ed in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about how the United States and its allies can counter the threat from Russia and lower the risk of nuclear proliferation and confrontation.
“It is December 2021, and Russia is threatening Ukraine. Again. Since the 2014 seizure of Crimea and de facto occupation of the Donbas, signals that Russia may try for more of Ukraine are almost as regular as rumors that George R.R. Martin will finish the next Game of Thrones book. When these rumors arise, they are followed by firm statements that the international community will not tolerate such behavior, and then by rapid international denials of any intention to send troops to Ukraine or take any step that would increase the risk of violence. The reason for avoiding any such confrontation boils down to the entirely reasonable point that conflict with Russia risks the use of nuclear weapons. This is deterrence. No one will act if doing so may provoke a nuclear response. Yet in the present moment, Putin is putting the responsibility for avoiding nuclear war on others while turning the concept of deterrence backwards.
Putin knows that the principles of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity are important to the West but not as significant as the imperative of avoiding nuclear conflict. Moscow chose now to announce the possibility of returning nuclear-capable intermediate-range missiles to Europe as the timing not-so-coincidentally deters those who uphold a rules-based international order. Deterrence, in the nuclear context, is often considered to provide a measure of security. But in the Kremlin’s formulation, it does not prevent military aggression; it enables the Russian policy of dominating the former Soviet space, which Putin has described as “historical Russia.” The United States and its allies should not merely promise undefined consequences in the case of an invasion. Rather, they might address the threat by pushing for more aggressive arms control, committing to peaceful solutions, emphasizing the Budapest Memorandum, strengthening Ukraine as a state, and enforcing existing arms control tools.” Read more