Executive Director John Tierney and Research Analyst Samuel Hickey co-authored an op-ed in War On the Rocks arguing that bringing up missile defense in strategic stability talks with Russia is a point of leverage for the United States, not the other way around.
“President Ronald Reagan had a dream of an impregnable shield that could swat away nuclear-tipped missiles like flies. Mikhail Gorbachev saw that as a nightmare. He feared that America’s missile defense system would leave Russia no option but to develop more and more nuclear weapons to overwhelm that shield. Fast forward to 2021 and $400 billion in missile defense funding later, U.S. advocates of missile defense still do not have a reliable missile defense system. However, Gorbachev’s heirs in the Kremlin are acting on their threat to build more and newer nuclear weapons as protection against the event, however unlikely, that the United States fields a missile defense system that could neutralize Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
The United States and Russia are at a critical juncture, and the next steps will determine whether the two countries escalate the arms race or chart a more stable path. Joe Biden extended the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in one of his first acts as president, preserving the last treaty capping the nuclear weapon stockpiles of the two largest nuclear powers. Analysts have rightly begun asking, what comes next? Further steps to diminish the danger of nuclear war by addressing — in a future agreement — cyber threats to nuclear command, control, and communication or space-based systems would be desirable. However, these efforts have been stymied by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that U.S. missile defenses be part of the talks, and America’s insistence that nonstrategic nuclear weapons be on the table.” Read more