By David C. Gompert and Michael Kofman
Strategic Forum Number 274 [January 2012]
The United States and Russia have sought to reduce the danger of nuclear war by limiting offensive strategic capabilities through negotiated agreements, relying on mutual deterrence based on reciprocal threats and the corresponding fear of retaliation. Although nuclear arsenals have been pared, this is fundamentally the same way the United States and Soviet Union sought to reduce the danger of nuclear war during the Cold War, when both were impelled to do so because they were adversaries and able to do so despite being adversaries. It is ironic—not to say unimaginative—that although the two are no longer adversaries, they stick to a path chosen when they were. This current approach is inadequate given new strategic vulnerabilities brought on by technological change. Both the opportunity and the need now exist for a different, more ambitious approach to avoiding strategic conflict—one designed for new possibilities as well as new vulnerabilities. The United States and Russia can and should raise their sights from linear numerical progress to qualitative transformation of their strategic relationship.
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