Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear Deterrence 3.0

  • The World is practicing nuclear deterrence since 1945; Even, it was maintained even during the Cold War.
  • US-USSR/Russia arms control agreements have helped reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles from nearly 65,000 in late-1970s to less than 15,000.
  • The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that entered into force in 1970 for 25 years with about 50 states was extended indefinitely in 1995 and is the most widely accepted treaty, with 190 adherents.
  • The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) may well be the most universal treaty but it has reached the limits of its success. The five nuclear-weapon-states party to it (USA, Russia, UK, France and China) blithely ignore their responsibility for nuclear disarmament, convinced that NPT legitimises their possession of nuclear weapons and the four non-NPT countries (Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea) have built weapons for their own security reasons.
  • Deterrence 1.0 governed the US-Soviet Union nuclear rivalry during the Cold War.
  • Deterrence 2.0 characterised the post-Cold War era of unipolarity, when the US largely determined the global nuclear agenda.
  • New developments in cyber and space technologies as well as hypersonic missiles and missile defence systems are challenging old deterrence equations.
  •  Old arms control agreements are under strain and some (such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and the Treaty on Open Skies) have collapsed.
  • US President-elect Joe Biden is likely to accept the Russian proposal to extend New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). 
  • But this will not be enough to restore nuclear sanity.
  • Deterrence 3.0 has to create a new consensus for a multipolar nuclear world.
  • In Asia, where several nuclear weapons states are locked in decades-long conflicts, Deterrence 3.0 is crucial in ensuring that conflicts do not escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. 
  • This includes China and India, as well as nuclear flashpoint regions such as South Asia and the Korean Peninsula.

Read more at: Asian Research Institute

What Nuclear Deterrence Means for the 21st Century

Genesis of Nuclear Deterrence

The philosophy of nuclear deterrence was born out of the symbiosis of the principle of military deterrence and the emergence of nuclear weapons. The first has thousands of years of history behind it. The latter appeared only in 1945. Intimidating an enemy with the threat of military force—to keep it from pursuing unacceptable actions or to force it into desired behavior—has long been considered a political and psychological function of armies and fleets before they enter into combat actions. 

The creation and use of the atomic bomb in 1945 did not immediately give rise to the idea of nuclear deterrence. At first, nuclear weapons were seen only as a new means of warfare, albeit one with unprecedented destructive power.

The creation of Soviet nuclear weapons and intercontinental bombers—and later missiles, as delivery means—deprived the United States of its traditional territorial immunity behind two oceans, and forced the two sides to seriously reconsider their views on the relationship between the political and military roles of nuclear weapons. The idea of nuclear deterrence came to the forefront of U.S. military policy.

Read More at: Carnegie Mosco Centre

Nuclear Deterrence Today

The enactment of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987, followed by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in July 1991, and the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT) in 2002 provided a steady drum beat of strategic nuclear weapons reductions between the United States and Russia, locking in steadily lower and lower numbers through treaty implementation.

But the most significant reduction in nuclear weapons in Europe took place in September 1991 and was not governed by an arms control treaty at all.

The combined reductions of the United States and Russia were the most transformative change to the nuclear posture in Europe.

Unfortunately, the gains made in the mid-1990s did not translate into sustained and verifiable progress in dismantling stockpiles of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

Read More at: NATO Review

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay