US–Russian nuclear arms control efforts should seek to limit not just numbers of weapons but nuclear missions as well, the most dangerous being “counterforce,” or an attack on enemy nuclear weapons before they can be launched. Giving up the counterforce mission means giving up the capability and all its dangerous requirements, including high alert rates. To eliminate counterforce, the United States and Russia will have to reduce both the capability and the vulnerability of their nuclear weapons. Once nuclear weapons are essentially invulnerable to attack, a small number will be enough to deter any potential attacker.
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