Disarmament? Yes, if it brings stability

By Tatiana Anichkina, November 3, 2014

Liviu Horovitz wrote in Round Two that he didn't understand why "stability seekers" such as Wu Riqiang and I favor complete disarmament. In his view, disarmament would merely "expose Russia and China to the conventional military superiority of the United States" (unless a world government were established or weaponry of all kinds were abolished). But Horovitz also equated strategic stability with mutual assured destruction—and the two are by no means the same. Horovitz's failure to distinguish the two may explain his inability to understand how "stability seekers" can favor disarmament.

When Horovitz writes that mutual assured destruction is "also known as ‘strategic stability,'" he fails to acknowledge that most up-to-date concepts of strategic stability encompass much besides the long-range nuclear weapons that are so crucial to mutual assured destruction. They also take in missile defense, conventional precision weapons, space weapons, tactical nuclear weapons, and so forth. Beyond that, Horovitz fails to acknowledge that strategic stability is, in Wu's words, "an indispensable means of preventing nuclear arms races in peacetime and preventing nuclear war during crises." Strategic stability isn't about how many times nuclear powers can obliterate each other. It's about how to avoid obliteration in the first place. That's precisely why "stability seekers" value it.

Because "stability seekers" also understand the dangers of nuclear weapons, they may also favor total disarmament. But disarmament isn't an end in itself for security seekers. It's something to be advocated if it makes the world more stable and secure. Before disarmament can make the world safer, however, global security arrangements must be restructured. The international system must ensure that all states enjoy equal security. No reasonable arms control expert—whether Russian, Chinese, or American—would argue for total disarmament if the outcome would be reduced security.

Troubling environment. Wu and I have argued throughout this roundtable that US missile defense deployments undermine strategic stability. If the United States proceeds with further deployments, and Russia and China cannot counter these deployments in a way that maintains the strategic balance within the US-Russia-China triangle, the result will be a crisis in politico-military relations among the three countries. This isn't necessarily to say that Russia and China would form a politico-military alliance and prepare for confrontation with the United States. But the political and psychological environment would be troubling.

This would be bad for everyone concerned—including Horovitz's Romania. So when Horovitz argues that US missile defense deployments contribute to the security of US allies in the sense that they enhance Washington's security guarantees, he is looking at only one part of the picture. If the United States manages to build a functional missile defense system that leaves Russia out in the cold, building a common security space in Europe will be very difficult. New dividing lines will be created. How that might serve the interests of a nation such as Romania is far from clear.

Topics: Nuclear Weapons