The nuclear powers (who were fewer
The US and the old Soviet Union signed several bilateral arms control agreements, notably the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 1972 and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987. The former limits each signatory to a maximum of 200 anti-ballistic missiles and the latter eliminated land-based ballistic missiles and cruise missiles with a range of between 1,000km and 5,500km. By June 1999, the deadline for implementing INF, 2,692 missiles in that category had been destroyed.
By that time, however, the Soviet Union had imploded, creating a raft of new denuclearization challenges, and there were several more members of the nuclear arms club — notably India and Pakistan, as well as North Korea and Israel. And as the number of nations with access to nuclear arsenals grew, the capability of several other nations — especially China — increased exponentially.
The US withdrew from the ABM treaty under President George W. Bush in 2001. Donald Trump suspended the INF Treaty this year. Both cited Russian violations as the core reason. European politicians and NATO
These concerns were most recently articulated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at last month’s Munich Security
On the Subcontinent, few can forget the summer of 1998, when world leaders held their collective breath amid tit-for-tat testing of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan. Just how dangerous that could be has become clear in the past two weeks. On Feb. 14 the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) killed 40 Indian paramilitary police officers in a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir. India retaliated with an airstrike on a JeM camp in Pakistani-
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan understands just how dangerous this is, given the nature of the weapons each side possesses. He released the pilot and pleaded for cooler heads to prevail. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, is engaged in an unexpectedly contentious election cycle that may make a statesmanlike reaction politically tricky. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are geographically
India and Pakistan have gone to war with each other four times, three of them over Kashmir. The recent spat highlights just how dangerous nuclear arsenals
Further east, North Korea’s nuclear testing has worried all its neighbors for two decades. The Korean Peninsula and China, Japan
In other words, Northeast Asia is probably in a safer place than it was a year ago. Globally, however, we should be concerned by the dismantling of multilateral frameworks. Russia and the West talk at cross purposes, and the US
There is one more difference: During the Cold War both US and Soviet leaders understood the risk of “mutually assured destruction” — the acronym was MAD for a reason. Both blocs were run by calculated and calculating realists who knew that emotions had no place in dealing with nuclear warfare. The world today has many more “hothead” leaders with a finger on the trigger. All in all, we should probably worry.