The West is addicted to arms control.
Arms control enthusiasts in the State Department, academia, the press, and on the political Left continue to have faith, often with something like religious fervor, that the United States can substitute negotiations and treaties for the hard reality of military power.
Faith in arms control in Washington and the West is deeply rooted in our strategic culture derived from Judeo-Christian civilization that values highly the concepts of co-existence, negotiating differences, contracts and legality and laws, and preserving at almost any price — peace.
Totalitarian and authoritarian states believe in none of these things. They are instruments of oppression and violence.
Consequently, arms control has a long history of failure.
Before “arms control” it was called the Versailles Treaty, the League of Nations, the Kellogg-Briand Pact (outlawing war), and the Washington and London Naval Treaties. All of these were violated or exploited by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to prepare for their nearly successful bid to win World War II.
Then as now, advocates of appeasement (before World War II “appeasement” was a policy, not a dirty word) went through extraordinary mental gymnastics to deny or justify ignoring “pocket battleships,” submarines, tank armies, air forces, and acts of aggression that violated what today would be called the “international arms control regime.”
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and then the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (SALT I and SALT II) allegedly enshrined the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) for the U.S. and USSR, while supposedly capping numbers of permitted strategic forces, even while allowing modernization.
In reality, the USSR and Russia today never subscribed to U.S. theories about respecting MAD by constraining “destabilizing” offensive and defensive capabilities. Moscow exploited arms control to constrain the U.S. and gain strategic advantages to prevail in nuclear diplomacy and war.
For example, President Reagan’s blue-ribbon General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament, in their summary of “A Quarter Century of Soviet Compliance Practices Under Arms Control Commitments: 1958-1983” examined 26 arms control treaties, agreements, and commitments. The USSR violated all the most important arms control treaties of that era, including:
— The ABM Treaty
— SALT I
— SALT II
— Limited Test Ban Treaty
— Biological Weapons Convention
— Conventional Weapons Convention
Today, 25 years after publication of the GAC Report Summary, the State Department should declassify the still classified main report so policymakers and the public see full accounting of the failures of arms control during Cold War years 1958-1983.
During the 1980s through today, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START and New START), and Presidential Nuclear Initiative (PNI) made deep reductions in strategic and tactical nuclear weapons (mostly on the U.S. side) while permitting modernization (almost entirely on the Russian side).
Now the decades-long experiment in nuclear arms control has failed catastrophically, shredded by Russian cheating:
— The INF Treaty is broken by Moscow’s deployment of at least one and possibly four illegal missile types;
— The PNI is broken such that Russia now has an advantage in tactical nuclear weapons of at least 10-to-1.
— START and New START are broken, according to some astute analysts like Mark Schneider and Stephen Blank, by Russia having possibly thousands of strategic warheads over the allowed limits. (Blank, “Russia’s Military Strategy and Doctrine”, Jamestown Foundation, 2019; Schneider, “Does Russia Have 2-to-1 Advantage In Deployed Strategic Nuclear Weapons?” RealClearDefense.com, January 12, 2019)
— Most recently, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Russia has been cheating on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for nearly 30 years, developing new generations of advanced nuclear warheads.
“Convergence” between Washington and Moscow toward mutual trust and a safer more strategically stable world order has not happened, as promised by arms control. The New Cold War with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran may well be more dangerous than the old.
Yet the arms control community refuses to face these realities.
Instead, they criticize the United States for withdrawing from treaties already broken by Russia. They complain about U.S. modernization of its nuclear deterrent, while for years watching Russia’s illegal nuclear build-up in uncomplaining silence.
Dr. Mark Schneider, former senior Defense Department official and nuclear strategist, in “Trading Arms Control for Nuclear Modernization: An Old Scam” (RealClearDefense.com June 12, 2019), spent decades at the Pentagon exasperated by the dangerous hypocrisy of arms control:
“The U.S. arms control enthusiast establishment generally cares little about the substance of arms control agreements, their verifiability, or whether the Russians actually comply with them. They support arms control agreements irrespective of whether the agreements actually accomplish anything useful. They fight against the U.S. determining Russian arms control violations, terminating U.S. compliance with arms control agreements that Russia is violating or responding to them by weapons developments and deployments. Their position on these issues is almost identical to the Russian Federation, and this has been going on for decades.”
Arms control promised a safer world — but the world is more dangerous because of arms control.
This article is Part 2 of a series. Click here to read Part 1.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served on the Congressional EMP Commission as chief of staff, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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