De-alerting the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals : an unlikely method of arms control
Low, James R.
Yost, David S.
Wirtz, James J.
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Non-governmental organizations and observers have suggested that deteriorating conditions in Russia's nuclear weapons system could lead Russian decision-makers to order a nuclear missile launch on warning, thereby precipitating nuclear war between the United States and Russia. False or ambiguous early warning system alerts, combined with Russian fears of attack and readily available missiles, are held to create a dangerous mix of operating conditions. The proposed de-alerting measures would either disable the nuclear launch platforms or the missiles, thus extending the time required for launching an ICBM or SLBM. The thesis suggests that the proposed de-alerting methods are physically feasible but could have detrimental effects upon crisis stability and national security. Verifying de-alerting measures also presents additional problems. The assumptions employed by de-alerting proponents are inaccurate, and their scenarios are implausible. Other arms control methods are being pursued (such as U.S.-Russian cooperation in jointly operated early warning centers) that should be more effective at reducing the chances of an accidental nuclear exchange while preserving Russian and American national security.
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