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Research Report

NUCLEAR WEAPONS:: A NEW GREAT DEBATE

Thérèse Delpech
Shen Dingli
Lawrence Freedman
Camille Grand
Robert A. Manning
Harald Müller
Brad Roberts
Dmitri Trenin
Edited by Burkard Schmitt
Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2001
Pages: 184
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep07022
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-4)
    Burkard Schmitt

    During the Cold War, nuclear weapons dominated international relations and military strategies. Because of their pre-eminence and omnipresence, they became the symbol of East-West confrontation.

    It is thus not surprising that the end of the Cold War saw a marked decline in the importance of the ‘ultimate weapon’. During the early 1990s, even an end to the nuclear era did not seem out of the question: massive reductions in nuclear arsenals, the creation of new nuclear weapon-free zones (NWFZ) and the indefinite extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) all seemed to indicate the possibility of...

  2. (pp. 5-32)
    Thérèse Delpech

    In July 1953, Robert Oppenheimer published an article in Foreign Affairs which began with the following sentence: ‘It is possible that in the large light of history, if indeed there is to be history, the atomic bomb will appear not very different than in the bright light of the first atomic explosion’. Through the radical increase in firepower it represented, the nuclear weapon transformed warfare even before it brought the Second World War to an end. By making possible a scale of destruction in the heart of enemy territory out of proportion to any gains that might be achieved by...

  3. (pp. 33-52)
    Harald Müller

    Arms control is certainly a baby of the Cold War. Waking up to the coming nuclear parity between the United States and the Soviet Union, which would eliminate US nuclear superiority as the basis of America’s security as well as that of its allies, in the late 1950s and early 1960s defence intellectuals began developing arms control as the appropriate antidote. Security policy could not entirely be based on self-help in the future. The risk, in the nuclear age, that the arms race might get out of control and lead inadvertently to a war, appeared to be just too great....

  4. (pp. 53-80)
    Robert A. Manning

    Since the beginning of the nuclear era, at each stage in the development of nuclear weapons states’ arsenals, there has been some guiding US doctrine defining the role of nuclear weapons. During Eisenhower’s tenure it was ‘massive retaliation.’ The Kennedy administration developed ‘flexible response.’ By the late 1970s and into the Reagan era it was ‘counterforce’ and ‘warfighting’. Then, as the Cold War ended, almost overnight Washington and Moscow swiftly reached accords to dismantle massive amounts of the hardware and weaponry of an era past. Yet, so bloated were the arsenals of both nuclear powers that a decade later each...

  5. (pp. 81-102)
    Lawrence Freedman

    Debates over the Europeanisation of defence during the Cold War years invariably hinged on the nuclear question. The reason for this was straightforward. Those who believed that Western Europe could – indeed should – defend itself without the United States were required to explain why they wished to make an already dire strategic situation worse. There was an imbalance of power supposedly faced by the West as a result of the Warsaw Pact’s preponderance in conventional capabilities over NATO and the Soviet Union’s parity, at least, with the United States in nuclear capabilities.

    To argue that the United States was...

  6. (pp. 103-126)
    Dmitri Trenin

    In 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, unveiled, with all the usual pomp, a grandiose initiative aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons by the end of the millennium. At that time this was regarded as another Soviet propaganda move, but soon Gorbachev became a convert to the idea of deep reductions in nuclear arms, ultimately leading to the stated goal. In 2000, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, was also talking about deep reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles. Putin, however, proceeds from a very different world-view and his proposals are guided by an entirely different...

  7. (pp. 127-158)
    Brad Roberts and Shen Dingli

    Historically, Asia has been little more than a footnote in the global view of the nuclear weapons problem. Looking to the future, Asia’s importance is certain to rise. Indeed, there is a good argument that Asia’s place in the global nuclear equation may be decisive in the decades ahead. As Thérèse Delpech has argued, ‘the most complex nuclear questions are located in Asia . . . There are two nuclear issues which have so far attracted little attention: first, the wide gap between Asian and Western nuclear perspectives at the dawn of the third millennium; and second, the possible role...

  8. (pp. 159-170)
    Burkard Schmitt and Camille Grand

    The role, and even the raison d’être of nuclear weapons, which were symbolic of the East-West confrontation, have been seriously questioned following the end of the Cold War. However, the heralded disappearance of nuclear weapons has not happened, quite the contrary. The new nuclear landscape has features which clearly show that, while the end of the Cold War did indeed mark the end of a nuclear age, it did not signal the end of the nuclear age.

    The first characteristic of the nuclear scene is that, although the decline in the importance of nuclear weapons as an instrument of security...