Strategic Arms Control and American Security

Not What the Strategists Had in Mind
  • Michael Nacht
Part of the Issues in International Security book series (IIS)


In the winter of 1986, Thomas Schelling, the intellectual father of modem arms control, lamented that “arms control has certainly gone off the tracks. For several years what are called arms negotiations have been mostly a public exchange of accusations; and it often looks as if it is the arms negotiations that, are driving the arms race.”1 When Schelling wrote these words, there was certainly a good deal to be skeptical about. Not a single significant arms-control accord had entered into force between the United States and the Soviet Union since the ratification of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks agreements signed in May 1972 (SALT I). Subsequent agreements reached between President Richard Nixon and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev to implement a threshold test ban on nuclear weapons and to restrict peaceful nuclear explosions were never ratified by the U.S. Senate. The superpowers had reached agreement on a statement concerning the prevention of nuclear war and had modified the protocol to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. And they both continued to adhere to most of the provisions of the SALT II treaty, which was signed in 1979, although it, too, was never ratified by the Senate. By the winter of 1986 the prospects for future negotiated agreements seemed slim indeed. Both the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) negotiations appeared completely deadlocked, acrimony dominated the Soviet-American dia-logue, and the superpower arms competition was as intense as it had ever been in the four decades of the Cold War.


Nuclear Weapon Domestic Politics North Atlantic Treaty Organization Soviet Society Antarctic Treaty 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Thomas C. Schelling, “What Went Wrong with Arms Control?”Foreign Affairs 64 (Winter 1985/86), p. 219. This article was adapted from a presentation at the Nobel Symposium of 1985 on The Study of War and Peace — Perspectives on Present Knowledge and Research. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Thomas C. Schelling and Morton H. Halperin, Strategy and Arms Control (New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1961).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hedley Bull, The Control of the Arms Race (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1961).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Donald G. Brennan, ed., Arms Control, Disarmament, and National Security (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1961).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    BullControl of the Arms Race, p. 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Nacht
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public AffairsUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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