Friday, February 8, 2008

A New Arms Race

The BBC reports that Vladimir Putin has publicly stated that he now sees world powers as locked in "a new phase in the arms race." Evidently upset at the continuing expansion of NATO, and bolstered by oil revenues that allow renewed spending on Russia's military, Putin is slowly but surely positioning Russia to balance (or at least partially offset) U.S. military dominance. Some of his talk of an "arms race" is likely bluster for domestic consumption, but it isn't something the U.S. can afford to ignore. Nor, in my view, is the traditional response of ratcheting up our own military strength by further orders of magnitude called for (even if it were affordable). Some level of military balancing between the U.S. and emerging powers is likely inevitable in the coming years - that's how strategic relations work - but there are things we can do to cool tensions. Whether or not we continue building our missile shield (I'm a bit agnostic on the whole concept and could be convinced either way), now would seem like a great time to begin serious talks on further substantial nuclear disarmament.

I've written before in support of the notion that our current nuclear posture does little to ensure American security, and may actually compromise it. Negotiating with other world powers to seriously reduce nuclear stocks would show that the U.S. is serious about wanting its missile shield as a defensive measure against rogue states, rather than as the first step in a nuclear endgame. It would also be a way to cool rising tensions with powers like Russia and China at little strategic cost. It won't happen under the Bush Administration (they're the ones who've wanted to expand our arsenal after all) but it's something that ought to be on the next president's agenda.

No comments: