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Post-Cold War Nuclear Policy

Study Questions

 

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(1) How could one argue that the Nuclear Age is over?

  • The argument that the Nuclear Age looks at trends that make war less likely. Some of these trends are globalization, mass communications, and nuclear abolition movements. Go to article

(2) How could one argue that the Nuclear Age is still with us?

  • "One could argue that the Nuclear Age is still with us because nuclear weapons still exist and the nuclear succession of the former Soviet Union has not yielded the initial intended results... The threat of "rogue" states and terrorism has also emerged." Go to article

(3) What are some of the basic Cold War and post-Cold war nuclear policies?

  • This article gives definitions to some of the basic nuclear policies, like deterrence and mutually assured destruction. Go to article

(4) How have chemical and biological weapons affected post-Cold War nuclear policy?

  • "John and Karl Mueller (1999) argue that there has been a shift in threat perception with nuclear weapons, biological weapons, and chemical weapons being lumped together under the term 'weapons of mass destruction'." Go to article

(5) How have different nations and/or regions dealt with post-Cold War nuclear policy?

  • This article looks at the nuclear policies of the United States, Russia, the Asian-Pacific Region, Europe, and the Middle East. Go to article

(6) What are the different ideological perspectives that deal with post-Cold War nuclear policy?

  • "In international relations there are a number of schools of thought that are constantly in debate about the world structure. The three posed here are Realism, Liberalism, and Marxism (and all their variants)." Go to article

(7) "Rogue states" have often been called irrational actors. What military strategies have been used in dealing with these "irrational rogue states?"

  • "Since the end of the Cold War, it has been argued that there are more nuclear actors on the world stage to worry about. Particularly, a number of states defined as "rogue" states have entered the scene, with a propensity for violence and the disruption of peace (Henriksen 1999)." Go to article

 

Question Responses

(1) How could one argue that the Nuclear Age is over?

Some argue that since the end of the Cold War there has been a move away from nuclear arms build-up and towards nuclear non-proliferation through treaties and other collective security actions. After the demise of the Soviet Union, there was a quick movement to ensure that the nuclear succession would be smooth.

The argument that the Nuclear Age is over considers economic and cultural globalization as a phenomenon pushing nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful relations. The global nature of the post-Cold war world has vastly improved communications among nations, making nuclear war deterimental to economic interests and power, and thus less likely.

There are also political scientists that argue that major war has become obsolete since the two major military powers have moved towards denuclearization. Carl Kaysen (1990) and John Mueller (1994) argue that there has been a change in the way people think. These psychological changes are propelled by a cost-benefit analysis that finds nuclear war to be too costly in terms of nuclear development, enviornmental costs, and death.

Also, there is a nuclear abolition movement that calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons in order to create a safer world, freem from the threat of nuclear weapons. Nonviolent resolution of conflict is best accomplished through the support of international and national institutions like the United Nations, Int'l Atomic Energy Agency, etc.

All of these trends put together-globalization, mass communications, nuclear abolition movements, cost-benefit analyses- make nuclear war less likely and makes a strong case for the end of the nuclear age.

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(2) How can one argue that the Nuclear Age is still with us?

One could argue that the Nuclear Age is still with us because nuclear weapons still exist and the nuclear succession of the former Soviet Union has not yielded the initial intended results. The instability of Russia and other Soviet successor states have only fed fears that nuclear weapons, materials, or scientific knowledge would fall into criminal or terrorist hands. The threat of "rogue" states and terrorism has also emerged.

Although it seemed as though the nuclear age ended after the Cold War, some argue that we are looking at a second nuclear age, where "rogue" states are major threats in the international system. The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan in 1998 showed that weapons have proliferated to "rogue" states who seek power. Moreover, the US and Russia still possess enough nuclear weapons to cause a nuclear winter. China's military is also growing to match that of teh US and are a possible 21st century threat (Bracken 2000). China is also well known for its nuclear proliferation to Iran and Pakistan (Rice 2000).

Those who believe that nuclear abolition is possible are criticized for their utopian view of the word. Brent Scrowcroft and Arnold Kanter in a 1997 Washington Times article ask how nulcear knowledge can be magically forgotten. Many believe that the Cold War was kept cold because of mutually assured destruction, the idea that a country can strike back and pose an equal or larger amount of damage for the aggressor. John Mearsheimer, a Realist, believes that we will miss the Cold War because of the clear order it provided for the anarchical international system (1990).

"Whether we like it or not, nuclear weapons will be part of the global security setting. The knowledge to build them will continue to exist; they cannot be disinvented" (CCP 1998).

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(3) What are some of the basic Cold War and post-Cold War nuclear policies?

APPEASEMENT: In contemporary usage, a term of shame meaning one-sided concessions to an adversary.

CONTAINMENT: Post-World War II American Foreign Policy aimed at blocking Soviet expansion through countervailing American economic and military power.

DETENTE: A relaxation of tense relations between countries. During the Cold War, detente between the US and USSR meant that their conflict and competition in arms control, trade, and technology could be restrained by cooperation.

MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION (MAD):
The doctrine postulating that, no matter who strikes first in nuclear war, both sides will be destroyed.

NONALIGNMENT: Developing national policy of not aligning formally with either the Communist or free-world alliances; evident during Cold War.

NUCLEAR DETERRENCE: Strategy aimed at preventing attack by having effective second-strike capability.

PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE: Soviet term, which, while acknowledging the dangers of nuclear war, asserted that the Communist-Capitalist struggle could be channeled into nonmilitary areas of competition.

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(4) How have chemical and biological weapons affected post-Cold War nuclear policy?

John and Karl Mueller (1999) argue that there has been a shift in threat perception with nuclear weapons, biological weapons, and chemical weapons being lumped together under the term "weapons of mass destruction." Biological and chemical weapons are said to be less costly for "rogue" states to develop and produce and have been perceived as potent threat.

Biological and chemical weapons have been used a number of times in the 1990s. Iraq in 1995 confirmed that it had produced, filled, and deployed bombs, rockets, and aircraft spray tanks containing biological weapons. Also, the Japanses cult, Aum Shinrikyo, released Sarin nerve gas in a Tokyo subway in 1995 (Henderson 1998). For biological weapons to work effectively, it needs to be dispersed in very low-altitude aerosol clouds. This is very difficult, and the effects are gradual and hard to detect. Chemical weapons on the other hand are unable to kill masses of people in open areas, unless dispersed in enormous quantities (Mueller & Mueller 1999).

Many of the dangers posed by these weapons are highly theoretical becasue they are not widely used. In theory, the detection of biological weapons is difficult, development is cheap, proliferation of biological weapons is hard to regulate because of the relative ease by which one can obtain a recipe for such a weapon, and lastly it would have large effects on the human population (Henderson 1998).
The problem here is, how does one develop a policy that addresses chemical and biological warfare when it has not been widely used and detecting it is difficult? This is a question to be addressed in the years to come.

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(5) How have different nations and/or regions dealt with post-Cold War nuclear policy?

UNITED STATES:
The United States has followed a policy of deterrence with the goal of providing a secure, stable, well-ordered world. The US has also been committed to the reduction of its nuclear weapons, as defined by treaty obligations. The national security policy also aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. However, behind US there is also the idea that a strong nuclear and conventional capability is the key to deterring aggression (Joint Chief of Staffs 1996).

RUSSIA:
Russia has often been accused of nuclear proliferation, often violating their arms control and proliferation agreements to sell and transfer nuclear weapons and technology. The New National Security Concept of the Russian Federation (January 2000), recognizes that the "level and scal of threats in the military sphere are growing," which is inter-related with the country's inability to keep up with the leading powers in the technological and scientific spheres. Russia's "nuclear threshold" has been lowered to legitimize its use "in (the) case of countering a military aggression, if all the other means of settling the crisis situation have been exhausted or proved ineffective" (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 13, 2000).

ASIAN-PACIFIC REGION:
Military modernization in some states and weakness in others make Asia an insecure region. Japan plays a weak regional role, boasting a non-nuclear policy. India and Pakistan claim "nuclear nationalism" and have tested nuclear weapons, as well as North Korea. Some argue that China poses the biggest potential threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region. China aims to strengthen its unity with developing Third World countries and develop friendly relations with its neighbors, while avoiding alliances and strategic relations with any large nation or group of nations (China Foreign Policy). Regarding nuclear policy, China is known to cooperate with Iran and Pakistan in the proliferation of ballistic-missile technology and is often accused of stealing nuclear secrets, and known for intimidating Taiwan (Rice 2000).

MIDDLE EAST:
The countries in the Middle East suffer from economic, political, and social problems that make regional cooperation difficult. The nuclear policy of the Middle East lacks military focus, with no consistent strategy. Most countries have cut down arms purchases due to a reduction in oil revenues. Iraq has not had any major arms imports since the UN embargo of mid-1990, and Iran lacks the funds to access arms. Iran is following a policy of detente in an attempt to focus on exploiting its position as the regions trade route to Central Asia (Recknagel). Middle Eastern countries tend to buy different mixes of equiment from a number of suppliers, making its strategy inconsistent (Cordesman 1999). Due to the insecurity of the region, Middle Eastern countries tend to build up its military to gain power in the region and internationally.

EUROPE:
The area of most debate is Europe. In Winter 2000, the EU will be setting up committees to form its own political and militray units, seeking a European identity separate from that under NATO (Economist 2000). Currently NATO strategy is one of deterrence and feels much threat from Russia (Antonenko 2000). Cooperation amongst EU members on this project is questionable because their military budgets differ. Germany and Spain have cut spending, while Britain and France would have a tough time finding money for new equipment (Economist 2000).

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(6) What are the different ideological perspectives that deal with post-Cold War nuclear policy?

In international relations there are a number of schools of thought that are constantly in debate about the world structure. The three posed here are Realism, Liberalism, and Marxism (and all their variants).

REALISTS:
For Realists, states pursue their own interests in an effort to securie their existence in the international realm. Security is core, so states engage in competitive arms and alliances in an effort to balance power. The security dilemma is of concern for nuclear pollicy because states are involved in arms buildup in order to have an absolute gain over another nuclear state. "Nuclear weapons in the hands of the weak limit what the strong can do to them. That is why the spread of nuclear weapons is so hard to stop..." (Waltz 1997). John Mearsheimer, a neorealist, recognizes the danger of nuclear weapons, but believes they are effective in deterring war, and mutually assured destruction will prevent states from committing nuclear suicide (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 1996). In the end, poliferation is a good thing since it makes states cautious in thier relations with one another. Thus ideal post-Cold war nuclear policy is to employ deterrence.

LIBERALISM:
Liberals are key on institutions and believe that they foster cooperation in international relations by reducing transaction costs and providing linkages between states. One offset of the Liberal perspective is the democratic peace theory which holds that democracies do not go to war with one another, democracies being inherently peaceful (Gordon 1998). Keohane and Martin believe that states are willing to bargain and give up sovereignty to gain economically: "States will take steps to improve the informational environment under (cooperative) conditions, especially if scarce information is impeding the attainment of substantial mutual gains from cooperation" (Keohane and Martin 1999). Security is not the big issue, but rather, economic development. Overall, Liberalism aims towards nuclear non-proliferation through insititutional cooperation.

MARXISM:
Marxism is a radical theory that views capitalism as the culprit of oppression and sees a struggle between classes in society. Marxists regard socialism as the answer to poverty, equlity, and war. Nuclear policy would be one of nuclear build-up in an effort to gain strength over the capitalist Liberals of the world. Thus, they have to find means of gaining power through arms, as demonstrated by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. There are other radical variants that address war and nuclear power, like Alexander Wendt's Constructivism.

There are other political perspectives that are useful in analyzing nuclear policy, but these are some of the basic ones. Again, as the post-Cold war world evolves we will see many more new theories and perspectives, which will all attempt to answer the nuclear policy question, but will never fully answer it.

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(7) "Rogue states" have often been called irrational actors. What military strategies have been used in dealing with these "irrational rogue states?"

Since the end of the Cold War, it has been argued that there are more nuclear actors on the world stage to worry about. Particularly, a number of states defined as "rogue" states have entered the scene, with a propensity for violence and the disruption of peace (Henriksen 1999). Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Libya are some of these "rogue" states. They are threats to their neighbors, the world, and the United States. The US has already placed economic sanctions on Cuba, Iraq, and Iran. What economic sanctions do is limit a nation's economic power, which allots them less money for military development (Policy.com 1999/2000).

Many commentaries have been written about the US conception of "rogue" states as actual threats. Some say that the end of the Cold War left the US military with no enemy to fight, so they have come up with the term, "rogue" states, to give the military a policy for the post-Cold War world. Others believe that "rogue" states are in fact a potent force and should be met with a number of policy options. Among these options are sanctions and isolation to damage a "rogue" state's economy, international courts to bear prosecution on "rogue" criminals, covert operations, and the use of force to deter such aggressors (Henriksen 1999).

The difficulty with "rogue" states is that it is a hard term to define and a hard target to punish. Often "rogue" states are the result of leadership and not really the citizenship. Those that suffer economic sanctions are the people, not the rulers. There is also the question of whether or not "rogue" states are in actuality a threat to neighbors and the international community. With no clear answer, "rogue" states are a matter of opinion that can be dealt with in a number of ways.

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