A team of experts led by Rose Gottemoeller has produced a new report for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies on non-strategic nuclear warhead policies in Europe, particulary in light of Russia's changing status in the global nuclear community.
Emerging and disruptive technologies spell an uncertain future for second-strike retaliatory forces. New sensors and big data analysis may render mobile missiles and submarines vulnerable to detection. I call this development the “standstill conundrum”: States will no longer be able to assure a nuclear response should they be hit by a nuclear first strike. If the nuclear weapons states can manage this vulnerability, however, they might be able to escape its worst effects. “Managing” could mean shoring up nuclear deterrence; it could mean focusing more on defenses; or it could mean negotiating to ensure continued viability of second-strike deterrent forces.
Where is nuclear arms control—negotiated restraints on the deadliest weapons of mass destruction—headed? This 50-year tool of US national security policy is currently under attack. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last remaining nuclear arms agreement with the Russian Federation, will go out of force in February 2021 unless it is extended for an additional five years as the treaty permits. At this moment, nothing is on the horizon to replace it, though the Trump administration has promised a new and more extensive agreement that includes China as well as Russia.