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strategic asia 2013–14 overview executive summary This chapter examines the logic of nuclear weapons abolitionism, surveys the contemporary nuclear developments in Asia that are described in this volume, and highlights implications for the U.S. and its ambitions regarding comprehensive nuclear disarmament. main argument: Although the emergence of new nuclear powers in the post–Cold War era has triggered fears of widespread nuclear proliferation and renewed calls for nuclear abolition, the pursuit and development of nuclear weapons in Asia are likely to only increase in the years ahead. Continuing interstate competition, along with the expectations of many states that nuclear weapons will enhance their security and offer deterrence value, ensures that regional arsenals will grow. The U.S., therefore, must prepare for a reality that is quite different from the vision offered by nuclear abolitionism: an Asia that hosts many nuclear powers whose arsenals vary in capacity, architecture, and doctrine. policy implications: • Preserving stable deterrence even as the U.S. protects its primacy is the critical obligation facing Washington in the second nuclear age. The U.S. must maintain its deterrent capabilities, which function as the fundamental “backstop” on which the nation’s security, the protection of U.S. allies, and the durability of the global order ultimately depend. • Washington should carefully consider the quantitative requirements of nuclear sufficiency and extended deterrence. The process of nuclear reductions may be reaching—if it has not already reached—the limits of its success. • The consequences of forfeiting U.S. nuclear superiority vis-à-vis China for the viability of extended deterrence in Asia require careful consideration. • Despite budgetary challenges, the U.S. must ensure that its nuclear weaponry, force triad, and production complex, including the necessary human capital, do not diminish in capability. Overview Ashley J. Tellis is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Research Director of the Strategic Asia Program at the National Bureau of Asian Research. He can be reached at . No Escape: Managing the Enduring Reality of Nuclear Weapons Ashley J. Tellis The dream of a world without nuclear weapons has once again seduced Washington. To be sure, this quest dates back to the beginning of the nuclear age. But the threats posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the value of extending deterrence for purposes of limiting proliferation, and the recognition that erasing the knowledge of nuclear weaponry was impossible all combined to compel policymakers to treat nuclear weapons as a permanent feature of international politics. The era of bipolar competition also demonstrated that whatever the anxieties produced by nuclear weapons, they contributed toward preserving the longest peace witnessed in modern European history. Consequently, although the horrific consequences of deterrence failure ensured that the search for alternatives to nuclear weaponry never quite disappeared throughout the Cold War, the absence of more durable antidotes to war essentially settled the issue. U.S. policymakers concluded that nuclear weapons were here to stay, and hence their principal task consisted of ensuring that these capabilities remained perpetually safe, secure, and effective enough to preclude any actual use. The end of the Cold War drastically reduced the prominence that nuclear weapons had once enjoyed. Although all the established nuclear powers still maintained their strategic arsenals, the demise of the Soviet Union conclusively ended the previously intense nuclear competition. It also 4 • Strategic Asia 2013–14 eroded, however, the tacit cooperation between the superpowers, which had helped constrain the rise of new nuclear weapons states. This collaboration had been driven largely by the superpowers’ mutual interest in limiting the number of nuclear competitors in order to avoid both catalytic crises and any further diffusion of coercive power in the international system. With the decay of these disciplining benefits of bipolarity, the number of countries acquiring or demonstrating nuclear capabilities slowly increased. This evolution has renewed fears that the arrivistes will engender—through emulation or reaction—further proliferation in the years to come. One influential scholar, Paul Bracken, has argued that these trends constitute nothing less than a “second nuclear age,”1 an era defined by all the instabilities that theorists had long feared would attend nuclear multipolarity. In particular, Bracken notes that the principal achievement of the Cold War—the absence of nuclear weapons use despite intense geopolitical competition—is now at risk. The emergence of many new nuclear states magnifies the problems of stability that were once better contained because they were limited to mainly two states, or at most only a few. Moreover, many of...


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