The first SIRD event of the semester - Professors in the Pub - met Thursday, September 26th to discuss the fate of the end of Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaties between the United States and former USSR such as the SALT I and II treaties or the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

The United States left the latter treaty on August 2nd this year, thus leaving the future of nuclear non-proliferation between the two great powers unpredictable.

William Eddleston, Chair of History at AAU, first gave his historical perspective on the ebb and flow of Cold War nuclear negotiations. Soviet-US arms control agreements began in the 1970s, in the meantime the world had faced many upsets and near-fatal accidents. At last, by 1988, the Reagan administration and Soviet leader Gorbachev committed to a historic agreement – the INF treaty – same one that has now collapsed. 

The International Relations Chair, George Hays, then put the end of the treaty in a broader current context: while the end of the treaty shouldn’t be seen as something positive, both Russia and the United States have rational reasons to see the treaty as outdated in the age of increasing multilateralism and rising China as a major technological military power (read competitor). A multipolar world has made bilateral agreements less useful for maintaining the balance of power, and China’s nuclear arms secrecy has made bilateral agreements difficult. The classic maxim -  trust, but verify – has broken down and we may be facing a new age of arms race… possibly to the detriment of continuation of a long post-war peace.

By: Ben Goings


Publication date: October 11, 2019