The Washington Post
Mr. Bolton’s bad advice
In his March 7 op-ed, “Thank Putin for suspending New START,” former national security adviser John R. Bolton correctly identified an urgent problem — traditional arms control faces huge challenges in a tri-polar nuclear world — but got the solution dead wrong.
The United States and the Soviet Union once understood that, in the nuclear age, war between them would destroy both. Following the Cuban missile crisis, they realized they must reach mutual understandings about red lines and limit the dangers of an uncontrolled arms race.
That shared sense of danger and responsibility has been shattered. Many in Washington and Moscow appear to have lost their fear of nuclear war and tossed aside Cold War lessons counseling restraint and risk management.
The combined arsenals of Russia and China pose a formidable threat. But the answer is not to speed recklessly toward a tripartite arms race that would be long on risks and short on rules. We should seek prudently to divide and counterbalance our adversaries rather than ham-fistedly incentivizing their cooperation against us. And we should couple this with creative approaches to arms control adapted for 21st-century technologies and tailored to the emerging multipolar order. George Beebe, Washington The writer is director of grand strategy for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
Former national security adviser John R. Bolton argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to suspend participation in the New START accord “could be a blessing.” Mr. Bolton contended that bilateral arms control between the world’s two predominant nuclear powers is “a thing of the past.” Given that the dangers of nuclear war remain a predominant existential challenge, especially during this period of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, his framing is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous.
The New START accord represents the last remaining bilateral treaty capping the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. President Biden rightly emphasized last August his administration’s commitment to “expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026.” Arms control experts have been raising the alarm about Mr. Putin’s announcement, arguing that if the two sides fail to negotiate a new arrangement to supersede New START, there will be no limits on the size or the composition of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.
Without bilateral limits, both Moscow and Washington could quickly double the size of their nuclear arsenals. This would further escalate tensions, make the bilateral relationship with Russia harder to manage and further encourage China to build up its arsenal, undermining the entire global nonproliferation regime.
A world without nuclear arms control is much more dangerous and unstable. We must do everything in our power to guard against the further degradation of nuclear arms control and prevent an unconstrained, costly global nuclear arms race. Allen Hester, Falls Church The writer is the legislative representative for nuclear disarmament and Pentagon spending for the Friends Committee on National Legislation.