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.

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