Arms Control in the 21st Century

For our Annual National Security Symposium, we invited some of the world’s leading experts in the field of national security to discuss nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. Speaking on the first panel was Professor Dan Caldwell of Pepperdine University, Professor Francis Gavin of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies; and Dr. Bruno Tertrais of the Paris Foundation for Strategic Research.

Professor Caldwell opened the panel with a discussion of the factors that contribute to successful arms control, which include cooperation with allies, a respect for facts, verification of facts, and mutual compromise. Caldwell spoke on the changing state of arms control in the U.S., particularly on how every U.S. President from Eisenhower to Obama has signed arms control agreements, which is in contrast with President Trump, who has withdrawn from various arms control agreements.

Professor Gavin spoke on the chronology of U.S. nuclear grand strategy, breaking the American approach down into three periods: Nagasaki to the early 1960’s, where the U.S. desired international containment but lacked the means to achieve it; the early 1960’s to the end of the Cold War, where the grand strategic desire was equal to containment; and the end of the Cold War until now, where nonproliferation is the top priority in the age of globalization. In the present, the U.S. has a span of contradictory policies in place, including economic and military coercion, treaties, and extended military agreements. Professor Gavin closed by sharing his view that being a nuclear world power does not carry the same strength as it once use to, and does little to help negotiate with other world powers on current problems like climate change, trade, and migration.

Dr. Tertrais closed the panel by speaking about the new variables in the arms control problem, as well as the state of the nonproliferation effort. Tertrais discussed cyber capabilities, long range missiles, AI capabilities, the renewed interest in space, and hypersonics as elements that change how we must approach nonproliferation moving forward in the 21st century. The state of the nonproliferation effort has also changed, as the arms race has transformed into more of an “arms crawl” since the mid-twentieth century; however, the fact that only 5% of countries have nuclear weapons points towards an increasing international tradition of nonproliferation.