Between Disarmament and Armageddon
David A. Cooper
A reappraisal of classic arms control theory that advocates for reprioritizing deterrence over disarmament in a new era of nuclear multipolarity
The United States faces a new era of nuclear arms racing for which it is conceptually unprepared. Great power nuclear competition is seemingly returning with a vengeance as the post–Cold War international order morphs into something more uncertain, complicated, and dangerous. In this unstable third nuclear age, legacy nonproliferation and disarmament instruments designed for outmoded conditions are ill-equipped to tame the complex dynamics of a multipolar nuclear arms race centered on China, Russia, and the United States.
International relations scholar David A. Cooper proposes relearning, reviving, and adapting classic arms control theory and negotiating practices to steer the world away from threatening and destabilizing nuclear arms races. He surveys the history of nuclear arms control efforts, revisits strategic theory’s view of nuclear competition dynamics, and interviews US nuclear policy practitioners about both the past and the emerging era. To prepare for this third nuclear age, Cooper recommends adapting the Cold War’s classical paradigm of adversarial arms control for the contemporary landscape. Rather than prioritizing disarmament to eliminate nuclear weapons, this neoclassical approach would pursue pragmatic agreements to stabilize deterrence relationships among today’s nuclear rivals. Drawing on an extensive theoretical and practical study of the Cold War and its aftermath, Cooper distills relevant lessons that could inform the United States’ long-term efforts to navigate the unprecedented dangers of nuclear multipolarity.
Diverging from other recent books on the topic, Arms Control for the Third Nuclear Age provides analysts with a more hard-nosed strategic approach. In this very different era of great power rivalry, this book will be a must-read for scholars, students, and practitioners of nuclear arms control.
List of Abbreviations
1. Our Uncertain Nuclear Future: Navigating a Third Nuclear Age of Multipolar Competition
2. Cold War Theory Redux: Recalling a Hard-Nosed Concept of Adversarial Arms Control
3. From Theories to Treaties: Learning from the Cold War Negotiating Experience
4. A New Arms Race: Transitioning from Post–Cold War Denuclearization to Great-Power Nuclear Rivalry
5. Arms Control for the Third Nuclear Age: Adapting Old Ideas for New Times
List of Interviews
About the Author
"This groundbreaking book reimagines the theory and practice of arms control for the return of nuclear competition in an increasingly contested and multipolar world order. Written by a scholar who also brings extensive hands-on policy experience, the analysis is neither pie-in-the-sky nor overly technocratic. David Cooper situates the conceptual and practical complexities of arms control within broader strategy and geopolitics to reveal the daunting challenges that the United States faces and to provide a workable roadmap for using arms control to preserve stable deterrence. I recommend this as essential reading for anyone who studies, practices, or cares about US national security."—Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), supreme allied commander at NATO (2009-2013)
"David Cooper offers a bold new perspective on arms control for the geopolitical and technological realities of the twenty-first century. He makes a major contribution to the most critical issue of international order, how arms control plays out in a changing global power system. This is a challenge that will not go away–and one that is addressed clearly in this important book."—Paul Bracken, author of The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and New Power Politics
"Dr. David Cooper’s book is an important contribution to the nuclear policy debate at a time when the United States and its allies face renewed strategic competition from geopolitical rivals like Russia and China. He argues that the key to successfully managing future nuclear challenges may lie in re-learning important lessons from the past, especially the need to re-couple arms control policy with broader defense strategy and deterrence objectives. This book should be required reading for all students, teachers, and bipartisan practitioners of nuclear policy."—Frank A. Rose, senior fellow, The Brookings Institution and Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (2014-17)
"This is one of the best books on deterrence, strategic issues, nuclear weapons, and arms control to appear in years. This work is critically important for all policymakers as they try to understand how to deal with the changing international security environment. The lessons of the Cold War provide the necessary historical education, and the discussion about the nuances and challenges of today’s network of nuclear adversaries, both large and small, will help them understand the critical nature and potential ripple effects of decisions related to America’s security. The stark reality is that the Cold War is back, as this book makes convincingly clear. The author, a recognized expert in the field, provides practical and reasonable recommendations for restarting arms control in today’s political environment."—Jeffrey Larsen, Naval Postgraduate School's Department of National Security Affairs
"[A] valuable guide to the theory and practice of arms control."—Foreign Affairs
"This is one of the most important books on deterrence, strategic issues, nuclear weapons, and arms control to be published in many years. The scholarship reflected in this book is superior."—H-Diplo
"Arms Control for the Third Nuclear Age performs a valuable service to scholars and policy makers alike by excavating the record of U.S.-Soviet arms control during the Cold War and examining it under the light of current circumstances."—H-Diplo
"Arms Control for the Third Nuclear Age focuses on the importance of reviving arms control to enhance strategic stability in the context of a dangerous new nuclear age. Cooper makes a strong case for revisiting the Cold War-era arms control negoti- ations and agreements: these episodes provide important insights for ‘navigating an uncontrolled arms race between major nuclear rivals’"—International Affairs
"Cooper masterfully blends international-relations theories with a historical account of efforts to achieve nuclear arms control during the Cold War. This book is political-science research at its best."—The Nonproliferation Review
David A. Cooper is the James V. Forrestal Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College. He previously served as director of the Office of Nonproliferation Policy and as director of the Office of Strategic Arms Control Policy at the US Department of Defense. He is the author of Competing Western Strategies Against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
248 pp., 6 x 9
248 pp., 6 x 9