Arms Control on the Eve of Destruction? The Prospects for an Arctic Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in an Age of Counterforce Dominance

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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Within the context of the U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, this dissertation investigates the feasibility of cooperation on an Arctic Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone. The strategic dimension has been largely neglected in assessing the potential for establishing an arms control regime in a region of such geo-strategic importance. In the tradition of offence-defence theory, this work stems from the assumption that conditions defined by a reduction in threatening strategic behaviour must be established between the two Arctic nuclear powers before such an initiative can move forward in the form of cooperation. This work proposes a refined Offence-Defence Balance model to assess the intensity of the strategic competition between two nuclear states under conditions dominated by Deterrence by Denial versus Deterrence by Punishment nuclear strategies. Qualitative indicators of sea, air, and land-based delivery platforms for nuclear forces oriented towards the offense or defence, including plans for nuclear modernization, ballistic missile defence, and conventional counterforce alternatives, assessed in conjunction with offensive or defensive nuclear postures determine whether nuclear states are likely to engage in cooperative initiatives towards arms control or competition and arms races. The assessment demonstrates that efforts by the U.S. to achieve nuclear superiority through counterforce dominance have resulted in actions by its principal nuclear competitor to pursue nuclear postures and delivery technologies that offset the U.S. nuclear advantage. Such conditions intensify the strategic competition, creating a nuclear security dilemma, which generates new arms races, and challenge the future of arms control treaties such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and militate against cooperation on new arms control initiatives such as an Arctic Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.
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Thesis advisor: Ross, Doug
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