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Cooperative Security, Arms Control and Disarmament Policy Brief  No.21 - October, 2018

The Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, 1991-1992: An Assessment of Past Performance and Future Relevance

The fabric of US-Russian nuclear arms reductions is unravelling. Among the indications of the tenuous nature of the current bilateral arms control regime are:

  • Diminished prospects for extension of New START, which is set to expire in 2021.
  • Increased probability that the 1987 INF Treaty will collapse under the weight of mutual accusations of noncompliance.
  • Pursuit by both the United States and Russia of nuclear force modernisation.
  • Uncertain prospects for continuation of bilateral consultations on strategic stability.
  • Unusually vitriolic exchanges between the two former nonproliferation partners at the 2018 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting.

At the same time, there have been occasional signs that arms control progress is not impossible. At a time when re-starting formal arms control negotiations is likely to meet major resistance, especially in the United States, it is worthwhile to recall less formal options for pursuing nuclear arms reductions. These include measures that can be undertaken by the Executive without Congressional/Parliamentary approval. The most relevant example of that approach is the 1991/1992 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs), which resulted in deep reduction of tactical (non-strategic) nuclear weapons.