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Special Report #83 on Arms Control and Nonproliferation

July 26, 2010

Nuclear Games II: An Exercise in Examining the Dynamic of Missile Defenses and Arms Control in a Proliferated World


Ballistic Missile Defense Technical Studies Series
Study 5

This study is part of a series of technical reports commissioned by The Heritage Foundation to examine programmatic issues related to ballistic missile defense. Since the George W. Bush Administration withdrew the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with the former Soviet Union in June 2002, the focus has turned to the best way to build and operate a missile defense system that lessens the vulnerability of the United States and its friends and allies to attack. First and foremost, this extends to lessening the likelihood of a nuclear-armed attack.

An effective ballistic missile defense will necessarily account for the ongoing proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. This study, which follows a 2005 study using an earlier version of the game tool used here, tests the hypothesis that ballistic missile defenses will impede attempts at offensive arms reductions in a setting in which seven “players” possess ballistic missile armed with nuclear warheads. It suggests not only that defenses will not undermine arms control in this setting, but also that they can make a positive contribution to the arms control process.

Beyond the questions of arms control and arms racing, the underlying game design will also allow policymakers to familiarize themselves with the difficult national security problems that they are likely to confront as a result of proliferation. The Heritage Foundation looks forward to using this version of the game tool in additional exercises designed to explore further the implications of proliferation for arms control.

Read the entire report [PDF]

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