March 27, 2014 | Issue Brief on Arms Control and Nonproliferation
Russia recently invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in blatant disregard of Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. Russia’s willingness to challenge the status quo and its disregard for its arms control obligations have important implications for U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The U.S. can take many steps to improve and strengthen its overall nuclear posture regardless of Russian actions in Ukraine.
The Administration has made many concessions to improve relations with Russia. Some of the most significant concessions are in the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START). Among these concessions are the absence of a strong verification regime, limits on U.S. missile defense options, and mandates that the U.S. shoulder a majority of the nuclear weapons reductions. These conditions have resulted in a treaty that is grossly lopsided in Russia’s favor.
In addition, Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty have been widely reported. Russian violations and circumventions of the INF Treaty pose a threat to U.S. allies in Europe due to the undeniable fact that they fall within the range of Russian weapons. It would be unwise to ignore the danger these missiles pose to NATO allies.
Given Russia’s blatant aggression and open disdain for its arms control obligations and U.S. national interests, Washington should take steps to improve its nuclear posture. The U.S. should:
Russia has invaded two countries in the past six years and just this month has illegitimately changed Ukraine’s borders. It is violating its arms control obligations, increasing the role of nuclear weapons in its national security, and extensively modernizing its nuclear forces, including building new nuclear weapons.
The U.S. remains the only nuclear weapons state that is not modernizing its nuclear forces. The U.S. should reassess its nuclear weapons posture to better deal with realities of the 21st century.
—Michaela Dodge is Policy Analyst for Defense and Strategic Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author would like to thank Rebecca Robison, a member of the Heritage Young Leaders Program, for her help in writing this Issue Brief.
 The Heritage Foundation, “Reset Regret: Heritage Foundation Recommendations,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 3334, August 5, 2011, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/08/reset-regret-heritage-foundation-recommendations.
 See Michaela Dodge and Ariel Cohen, “Russia’s Arms Control Violations: What the U.S. Should Do,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 4150, December 11, 2013, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/12/russia-s-arms-control-violations-what-the-us-should-do.
 See Michaela Dodge, “Keeping Nuclear Testing on the Table: A National Security Imperative,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2770, February 27, 2013, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/02/keeping-nuclear-testing-on-the-table-a-national-security-imperative.
 U.S. Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review Report, April 2010, http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20nuclear%20posture%20review%20report.pdf (accessed March 21, 2014).