facebook pixel
New Ideal - Reason | Individualism | Capitalism

Nuclear Deals’ Illusion

Nuclear deals with dictatorships make us less secure, not more.

Share this article:
This is read by a computer-generated voice.
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Last year, Russia alarmed many people when it suspended its participation in New START, a nuclear arms treaty with the United States. Under this treaty, both countries agree to limit their nuclear weapons. On top of that, the treaty calls for verification and transparency, through notifications, meetings, and on-site inspections. The treaty is due to expire in 2026, and the Russian suspension makes renewal unlikely.

War is a horror — especially if it involves nuclear weapons. Taking necessary steps to bolster our security is crucial. But can arms treaties with a regime like Russia make us more secure?

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, argued in his speech at the Arms Control Association Annual Forum that one of the most important goals of a new bilateral nuclear arms limitation treaty like New START is to “ensure the safety and security of our people (…) from nuclear threats.”

But such arms treaties are predicated on evading the nature of the countries we’re dealing with.

Advocates of the nuclear arms treaties say verification processes will ensure that both side abide by the agreement.

But by now it should be clear to everyone that Russia is a dictatorial regime, oppressing its own citizens and using threats and physical force to achieve its foreign goals, by invading neighboring countries and assassinating people on foreign soil. This is why these verification processes are useless.

By their nature dictatorships violate and destroy the freedoms and lives of their citizens and threaten the sovereignty of other countries.If the citizens of a dictatorship cannot expect fair trials or rule of law, because the country is governed by the whims of its rulers, why would we ever trust such countries? If they kill their own citizens and those of other countries, obviously they will lie and break promises.

Consider some examples.

Prior to World War II, Hitler lied to everyone. He stated that rebuilding the German army was just for defensive measures. He promised that he would not annex Austria, or the Sudetenland, or the rest of Czechoslovakia, or invade Poland. Yet he did all of that. In the 1990s North Korea’s dictator agreed to halt a supposedly peaceful nuclear program, but then flagrantly violated that deal, becoming a nuclear-armed regime. Similarly, Putin has always pretended to respect the sovereignty of other countries. But he invaded Georgia in 2008. Putin assured everyone that it was “simply nonsense” that Russian forces would invade Ukraine. But in 2014 he annexed Crimea, and in 2022 we witnessed the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

READ ALSO:  Rand on What Makes the Danger of Nuclear War Possible

Regimes like Putin’s are inherently dishonest. That is why we cannot rely on verification processes to ensure that both sides abide by the deal. Even if Russia allows onsite inspections or exchanges telemetric information with the U.S. per the terms of New START, they can — and we have reason to suspect they will — manipulate the data and interfere with our verification technology. Russia has clearly violated other arms treaties in the past, such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention.  It’s fantasy to expect an inherently dishonest, dictatorial regime such as Russia to live up to an arms treaty’s verification processes.

Moreover, the advocates of New START and similar treaties ignore the fact that it’s not the weapons as such that constitute a potential threat, but the evil holders of those weapons.

Why don’t we worry about France’s or the UK’s nuclear arsenals? It’s because they are free countries that don’t deal with their citizens and neighbors by using physical force. The Russian weapons do pose a potential threat to our freedom — they are the reason we need our weapons in the first place.

'It’s not the weapons as such that constitute a potential threat, but the evil holders of those weapons.' Share on X

In contrast, American weapons are not a threat to peaceful countries, but only to potential aggressors. We need those weapons to be able to retaliate against an attack, and hence to deter one. This is especially important as there are other countries developing nuclear capabilities that are hostile to the U.S.

The problem with treaties such as New START is that they evade the moral difference between the signing parties. But there is an essential difference: America is a free country respecting the rights of its citizens, while Russia is a bloody dictatorship and, as such, cannot be trusted.

We must reject any moral equivalency between free nations and dictatorships. To claim that a Russian promise to abide by any such agreement could make us safer is to engage in self-delusion. Let’s make a real new start by taking seriously the moral character of regimes such as Russia.

Image credit: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images News via Getty Images.


If you value the ideas presented here, please become an ARI Member today.

Do you have a comment or question?

Share this article:

Ziemowit Gowin

Ziemowit Gowin, PhD candidate in philosophy, is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute and web editor of New Ideal.

Updates from New Ideal

Book Image  

Listen to New Ideal Live!

New Ideal Live is the podcast that explores pressing cultural issues from the perspective of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, which upholds the ideals of reason, individualism, and capitalism.

Subscribe here.

Ayn Rand University App

Explore unique philosophical content that challenges conventional views — in courses you can take on the go.

Available on Google Play and
the App Store.

Welcome to New Ideal!

If you like what you’re reading, be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter! You’ll also receive a FREE copy of our book, Illuminating Ayn Rand.