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This article provides a historical review of nuclear arms control agreements from 1925 to 2011, describing how these agreements helped diminish the nuclear arms threat and build up. As this article explains, nuclear arms control agreements can be segmented into distinct periods reflecting different approaches to the nuclear arms threat, with each stage addressing different focused objectives. As negotiations evolved throughout history, the United States and Soviet Union undertook a nuclear arms race, each striving to gain a military advantage over the other by building more and more nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Accordingly, a debate evolved about a different means of dealing with the nuclear arms race: arms control. Essentially, collective nuclear arms control responses from 1945 – 1991 developed into three types of responses focusing on: 1) nonarmament; 2) confidence-building measures; and, 3) arms limitations. (Congressional Subcommittee on Arms Control, International Security & Science of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Fundamentals of Nuclear Arms Control. Part I: Nuclear Arms Control: A Brief Historical Survey. Executive Summary IX-X (May 20, 1985)). Most recently, the dissolution of the Soviet Union brought nuclear arms control to the political forefront due to its impact on the START Treaty. Recently, the relative merits of the New START Treaty were debated at great length during the ratification process in the United States and in the Russian Federation. This article describes how we arrived at this point in the global efforts to regulate nuclear weapons, how each approach differed and built on previous experience, and how world events impacted negotiations supporting the parties to achieve agreement, and what we can expect in the future of nuclear arms control.

GW Paper Series

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-86, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-86

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