16 June, 2021

Some Cold War Lessons

The Cold War nuclear risk management still holds water vis-a-vis South Asia.

Some Cold War Lessons

Nuclear risk reduction during the Cold War was far from easy. The US and the Soviet Union worked hard to put in place nine key elements to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. Despite sustained efforts to prevent a nuclear exchange, US and Soviet leaders barely avoided potentially catastrophic accidents.

In vastly different circumstances, India, China, and Pakistan are now in the early stages of developing nuclear weapons. While recognising the obvious differences between the US-Soviet experience and the India-China-Pakistan relationship, it's still useful to consider whether these key elements of nuclear risk reduction also apply to South Asia.

One key element in the US-Soviet case was a formal agreement not to change the status quo in sensitive areas militarily. This accord, signed at Helsinki in 1975, was the product of detente, not a battlefield victory. Weight was added to its guiding principles as 35 heads of state with a stake in avoiding another war in Europe endorsed them.

A second key element of nuclear risk reduction was tacit agreements between the US and...

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