Fatal Choice

Nuclear Weapons and the Illusion of Missile Defense

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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A forty-year effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is breaking down, and the threat that terrorist groups will acquire them is growing. In Fatal Choice, Ambassador Richard Butler argues that we are poised on the verge of a second and much more risk-filled nuclear arms race than the one experienced throughout the Cold War.

“We continue to face a choice with respect to nuclear weapons—either to move safely toward their elimination or to remain their victim,” says Butler. This threat is clearly reflected in nuclear weapons development by India, Pakistan, and North Korea. According to Butler, the Bush administration revived a missile defense system that will not deal with the problem but, in fact, worsen it.

Butler outlines steps that can be taken to create an effective, unitary nuclear arms control policy, including: a major policy statement by President Bush; unilateral actions, such as U.S. ratification of the Conventional Test Ban Treaty; bilateral measures, especially negotiations between the United States and Russia; multilateral actions, most importantly the thirteen steps agreed to at the 2000 Review Conference of the Nonproliferation Treaty; and new mechanisms, such as the establishment of a Council on Weapons of Mass Destruction.