Études de l'Ifri Proliferation Papers
Michael KREPON

Numerology in the Second Nuclear Age Proliferation Papers, No. 30, Fall 2009

Numerology in the Second Nuclear Age

The nuclear numbers game has changed. During the Cold War, deterrence strategists claimed that the nuclear balance mattered, even at extraordinarily high numbers. By this musty logic, the United States now has more deterrence leverage against Russia than at any time since the Soviet nuclear build-up in the 1960s. This paper contends that nuclear "numerology", centered around "prompt hard-target kill" capabilities and nuclear exchange ratios, provides extremely modest political leverage. The “delicate balance of terror” that Western deterrence strategists worried about so obsessively during the Cold War now sounds like the laments of an ancient, interred religion. New nuclear dangers are now reducible by cooperative threat reduction initiatives rather than by increasing warheads, yields, and throw-weights.


Numerology in the Second Nuclear Age