Trump, Promising Arms Race, Could Set World on Uncertain Path
If President-elect Donald J. Trump meant what he said, then the world may one day look back to recall that the first superpower nuclear arms race since the Cold War was announced by two pajama-clad talk show hosts.
如果候任总统唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)说的是真心话，那么大家以后回顾往事的时候就会想起，自从冷战之后，超级大国的第一次核军备竞赛是由两个穿睡衣的脱口秀节目主持人宣布的。
“Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Mika Brzezinski, of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, said on Friday. She and her co-host, curled up in holiday-themed nightwear in front of a fake fireplace, said the quote was a statement from Mr. Trump, elaborating on a Twitter message on nuclear weapons.
“来搞一场军备竞赛吧。我们在每个回合上都会打败它们，而且会笑到最后。”微软全国广播公司(MSNBC)的《早安，乔》(Morning Joe)主持人米卡·布热津斯基(Mika Brzezinski)上周五说。当时她和另一个主持人穿着假日主题的睡衣，蜷缩在一个假壁炉前，说这句话是来自特朗普的声明，并详细说明了他关于核武器的一条推文。
Mr. Trump has a history of bluster and his declarations may turn out to be bluffs. But should he follow through on instigating a nuclear arms race, the consequences could be severe. Best estimates of likely Russian and Chinese responses offer a concerning guide. So do lessons from the Cold War arms race, which brought the world so close to the brink that once-hostile American and Soviet adversaries worked to reverse the competition they had once seen as essential.
Nuclear arms races are not usually something that states set out to provoke, but are pulled into against their wills.
In the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union saw themselves as reacting to one another, straining to maintain a strategic balance that would deter war or at least make it survivable.
Winston Churchill remarked in 1954 that more warheads could accomplish little more than to “make the rubble bounce.”
But this quote reflects a long-held misunderstanding: that the arms race was a simple matter of accruing warheads.
In fact, it was far more dangerous, with ever-growing stockpiles merely reflecting complex tit-for-tat advances. For instance, one country might develop weapons that could deliver warheads more rapidly, which would require the other to shorten its response time and build redundant, retaliatory weapons.
While “arms race” describes the sets of policies that helped make the Cold War so dangerous, arms racing was not in itself policy. Rather, it was a much-lamented — and much-feared — byproduct of American and Soviet aims. Leaders on both sides wanted to avoid losing, but none saw the race as desirable.
The exception, Ronald Reagan, entered office in 1981 determined to win the Cold War in part by outstripping the Soviet Union on nuclear arms. But after a few years of tightening response times and near-miss incidents, he became the most enthusiastic proponent of nuclear disarmament to occupy the Oval Office.
Though some Americans believe the arms race won the Cold War, as Mr. Reagan had initially hoped, the two sides ended their competition willingly — and a few years before internal political and economic forces would pull down the Soviet Union from within.
Mr. Reagan and the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought total disarmament at a 1986 summit meeting. Unable to agree on terms, they settled for an ongoing drawdown of nuclear forces, reversing the arms race.
Such reductions have continued since, codified in treaties such as the 2010 New Start agreement, which Mr. Trump’s policy would likely undo.
In his Twitter post on Thursday announcing that policy, Mr. Trump said his goal was that “the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
It is not clear what that means. But whatever his intention, analysts say that Mr. Trump’s stated desire to provoke an arms race does have a foreseeable range of outcomes.
The country most likely to respond is Russia, whose nuclear arsenal is comparable to that of the United States.
Since the end of the Cold War, Moscow has seen nuclear parity with the United States as its last — perhaps only — guarantee of survival against a far stronger Western alliance it perceives as an existential threat. Falling behind would, in Moscow’s view, invite Russia’s destruction.
Though Russia’s economy is a fraction the size of America’s, it has kept up. Should it find parity too costly, Moscow would likely compensate by expending another kind of currency: its willingness to accept nuclear risk.
This would be aimed at strengthening Russian deterrence against any American threat. For instance, Russia might deploy more nuclear-capable Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave located between Poland and Lithuania. Such missiles can reach European capitals in a matter of minutes and, because they are fired from special vehicles, can be difficult to knock out.
Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, could also loosen restrictions on the use of nuclear weapons. Some analysts already believe that Russian military doctrine allows for the use of a single “de-escalatory” nuclear strike, in case of a conventional war, to force the other side to stand down. Such policies put a greater onus on the United States to reduce risk, compensating for any relative Russian weakness.
俄罗斯总统弗拉基米尔·V·普京(Vladimir V. Putin)也可以放松对使用核武器的限制。一些分析师已经确信，俄罗斯军事原则允许在常规战争中使用一次“降温”核打击，迫使对方停止行动。这种策略令美国需要背上更大的负担，以降低风险，从而弥补了俄罗斯的任何相对弱点。
Paul C. Warnke, a senior Pentagon official in the Cold War’s early years, concluded that their mutual buildups were less like a race than two runners on adjacent treadmills. “The only victory the arms race has to offer,” he wrote in 1975, was to “be first off the treadmill.”
冷战早期的五角大楼高级官员保罗·C·沃恩克(Paul C. Warnke)认为，两国核武库的扩张不太像是比赛，更像是两个人在相邻的跑步机上跑步。“军备竞赛的唯一胜利，”他在1975年写道，是“看谁第一个走下跑步机”。
Mr. Warnke’s view was controversial at the time, but later became accepted even by many dedicated Cold Warriors. The early 1980s had seen near misses that had brought the world intolerably close to the edge.
In 1983, for instance, a Soviet early-warning system detected an incoming American nuclear attack. It happened to be a moment of high tension in which the Kremlin had feared a pre-emptive strike.
Because of missile advances that had come as part of the arms race, the Soviets had only 23 minutes to respond before the missiles would land — not enough time to double-check equipment, much less negotiate with Washington. The arms race also dictated that the Soviet Union respond with overwhelming retaliation against the United States, to quickly neutralize any further threat.
The Soviet officer in charge of the early-warning station could see no evidence of a false alarm, but told his superiors that it was. His guess, proved correct, may have saved the world.
Though the episode would not become public for years, Mr. Reagan wrote in his memoirs that another war scare, which occurred that same month when Soviet forces shot down a South Korean airliner that had wandered into Soviet airspace, “demonstrated how close the world had come to the precipice and how much we needed nuclear arms control.”
Mr. Reagan principally turned against the arms race because of its dangers, but others came to oppose it for the simple reason that, after decades and billions or perhaps trillions of dollars, it had failed to accomplish victory.
“Building nukes to get others to stop historically has had the same effect as telling everyone in an email storm to cease using ‘Reply All,’ ” Joshua H. Pollack, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, joked on Twitter.
“从历史角度看，为制止他人而制造核武器所产生的效果就像在电子邮件风暴中给所有人发邮件呼吁停止使用‘全部回复’，”詹姆斯·马丁防扩散研究中心(James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies)的专家乔舒亚·H· 波拉克(Joshua H. Pollack)在Twitter上开玩笑说。
Mr. Pollack added, “There is no last, winning move when it comes to arms racing.”
The first response came from Cheryl Rofer, a retired nuclear scientist at the Los Alamos National Research Laboratory: “But there is a last move.”
第一个作出回应的是洛斯阿拉莫斯国家实验室(Los Alamos National Laboratory)的退休核科学家谢丽尔·罗费尔(Cheryl Rofer)。她说：“但是有最后一步。”