In the second volume of the UNIDIR series on the costs of disarmament, Susan Willett evaluates the costs and benefits of the nuclear arms control treaties concluded between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation.

In the case of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the United States has found itself shouldering the burden of its own implementation requirements and those of the former Soviet Union via the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme, thus leading American critics to question the cost-benefit advantages of arms control. After a detailed examination, it is clear that while unexpected costs arose during the implementation phase, the security benefits far outweighed the costs. Moreover, even with the additional burden of the CTR programme, the United States emerged with savings of US$ 1.52 billion from the START process, once annual savings from the reductions in its strategic arsenal were taken into account.

Today, the security benefits of strategic arms reductions have been eclipsed by the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, which reasserts the centrality of nuclear weapons to American security policy. Such a posture comes at a high cost/risk premium in that it could intensify asymmetries and exacerbate global insecurities. Such proposed nuclear rearmament is occurring at a time when the full human, environmental and financial costs of the nuclear arms race legacy are coming to light in both the United States and the Russian Federation.

To proceed with a new generation of nuclear weapons when the full costs are not taken into account is—at best—myopic. As the author demonstrated in the first book of the Costs of Disarmament series, many of the costs linked to disarmament are wrongly ascribed—in particular those incurred as part of weapons dismantling which truly belong to the normal lifecycle of weapons.

Costs of Disarmament—Disarming the Costs: Nuclear Arms Control and Nuclear Rearmament demonstrates that policies that actively seek to control and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons are far more cost-effective and enhance security more than any future decision to develop new nuclear weapons—taking into account all of the costs and risks associated with them.