What Happened to the Arms Control Treaties? || Peter Zeihan | Summary and Q&A

September 18, 2023
Zeihan on Geopolitics
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What Happened to the Arms Control Treaties? || Peter Zeihan


The arms control agreements between major world powers, such as the United States and Russia, have largely dissolved, leaving concerns about the possibility of nuclear warfare and the implications of outdated Russian weaponry.

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Key Insights

  • 💣 Arms Control History: The United States' most significant participation in arms control occurred during the Soviet era, under Gorbachev. Treaties like the anti-ballistic missile treaty, START, and SALT were signed, reducing nuclear weapons from 30,000 to around 6,000. (Topic: Arms Control History)
  • 🤝 US-Russian Relations: The Bush administration saw improved relations with Russia under Putin's early presidency, enabling partnerships in the global war on terror in Central Asia. However, relations deteriorated under subsequent administrations due to Russian corruption and Genocidal tendencies under Biden. (Topic: US-Russian Relations)
  • 📜 Treaty Withdrawals: Cold War and post-Cold War treaties have essentially collapsed, with both sides no longer abiding by them. The termination occurred a few years ago when nobody was adhering to the agreements, leaving the world in a precarious position. (Topic: Treaty Withdrawals)
  • 🔒 Russian Nuclear Capability: The Russian industrial capacity to maintain conventional and nuclear weapons is in question. Their reliance on outdated missiles from the 1970s raises concerns about the effectiveness of their nuclear arsenal if they were to launch an attack. (Topic: Russian Nuclear Capability)
  • 🔴 Defensive Use of Nukes: The scenario in which Russia would willingly use nuclear weapons is limited to defensive purposes, such as if NATO forces or regular Ukrainian troops cross their recognized borders. In such a scenario, casualty ratios would heavily favor NATO forces. (Topic: Defensive Nuke Use)
  • 🚀 Russian Expansion: Russia's security concerns go beyond Ukraine. Their aim is to narrow the apertures of approach for foreign forces by expanding into Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. However, their military capability is questionable, making them vulnerable to defeat against NATO regular forces. (Topic: Russian Expansion)
  • ⚠️ Nightmare Scenario: One potential nightmare scenario is if Putin attempts to launch a nuclear attack, but their outdated arsenal fails to function. The dilemma of how to respond to an attempted mass killing without success presents a significant challenge for global leaders. (Topic: Nightmare Scenario)
  • 💔 Lack of Procedures: The breakdown of arms control procedures and increasing tensions with Russia leaves global leaders without a clear course of action in the event of failed nuclear attacks. The absence of procedures further exacerbates the potential dangers of the current situation. (Topic: Lack of Procedures)


hey everybody Peter Zion here still in Arizona uh last Friday we talked about the pending deal for weapons transfers uh between North Korea and Russia with the Russians getting North Korean artillery and most likely the North Koreans getting Russian uh launch technology probably long range missiles um I thought it might be worth to do a little walk... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did arms control agreements between the United States and Russia evolve over time?

Arms control agreements between the United States and Russia experienced significant progress under Reagan and Gorbachev, with negotiations and treaties aimed at reducing nuclear weapons. However, progress stalled in subsequent administrations, leading to a dissolution of the agreements.

Q: How did the W administration contribute to arms control and relations with Russia?

The W administration saw a partnership with Russia in the early days, which facilitated progress in the global war on terror and Central Asia. This partnership led to a negotiation phase that further decreased the number of nuclear weapons, although it was not a perfect process.

Q: Why did arms control treaties fall apart under Obama and Trump?

The arms control treaties fell apart under Obama and Trump due to various factors. During Obama's presidency, little progress was made as he focused more on domestic affairs and left foreign policy to the background. Under Trump, relations with Russia deteriorated, leading to the breakdown of the remaining treaties.

Q: What are the concerns about Russia's maintenance of nuclear weapons?

One of the concerns is that Russia is struggling to maintain its conventional weapons, and there are doubts about their ability to maintain their nuclear arsenal as well. This raises questions about the effectiveness and reliability of their aging weaponry.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Arms control between the United States and Russia flourished under Reagan and Gorbachev, but progress stalled under Clinton and subsequent administrations.

  • The W administration saw a renaissance in relations and negotiated a decrease in nuclear weapons, but the treaties fell apart under Obama and Trump.

  • The current situation leaves all nuclear-armed countries, including France and Britain, in an awkward position, with concerns about Russia's ability to maintain their nuclear weapons.

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