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The Bomb Is Back

With the United States now openly disdainful of existing arms-control treaties, more countries are looking to nuclear deterrence to shore up their security in an age of geopolitical uncertainty. After a generation of successful nonproliferation efforts, the menace of nuclear war has returned to the world stage.

In this Big Picture, Richard N. Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations identifies a number of geopolitical and technological factors that will make nuclear crises more likely in the months and years ahead. But Bennett Ramberg, a former US State Department analyst, points out that the global nuclear arms-control regime has come under similar strain before and proved resilient.

Nonetheless, former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana warns that the Trump administration's unprecedented disregard for nonproliferation has already set off a new arms race, and Russia scholar Dina Khapaeva observes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly relying on nuclear saber-rattling to reinforce his grip on power. Worse, as former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel notes, the rise of China makes the threat calculus more complicated than it was during the Cold War.

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