This book's central themes are previewed along with highlights of the material covered in subsequent chapters.
The prehistory of nuclear arms control begins with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the anxieties that were unleashed, efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, and the origins of nuclear deterrence.
With prospects for abolition beyond reach, President Dwight Eisenhower initiates the first talks with the Soviet Union on surprise attack and nuclear testing.
Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson record the first success stories of arms control, including the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty, and the Nonproliferation Treaty. Kennedy and the Congress create a new semi-autonomous agency of government, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, to advance these and other agreements.
Planning for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks begins in the Johnson administration, but the start of negotiations is delayed by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger negotiate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty banning nationwide defenses and the Interim Agreement on offensive forces with the Soviet Union. These agreements receive overwhelming support. The interactions between Nixon and Kissinger with the U.S. negotiating delegation are recounted, along with conflicting pressures from Capitol Hill.
Nixon's authority to negotiate SALT II wanes before his impeachment and with growing resistance to the Interim Agreement's loose provisions. The Pentagon strongly resists SALT II.
Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger try to complete work on SALT II, but domestic politics and the Republican Party turn against détente. Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev agree at Vladivostok to a framework agreement for SALT II, which faces stiff resistance in Washington because its limits are so high.
Jimmy Carter completes work on SALT II but faces heavy opposition among deterrence strategists and Republicans on Capitol Hill. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan dooms the treaty.
Advisers to President Ronald Reagan who seek and oppose an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union on "Euro" missiles battle for Reagan's support. A year of extreme nuclear danger ends with a walkout of Soviet negotiators.
A new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, seeks historic nuclear arms reduction agreements and finds a receptive partner in Ronald Reagan, who reveals himself to be as much of an abolitionist as Gorbachev. With the assistance of Secretary of State George Shultz and his principal adviser, Paul Nitze, Reagan and Gorbachev sign the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty eliminating land-based missiles.
Against the backdrop of a failing Soviet Union and a disintegrating Warsaw Pact, President George H.W. Bush and his national security team secure far-reaching agreements reducing nuclear and conventional forces and banning chemical weapons. The apogee of arms control also includes presidential initiatives to remove the least safe and secure nuclear weapons from the field.
President Bill Clinton consolidates some of the gains reached by his predecessor, including the denuclearization of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, allowing START I to enter into force, and facilitating the indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty. Clinton also completes negotiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
President Clinton is stymied as Republicans on Capitol Hill reject his attempts to secure a demarcation agreement that expressly permits theater missile defenses while retaining the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty's prohibition of nationwide defenses. Clinton belatedly secures the Senate's consent to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention but fails on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The unraveling of arms control begins when President George W. Bush withdraws from the ABM Treaty and Vladimir Putin withdraws from START II and its prohibition of land-based missiles carrying multiple warheads. Putin also disregards provisions
President Barack Obama enters office with an ambitious arms control agenda in pursuit of the eventual goal of a world without nuclear weapons. He and Dimitri Medvedev agree on New START, which extends verifiable restraints for ten years, but which does not reduce strategic forces. After an arduous ratification process, Obama turns to negotiating limits on Iranian nuclear capabilities. Vladimir Putin returns and the downturn in U.S.-Russian relations is marked by Russia's violation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and the annexation of Crimea.
President Donald Trump announces an "America First" national security posture and withdraws from four arms control agreements, including Obama's Iran nuclear deal and Reagan's INF Treaty. Trump finds no fault in Vladimir Putin's actions, including cyber intrusions against U.S. government agencies. Trump proposes an ambitious scheme to count every U.S., Russian, and Chinese warhead that does not advance, as New START nears its expiration date.
The complex geometry of nuclear competition makes it difficult to proceed with ambitious U.S.-Russia treaties based on numerical limits, as in the past. A norms-based approach holds a better prospect of success. The three most important norms are no use of nuclear weapons in warfare, no testing, and nonproliferation. A new forum that engages all nuclear-armed rivals on extending and strengthening key norms to the hundredth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is proposed.