Cover of Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace by Michael Krepon
Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace
The Rise, Demise, and Revival of Arms Control
Michael Krepon


640 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503629097
Paperback ISBN: 9781503638143
Ebook ISBN: 9781503629615

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Gold Medal in the 2022 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) - History (World) Category.

Winner of the 2022 Douglas Dillon Award, sponsored by the American Academy of Diplomacy.

Named one of the Best New Diplomacy/Arms Control Books to Read in 2022 by BookAuthority.

The definitive guide to the history of nuclear arms control by a wise eavesdropper and masterful storyteller, Michael Krepon.

The greatest unacknowledged diplomatic achievement of the Cold War was the absence of mushroom clouds. Deterrence alone was too dangerous to succeed; it needed arms control to prevent nuclear warfare. So, U.S. and Soviet leaders ventured into the unknown to devise guardrails for nuclear arms control and to treat the Bomb differently than other weapons. Against the odds, they succeeded. Nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare for three quarters of a century. This book is the first in-depth history of how the nuclear peace was won by complementing deterrence with reassurance, and then jeopardized by discarding arms control after the Cold War ended.

Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace tells a remarkable story of high-wire acts of diplomacy, close calls, dogged persistence, and extraordinary success. Michael Krepon brings to life the pitched battles between arms controllers and advocates of nuclear deterrence, the ironic twists and unexpected outcomes from Truman to Trump. What began with a ban on atmospheric testing and a nonproliferation treaty reached its apogee with treaties that mandated deep cuts and corralled "loose nukes" after the Soviet Union imploded.

After the Cold War ended, much of this diplomatic accomplishment was cast aside in favor of freedom of action. The nuclear peace is now imperiled by no less than four nuclear-armed rivalries. Arms control needs to be revived and reimagined for Russia and China to prevent nuclear warfare. New guardrails have to be erected. Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace is an engaging account of how the practice of arms control was built from scratch, how it was torn down, and how it can be rebuilt.

About the author

Michael Krepon was the cofounder of the Stimson Center, a prolific author, and the winner of a lifetime achievement award from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for his work to reduce nuclear dangers.

"Michael Krepon, a child of the Cold War, dedicated his career to the effort to reduce the risk of a nuclear Armageddon. Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace is the culmination of his career. This chronicle of the leaders in Washington and Moscow who negotiated agreements to avert nuclear danger is powerful and wise."

—Strobe Talbott, Former Deputy Secretary of State

"Until now, there has been no comprehensive history of nuclear arms control; Michael Krepon's masterful Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace fills that ICBM-size hole in the field. A must-read to understand our past efforts to tame the nuclear arms race, so that we can pursue them successfully again."

—Vipin Narang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace makes a uniquely important contribution to arms control literature. It is exceptionally well-written and clear, providing valuable insights into how we have managed to avoid a nuclear war these past 75 years, and how to continue that avoidance despite the collapse of treaties."

—William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense

"Krepon's refreshingly realist message is that the world is stuck in the nuclear age: the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons and the notion of finding war-winning strategies for their use are both forms of escapism."

—Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"Michael Krepon's book Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace: The Rise, Demise, and Revival of Arms Control comes at the perfect time... The book makes three important contributions. First, it should become the definitive text on the topic of arms control and the volume of choice for university courses on arms control, deterrence, and nuclear policy more broadly... Second, in telling such a detailed history, Krepon, albeit indirectly, provides a playbook for understanding when, why, and how arms control has succeeded in the past. This is a timely contribution. Finally, Krepon's vision for the future of arms control is an ambitious one that may face practical challenges but should inspire scholars to engage with the first principles of arms control."

—Heather Williams, Arms Control Today

"Krepon expertly stitches together a comprehensive historical account of arms control. As the title suggests, Krepon's scholarly endeavour traces the ebbs and flows of the US arms control journey. Using his knack for storytelling, the author brings to the fore how, in the United States, individual grit and political will trumped systemic reticence to embrace arms control."

—Rabia Akhtar, International Affairs

"Offer[ing] thoughtful arguments about the format and purpose of arms control in the past, present and future...Krepon's magisterial account emphasises the hard work and political vision that even a modest approach to arms control entails. Future generations of arms-controllers will find rich insights in this important book." –Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, Survival

"Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peaceis a magisterial assessment of the entire eight decades of diplomatic history of nuclear arms control and its symbiotic relationship with deterrence. Michael Krepon covers both East-West negotiations and non-proliferation efforts world-wide, focusing on the people who made nuclear arms control and those who opposed them – their motives, tactics, the interactions among them, their successes and failures, as well as the political environments in which they operated. The book is written in an engaging prose making the subject accessible not just to experts, but also to general audiences and students. It is likely to remain the standard reference for many years"

—American Academy of Diplomacy

"Arms control is what states make of it. The criteria for its success or failure are often underspecified, leaving it open to an unnecessarily broad range of criticism. Krepon's magisterial account emphasises the hard work and political vision that even a modest approach to arms control entails. Future generations of arms-controllers will find rich insights in this important book."

—Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer, The Survival Editor's Blog

"Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace is... a passing of the baton from one of the elder statesmen of American arms control – a baton wrapped in marching orders for a new generation of analysts and advocates."

—Paul Esau, Canadian Military History

"This book will provide a lasting testimony to [Krepon's] insightful and passionate thinking and activism when it comes to managing the risks posed by the ultimate weapon. Policymakers, practitioners, and the general public more broadly would do well to engage with the story he has written and to take on board the seminal importance of arms control as an essential toolkit to mitigate the new generation of nuclear challenges we face."

—Andrew Futter, War in History