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The arms control calculus : factors affecting the susceptibility of military instruments and activities to international regulation Purver, Ronald Gordon


A realistic assessment of the prospects of arms control must take into account the full range of "factors affecting the susceptibility of military instruments and activities to international regulation." What arms control theory presently lacks is the explicit and systematic analysis of these key factors, in general and applied to specific cases. This paper offers a typology of such factors, drawn from the existing body of arms control theory, and applies it to a concrete historical case— the Soviet-American Strategic Arms Limitation Talks of 1969-1972. It is hoped thereby to throw light on both the initiation and success of negotiations, and the specific form which agreements are likely to take—that is, the types of weapons systems or activities most susceptible to international regulation, and why. The diversity and abundance of conceivable factors, together with the general paucity of "hard data" available, cautions against a premature attempt at precise quantification or rigorous comparative analysis. Instead, for the moment, the method must be used as a mere guide to the deeper understanding of given historical phenomena. The factors fall into four broad categories: (1) the "nature of the system (instrument or activity) to be regulated;" (2) the "characteristics of the strategic landscape;" (3) the "characteristics of the political environment;" and (4) "the "nature of the arms control system envisaged." The initial analysis and the subsequent case study concentrate on categories (1), (2), and (4), viewed as constants, promoting or hindering efforts toward agreement regardless of the alignment of domestic political interests at a given moment. The holding of given negotiations or the successful conclusion of given agreements may owe more to quite transitory political circumstances than to any of these more "intrinsic" variables. Yet the latter will shape the form and content of agreements reached, if not provide the underlying impetus. While it is not possible to compare the relative saliency of the factors identified, the case study approach can be used to generate general hypotheses relevant to this end. First, the ways in which SALT may be an atypical example of arms control are discussed. Then, conclusions are tentatively advanced, based on the detailed analysis of SALT, with respect to: (1) the enhancement of strategic stability as a prime criterion for regulatory efforts; (2) the costs of weapons systems as an increasingly salient factor; (3) "the decreased concern with, problems of verification; (4) the importance of "parity" between adversaries; (5) the possibility of "trade-offs" within the armaments field, as well as from outside of it; (6) the significance of disparities in the cost-effectiveness of defense and offense; (7) the not necessarily negative influence of rapid technological, development; (8) the apparent strength of mutual interests in arms control among political adversaries; and (9) the type of restraints most likely to be achieved. Analysis of the "factors affecting the susceptibility of military instruments and activities to international regulation" may he useful in explaining the success or failure of past efforts, identifying areas of likely or possible future agreement, and assessing the prospects of particular proposed measures. Ultimately, by drawing upon a. sufficiently large number of case studies, it may be possible to develop more rigorous (perhaps even quantitatively-based) theory.

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