Nevertheless, comparing the number of deployed nuclear weapons in the world today to the number in the 1980s shows a drastic reduction in nuclear arsenals, at least on the part of France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia. The shift hasn’t been universal, as China has modestly increased its nuclear arsenal, and North Korea, India, and Pakistan have become acknowledged proliferants. The exact number of Israeli weapons remains unknown. Still, reducing the overall number of nuclear weapons was a dearly held goal of arms reductionists in and out of government in the 1970s and 1980s, and we’ve seen progress towards that goal under just about any conceivable metric.
And the odds are good for further reductions. Steep bilateral reductions between the United States and Russia appear to be on the table and should go forward. When that’s done, we should attempt to bring China into the picture and get them to agree to stop growing their arsenal and just let the United States and Russia progressively move to smaller and smaller arsenals. Of course substantial challenges remain with the so-called “rogue” states, but even here a diplomatic resolution of the situation with Iran still seems to be potentially on the table, and the DPRK isn’t going to be around forever. I think people tend toward postures of undue pessimism on global governance issues. The fact of the matter is that even though there are a lot of challenges, tremendous progress has been made over the years and the odds of further progress are quite good if people don’t simply give up.