The historical record provides support for this argument. It was a surprise that the US and the Soviet Union were able to quickly negotiate and ratify an arms control treaty – the Partial Test Ban Treaty – within a year of the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis. This serves as a reminder that the prospect of arms control holds promise, making this an opportune moment for the US and Russia to pursue fresh arms control agreements.
The present dynamics have some resemblance to the pre-detente era, when cooperation on arms control was almost negligible. However, as those volatile circumstances brought the leaders of two superpowers to the negotiating table, the tensions originating from the war in Ukraine can also compel Putin and US President Joe Biden to resume arms control talks and avoid potentially catastrophic outcomes.
If both parties want to accomplish this, they will have to follow a three-point agenda. First, they must find a way to decouple the issues around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the resumption of arms control talks. They should not allow the conflict to hold dialogue hostage but instead set aside their differences, taking into account each other’s involvement in the conflict.
Given that the US has offered to resume negotiations without preconditions, Russia’s interest in conditional acceptance is a step in the right direction. It reinforces the belief that hope still exists even in the darkest moments. War and the pursuit of arms races offer no viable solutions, only widespread devastation and suffering. Sanity should prevail in Washington and Moscow, and they should take these small but meaningful gestures to their logical end.