Arms control in the 2020s will face headwinds. Placing restraints on the development or limits on the deployment of newly emerging strategic offensive and defensive technologies is bound to prove difficult without a vision, or even an acknowledgement of a relationship between offence and defence. In the absence of domestic incentives for arms control, such as grassroots interest in nuclear reductions or economic circumstances that force tough choices across defense budgets, arms control is unlikely to be politically advantageous.
Worse, concerns about the other’s superiority and one’s own potential vulnerability may exert political pressures on domestic procurement and enable the pursuit of technological solutions to what are ultimately political problems in relations between states. And, after the INF Treaty’s breakdown over noncompliance allegations, picking up the pieces and rebuilding domestic consensus on the importance of arms control in national security will be essential. Negotiations will require quiet and principled engagement that stays out of the headlines—a near impossible feat in the days of social media diplomacy.