The RAND Winter Study on Nonnuclear Strategic Weapons: Executive Summary
Advancing technologies, particularly in micro-electronics and manifested in "smart" munitions, are offering the future prospect of nonnuclear weapons capable of performing some of the missions now assigned to strategic nuclear forces. That prospect may be advanced by increasingly voiced concerns about the possession or use of the large stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons. The emergence of nonnuclear strategic weapons (NNSW), perhaps before the turn of the century, could have profound implications for current security concepts and policies. The purpose of the research reported here was to anticipate as many as possible of those implications and, thereby, improve the basis for U.S. Air Force planning. Current concepts for deterrence and for the waging of strategic and theater warfare were reexamined for the potential changes that might occur as a result of the advent of significant NNSW capabilities. Similarly, current policies for security alliances and for the proliferation and control of nuclear arms were reviewed for the stresses or changes that might accompany the emergence of NNSW. While many of the potential changes in security concepts and policies are so complex as to defy judgments about whether NNSW should be welcomed or rejected, there is little doubt that NNSW are emerging and that they will greatly complicate our ideas about how to prevent or wage wars. The salient uncertainties now, however, are technical: How far can NNSW go in posing alternatives to strategic nuclear weapons?