Force stand-down and crisis termination

by Joseph E. Nation

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This paper reviews the standing down of alerted nuclear forces in a terminating crisis and discusses objectives of and suggestions for decisionmakers during the stand-down phase. It examines potential stand-down measures, U.S. capabilities to detect Soviet noncompliance, and Soviet incentives to attack, and calculates resulting warhead levels under varying scenarios. The author suggests that the likelihood of undetected Soviet noncompliance is low, that its potential costs vary, and that strategic nuclear force stand-down appears largely militarily insignificant, although it may have significant political effects.

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