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This paper suggests a framework that relates U.S. policies regarding the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and arms control to fundamental objectives of U.S. security--deterring aggression and limiting damage should deterrence fail. The paper argues that an "early deployment" of a nationwide ballistic missile defense is unnecessary and might undermine, rather than strengthen, U.S. security. The United States should consider deployment of such defenses only when it becomes clear that they could fundamentally improve U.S. security by assuring national survival in the event of a nuclear attack. Because the weight of evidence indicates that assured survival would be feasible only in cooperation with the Soviet Union, the paper concludes that the SDI depends on arms control to be viable as anything more than a modest research program.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.