Competitive Arms Control


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Nixon, Kissinger, and SALT, 1969-1972

John D. Maurer

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The essential history of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) during the Nixon Administration

How did Richard Nixon, a president so determined to compete for strategic nuclear advantage over the Soviet Union, become one of the most successful arms controllers of the Cold War? Drawing on newly opened Cold War archives, John D. Maurer argues that a central purpose of arms control talks for American leaders was to channel nuclear competition toward areas of American advantage and not just international cooperation. While previous accounts of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) have emphasized American cooperative motives, Maurer highlights how Nixon, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird shaped negotiations, balancing their own competitive interests with proponents of cooperation while still providing a coherent rationale to Congress. Within the arms control agreements, American leaders intended to continue deploying new weapons, and the arms control restrictions, as negotiated, allowed the United States to sustain its global power, contain communism, and ultimately prevail in the Cold War.

John D. Maurer is professor of strategy and security studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Air University.

Competitive Arms Control is a landmark reinterpretation of U.S. strategic arms limitation policy. Explaining the multifaceted motivations behind the Nixon administration’s approach to SALT I, Maurer’s book holds important lessons for today’s decisionmakers.”—James Jerome John Cameron, author of The Double Game: The Demise of America’s First Missile Defense System and the Rise of Strategic Arms Limitation

"An outstanding history that presents a powerful, convincing argument about competitive arms control. Maurer upends the conventional wisdom surrounding nuclear weapons, arms races, and strategic stability during the Cold War. A must-read!”—Francis Gavin, The Johns Hopkins University
ISBN: 9780300247558
Publication Date: June 28, 2022
312 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4