Why we may look back on 2019 as the point of no return
A year ago, it was clear that a storm was brewing on the nuclear horizon. Writing in Foreign Affairs in January, we warned that “the United States could find itself in not one but three nuclear crises in the next 12 months.” We pointed to the risk that negotiations with North Korea would break down, that arms control between the United States and Russia would further deteriorate, and that Iran would begin violating its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Looking back, it is clear that we missed the mark—by being too optimistic. Over the past year, Washington has not only faced nuclear crises with North Korea, Russia, and Iran, as predicted; it has also watched as nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan stumbled to the brink of all-out war and a host of U.S. allies began to rethink their nuclear options. Unless governments in Washington and elsewhere act quickly to reverse course, future scholars may look back on 2019 as the turning point from an era of relative calm to one of intense nuclear competition and proliferation—the dawn of a dangerous new nuclear age.