SAV Review Series: “The Lure and Pitfalls of MIRVs: From the First to the Second Nuclear Age”


The Stimson Center recently released The Lure and Pitfalls of MIRVs: From the First to the Second Nuclear Age, an edited volume that takes a retrospective look at the U.S.-Soviet experience with MIRVs and explores the second coming of MIRVs in contemporary Asia. In this SAV review series, SAV contributors Sitakanta Mishra, Amina Afzal, Rabia Akhtar, Sadia Tasleem, and Debak Das review each chapter with special attention to the implications for South Asia and future research.

In “SAV Review Series: Learning from the U.S. Pursuit of Counterforce and MIRVs,” Sitakanta Mishra concurs with Green and Long’s assessment that strategic modernization programs give the second nuclear age a different qualitative character as compared to the first, but he attributes responsibility for potential arms racing in southern Asia to Pakistan rather than China.

In “SAV Review Series: Revisiting Soviet Decisionmaking, MIRVs, and Arms Control,” Amina Afzal cautions that the deployment of MIRVs may make arms control negotiations untenable in Asia in addition to calling for more research into the political decisionmaking vis-à-vis multiple-warhead missiles during the Cold War.

In “SAV Review Series: Understanding MIRVs and Interactive Effects on the Subcontinent,” Debak Das supports bold moves by both India and Pakistan to clarify their nuclear postures, suggesting that Pakistan’s interests are better served by maintenance of the status quo than the pursuit of MIRVs.

In “SAV Review Series: Assessing the Impact of China’s MIRVs on South Asia,” Rabia Akhtar examines the driving forces behind China’s nuclear modernization and advises that any analysis of U.S.-China nuclear posturing is incomplete without a broader understanding of regional players such as India and Pakistan.

In “SAV Review Series: MIRVing and Deterrence Challenges for India,” Sadia Tasleem commends Basrur and Sankaran’s recommendations for nuclear deterrence needs stemming from Cold War policies and argues that a closer examination of  “nuclear nationalism” is necessary to understand the domestic political motivators for MIRV development.