Without more effective defenses, U.S. will be constrained in dealing with nuclear-armed regional adversaries
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Pending the fielding of much more effective capabilities for preventing an enemy from using nuclear weapons, it seems clear that the United States will be compelled to temper its objectives vis-àvis regional adversaries when those adversaries possess even modest numbers of nuclear weapons that can be delivered only to targets in their regions. The distinguishing feature of the post–Cold War security environment has been the United States' ability to impose its will on recalcitrant states that resort to violence in persistent violation of international norms. The fact that the United States possessed military forces whose capabilities were unquestionably superior to those of its potential adversaries made this possible. This "golden era" of conventional power projection may be coming to a close in important parts of Eurasia. If the United States and its allies cannot find ways to neutralize small arsenals of nuclear weapons or prevent them from being delivered to targets outside of their home countries, they will have to accept that military operations to impose regime change must be reserved for situations of only the direst sort.