America's current nuclear strategy seeks to improve deterrence with a counterforce targeting plan that exceeds the requirements of mutual assured destruction. This “countervailing” nuclear strategy codifies an enlarged spectrum of retaliatory options. The author argues, however, that the countervailing strategy is based upon a number of implausible and contradictory assumptions, and that it actually degrades the overriding objective of genuine security. For many reasons, the Soviet Union is not apt to assign a higher probability of fulfillment to American counterforce threats; under certain conditions, current policy confronts our adversary with a heightened incentive to pre-empt. The conclusion identifies an alternative strategy for the avoidance of nuclear war, a network of doctrines and obligations that calls for a return to minimum deterrence, a comprehensive test ban, and a joint renunciation of the right to the first use of nuclear weapons.