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Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi: Roundtable Discussion

On January 22, 2015, Jonathan Fanton led an Academy delegation, including representatives of the Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative, to Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.

In these remarks excerpted from a roundtable discussion with Khalifa University faculty members and advanced doctoral students in nuclear engineering, Dr. Fanton discusses the pioneering work that Academy members have done on issues of arms control and nuclear deterrence. He also reviews the ways in which, more recently, the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future Initiative has worked to strengthen the links between academia and policy to respond to nuclear issues in the twenty-first century.

The Academy played a foundational role in the study of arms control and nuclear deterrence, beginning with the widely cited Fall 1960 issue of its journal Dædalus. Throughout the Cold War, Academy members such as Henry Kissinger, Thomas Schelling, Carl Kaysen, and Joseph Nye, among others, met frequently at the Academy to analyze potential policies to ensure global security. Such discussions frequently informed policy debates and contributed to the easing of tensions between the two superpowers.

Since the end of the Cold War, the world has seen massive shifts in the distribution of power, wealth, technology, and knowledge. These shifts have brought about opportunities but also challenges, risks, and threats. This is a time when policy-makers need more help than ever to understand an increasingly complex and unpredictable environment shaped by culture, language, religion, and history, as well as by new technologies that open opportunities for social and economic progress but also pose dangers if misused.

States are increasingly interconnected economically, but competition for limited resources complicates these relationships. At the same time, nonstate actors are playing an ever-increasing role in international relations. These trends raise many questions: How can states manage both competition and cooperation in a peaceful manner? In which ways should national sovereignty be rethought so that citizens receive the necessary protection and threats from nonstate actors are contained?

It is impossible to develop effective responses to contemporary problems without foundations of solid evidence and analysis. Yet policy-makers must often act quickly during crises, with insufficient time for proper scholarly analysis. It is therefore critical that we work now to develop a full understanding of the changing character of international relations. The most useful scholarship will be built on interdisciplinary dialogue and a genuine interest in examining the facts on the ground, free from academic, ideological, or political bias.

The wealth of knowledge created across many scholarly fields has never been more indispensable for ensuring global peace and stability. It is important that we strengthen the connections between academia and the policy world to respond effectively to the challenges of the twenty-first century.

In this spirit, the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future Initiative seeks to develop a deeper understanding of the risks and opportunities presented by the global expansion of nuclear energy. Under the able leadership of professors Steve Miller (Harvard), Scott Sagan (Stanford), and Bob Rosner (University of Chicago), the Initiative develops strategies that permit the peaceful use of nuclear power to meet the growing demand for energy, while minimizing the potential adverse consequences of the spread of inherently risky nuclear technology. The project works with nuclear experts and policy-makers, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, whose choices will have a significant influence on the character of the international nuclear order. It identifies and promotes best practices to minimize the security and nonproliferation concerns associated with the spread of nuclear energy.

Before I turn the program over to Steve, let me thank you again for inviting us here today. Khalifa University and the Gulf Nuclear Energy Infrastructure Institute are excellent examples of how scholars can best serve the public good. The role that this institute plays in training the new nuclear leadership in this country and in the Gulf region will have long-lasting social and political benefits for this society and its neighbors. I applaud your work and hope that we can find additional opportunities to collaborate in the future.

At this point, Dr. Fanton introduced Professor Steve Miller, Director of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Cochair of the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future Initiative.

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