Academy Article
January 2023

Book Launch with CSIS for The Fragile Balance of Terror: Deterrence in the Nuclear Age


On January 26, 2023, the Academy launched The Fragile Balance of Terror: Deterrence in the Nuclear Age, an open-access volume edited by Vipin Narang and Scott Sagan. The recorded launch event was hosted at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, and was attended both online and in-person. Participants included policymakers, members of the diplomatic community, researchers, and practitioners.  

The Fragile Balance of Terror highlights concerns arising from the increasing number of 21st century states armed with nuclear weapons. In this volume, nuclear policy and strategy experts provide comprehensive analysis and insight into the present nuclear landscape. Characterized by domestic unrest, unpredictable leadership, and volatile locations, the modern deterrence system is becoming increasingly fragile. Technological advancement has increased arsenal vulnerability, helped to proliferate information and misinformation, heightened multi-national nuclear rivalries, and increased the speed at which autocrats can make arbitrary and potentially life-threatening decisions. These issues are among the destabilizing factors addressed in this volume and discussed during the launch event.  

The event opened with a panel titled “The Dangerous Nuclear Future,” in which Heather Williams (co-author of Chapter 3: Thermonuclear Twitter?), Ankit Panda (co-author of Chapter 5: How Much Is Enough? Revisiting Nuclear Reliability, Deterrence, and Preventive War), and Nicholas Miller (co-author of Chapter 8: The Limits of Nuclear Learning in the New Nuclear Age) shared their research findings and answered questions from the audience. Panel presentations were followed by a keynote address by Scott Sagan, one of the volume’s co-editors.

Sagan provided an in-depth overview and analysis of the nuclear implications of Russia’s invasion of and war in Ukraine, including the possibility and probability of Russia using nuclear warheads during the conflict. He also outlined what a response to this use may look like, and military safeguards that will allow US officials to act most appropriately and prudently.   





Deterrence and New Nuclear States

Scott D. Sagan and Vipin Narang