Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Projects

of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

The American Academy has been active on issues of nuclear arms control since 1960, convening scientists, academics, and policymakers to provide analysis and advice to both reduce the risk of nuclear war and enhance national security. For six decades, this combined expertise has produced regular Academy projects, events, and numerous high-quality research publications.

Click on the links below for an expanded overview of current and past Academy work on nuclear issues. You can also click through to learn more about projects and read publications.

This project approaches the current nuclear age through the simultaneous collapse of arms control agreements and the absence of any strategic dialogue among the three main nuclear players. Project work comprises three central activities: convening dialogues between nuclear experts and former officials from the United States, China, and Russia to identify critical goals in arms control; in parallel, engaging in an educational briefing series for Members and staffs of Congress to deepen knowledge on key issues and challenges facing the United States in arms control and international security; and producing high-impact publications on critical debates within nuclear arms control to inform policymaking and expert constituencies.

Learn more about the project leaders and activities, including these events: 

Phase One - now concluded - built upon the premise that the foundations and principles that came to define the nuclear order throughout the Cold War have eroded dramatically, bringing the world closer to a possible use of nuclear weapons in the near future. The awakening of an era of great power competition between the U.S., Russia and China as well as the development and deployment of new technologies are key challenges to the understanding and practice of strategic stability.

Learn more about the project leaders and activities

Key project findings

  • On a bilateral or a multilateral basis, the United States, Russia, and China should pursue discussions intended to improve understanding of one another’s strategic concerns and views on which actions by an adversary would be especially concerning or dangerous. Until that happens, the widening gap in the outlook and actions of these three major actors will only make this new nuclear environment less manageable and more dangerous.
  • The United States, Russia, and China should also actively work to see whether and where common ground can be found concerning efforts to mitigate arms spirals and restrain the development, deployment, or use of destabilizing technologies. They should then pursue politically binding agreements to advance these goals, albeit with a clear eye to the limits of verification that would exist in this format.

Read more of the project findings

Additional Resources

Read a summary of a seminar series with experts and former high-level policymakers, co-hosted with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Phase Two focuses on the volatile mix of variables that characterize the new nuclear era. New and potential nuclear powers reside in highly hostile environments, have fewer resources and are often characterized by more domestic instability than the first generation of nuclear powers. New technologies, including social media and cybersecurity, are complicating communication, command, and control arrangements.

This phase produced a new volume - The Fragile Balance of Terror: Deterrence in the New Nuclear Age - edited by Vipin Narang and Scott D. Sagan, which brings together a diverse collection of rigorous and creative scholars to analyze how the nuclear landscape is changing for the worse. Scholars, pundits, and policymakers who think that the spread of nuclear weapons can create stable forms of nuclear deterrence in the future will be forced to think again.


A dangerous multipolar nuclear order has emerged from the end of the Cold War. Essays explore some of the possible escalation pathways that could lead one or more states to use nuclear weapons.
From 1960 to now, the Academy has convened experts in both theory and practice to provide analysis and advice to both reduce the risk of nuclear war and enhance national security.


Current nuclear projects fall under the Academy's program area on Global Security and International Affairs. The Committee on International Security Studies (CISS) was created in 1982 to formalize and expand the Academy's work on international security affairs.

Past Projects

Below are featured three past projects, and there is a summary of all previous Academy nuclear projects from 1960-2021.

For more information, please contact: Ottawa Sanders