Meeting the Challenges of the New Nuclear Age
Meeting the Challenges of the New Nuclear Age examines some of the possible escalation pathways that could lead one or more nuclear weapons states to use nuclear weapons. Through dialogue and consultations with various domestic and international nuclear consistencies, it aims to articulate a set of recommendations for de-escalating possible nuclear crises mostly involving the United States and its allies.
Building on the Academy’s long history of studies on arms control, Meeting the Challenges of the New Nuclear Age is a two-phase project that seeks to articulate a new framework for governing relations among the nine existing nuclear weapons states, with a particular attention to strengthening strategic stability within two critical nuclear triangles: China, the U.S., and Russia as well as India, Pakistan, and China.
Phase One builds upon past Academy work and the premise that the foundations and principles that came to define the nuclear order after World War II and throughout the Cold War have eroded dramatically, bringing the world closer to a possible use of nuclear weapons in the near future. Several factors are responsible for this dangerous situation:
- The rise of new nuclear weapons states, the weakening of multilateral institutions, the development of non-nuclear strategic weapons, and the awakening of an era of great power competition are certainly the most important.
- New security challenges like the ones posed by non-state actors demand innovative solutions.
- The consensus around the norms and values that have traditionally underpinned relations among nuclear weapons states and between nuclear weapons states and the rest of the international community continues to deteriorate.
These multifaceted challenges demand a multilateral and interdisciplinary approach that takes into account technological developments in the nuclear field and related areas such as in the cyber, artificial intelligence, and space domains, together with the changing geopolitical landscape.
Phase Two, chaired by Scott Sagan and Vipin Narang, is investigating deterrence and defense implications facing small nuclear force-countries and potential proliferators, with an emphasis on potentially-destabilizing regional and sub-regional nuclear dynamics.
Project at a Glance
To achieve this goal, we will:
- Identify the most likely escalation pathways that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons by one or more of the nuclear weapons states; and
- Develop recommendations, addressed to US policy makers, for de-escalating a nuclear crisis involving the United States
In addition, the project aims to contribute to the advancement of nuclear studies in the United States and around the world.
The initiative has begun exploring the core challenges posed by the new nuclear age by convening a series of consultations with nuclear experts, policymakers, and scholars in Chicago, New York City, Cambridge, MA, and Washington, DC. An inter-generational working group has met to engage in dialogue, creative thinking, and theoretical innovation.
Project contributors have also conducted consultations with US State department and Department of Defense officials to better understand the main concerns and priorities of the US nuclear policymakers.
The project recently published the third in a series of occasional papers investigating the relationship between the nuclear order and the international system.
Upcoming activities include:
Informal consultations with selected nuclear experts from Russia and China to identify the triggering factors that might lead to a nuclear escalation among the three countries
An issue of Daedalus, to be published in Spring 2020