The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
What can the United States do to thwart the nuclear ambitions of its allies? Looking to the past, the U.S. was able to leverage its alliance commitments to stop some friendly states from going nuclear. Looking to the future, Iran's possible nuclear acquisition and China’s military ascendancy may tempt key U.S. allies in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) and East Asia (South Korea, Japan) to consider reducing their reliance on American security guarantees by acquiring independent nuclear deterrents. When planning a response to the nuclear pursuit by these friends, the U.S. can draw lessons from the successes (Taiwan, South Korea) and failures (Israel, Pakistan) of its nonproliferation efforts against its Cold War-era allies.
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