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.”
Moderated by Francesca Giovannini, Ph.D., Executive Director, Project on Managing the Atom
David M. Allison, Ph.D., Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow, Project on Managing the Atom
Sarah Bidgood, Director, Eurasia Nonproliferation Program, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey; Ph.D. Candidate, King’s College London
Hyun-Binn Cho, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, The College of New Jersey
Stephen Herzog, Ph.D., Senior Researcher in Nuclear Arms Control, Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich; Associate, Project on Managing the Atom
Ariel F. W. Petrovics, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, Center for International & Security Studies at Maryland, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
The States Parties meet to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) at a time when nuclear dangers loom particularly large. Indeed, the conflict in Ukraine and its nuclear dynamics have led many observers to fundamentally rethink deterrence and the idea that nuclear weapons can provide security to states. This turn of events highlights a need to scrutinize just how the nuclear-armed states have pursued their nuclear policy for decades.
Political efforts to halt nuclear proliferation, manage crises, promote arms control, and build alliances are often considered for mitigating the likelihood of nuclear catastrophe. Yet, no tool is guaranteed to succeed. Some may even have unanticipated, counterproductive consequences for global security.
At this side event, emerging nuclear scholars will provide insights based on research into the potentially damaging consequences of the policies nuclear decision-makers often take for granted. Their presentations represent selections from a forthcoming book intended for practitioners and students of nuclear politics alike. The panel will discuss unintended consequences of tools including: forceful counterproliferation, economic sanctions, crisis management strategies, arms control agreements, and nuclear alliances. Various approaches to combating nuclear risks will either succeed or fail. But identifying how the nuclear policies of great powers can and do backfire is ultimately critical for decreasing counterproductive consequences.