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.”
How fast can a state develop a nuclear device? How do nuclear weapons programs evolve from political decisions? The issue of “nuclear latency” has been widely studied. Yet, the nonproliferation community has endorsed a single measure for latency - the capability to produce fissile materials (highly enriched uranium or plutonium). A direct consequence is that scholars, policy-makers, and nonproliferation experts sometimes trivialize or underestimate the preconditions and requirements of “weaponization” – the robust process of developing, manufacturing, and testing an initial nuclear explosive device. The seminar will draw on multiple historical case-studies to provide insights into the dynamics of nuclear weaponization and will explore their relevance to current nonproliferation policies.