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.”
The current crisis in US-Russia relations draws frequent comparisons to the Cold War. One major difference between past and present, however, is the breakdown in cooperation between Washington and Moscow on nonproliferation today. Despite significant ideological differences, acrimony, and mutual suspicion, the United States and Soviet Union often found ways to work closely and productively to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Why has cooperation in this critical area of international security virtually ceased today, and what can be done to restore it? This talk will draw upon past examples of US and Soviet cooperation for nonproliferation to offer answers to these questions. In so doing, it will build upon conclusions put forward in the 2018 volume Bidgood coedited with Dr. William Potter, Once and Future Partners: The United States, Russia, and Nuclear Non-proliferation.