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.”
Speakers: Mark S. Bell, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota Twin Cities;
Julia Macdonald, Assistant Professor in International Relations, Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
How dangerous are nuclear crises, and how should scholars and policymakers think about them? What dynamics govern how they unfold? The speakers argue that correctly interpreting nuclear crises—and how one thinks about the effects of nuclear weapons during these times—hinges on crisis participants' theories about processes of escalation to the nuclear level. How participants think about processes of escalation during nuclear crises is in turn determined by their perceptions of (1) the extent of incentives to strike pre-emptively, and (2) the extent to which escalation is controllable by participants. Variation across these two dimensions generate four models of nuclear crises that reduce analysts' abilities to draw generalizable conclusions from nuclear crises writ large and may explain why empirical findings on nuclear crises have been contradictory and inconclusive. The speakers provide evidence for their argument using the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.
Co-sponsored by Project on Managing the Atom