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.”
Did President Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’ pressure campaign coerce North Korea to return to the bargaining table in 2018? States have gone to great lengths to acquire nuclear weapons, but experts are divided on whether such weapons confer coercive advantages for attaining foreign policy goals. That is, does threatening the use of nuclear weapons often succeed in forcing others to comply to that state’s will? Whereas “nuclear coercion optimists” argue that nuclear weapons provide coercive advantages, “nuclear coercion pessimists” counter that the coercive utility of nuclear weapons are limited. Proponents in both camps, however, turn to the Sino-Soviet Border Crisis of 1969 to support their case. Indeed, in major datasets used to statistically analyze the coercive utility of nuclear weapons across countries, this puzzling case is coded differently. Did nuclear coercion succeed in the 1969 crisis? This seminar sheds new light on this question and discusses the broader implications of the case for our understanding of nuclear coercion and crisis bargaining with North Korea.