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.”
Under what conditions do states use preventive military force to forestall or destroy an adversary’s nuclear weapons program? If nuclear weapons are so dangerous, why do leaders disagree about the magnitude of the threat posed by specific nuclear programs? Despite the fact that nuclear proliferation has been a growing source of concern, counter-proliferation decision-making remains poorly understood. In this Project on Managing the Atom Seminar, Rachel Whitlark will challenge existing explanations for this behavior, offer a new theory of counter-proliferation decision-making, and test its predictions in key historical cases.