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.”
Russia has been amassing troops and armor along the Ukrainian border, while making demands to the United States and its NATO allies, some of which—like a legally binding guarantee not to expand NATO—are negotiating nonstarters. It looks increasingly like a large-scale conventional war in Europe might become a reality. And Ukraine is the cornerstone of the crisis. How did this former Soviet republic find itself in the middle of the standoff between the West and Russia? How did the post-Soviet security settlement shape the conditions for the current crisis? What is the significance of Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament and security assurance pledged by the nuclear powers in connection with it? What consequences could a renewed conflict in Ukraine have on relations between Russia and the West—including arms control and other efforts to reduce nuclear dangers?
Dr. Mariana Budjeryn is a Research Associate with the Project on Managing the Atom (MTA) at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. Formerly, she held appointments as a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at MTA, a fellow at Harvard Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and as a visiting professor at Tufts University and Peace Research Institute Frankfurt. Mariana’s research focuses on the international non-proliferation regime, arms control, and post-Soviet nuclear history. Her analytical contributions appeared in The Nonproliferation Review, Harvard International Review, World Affairs Journal, Arms Control Today, The Washington Post, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, War on the Rocks, and in the publications of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars where she is a Global Fellow. Mariana’s book Inheriting the Bomb: Soviet Collapse and Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine is forthcoming in 2022 with Johns Hopkins University Press. She holds a PhD in Political Science, an MA in International Relations from Central European University (formerly) in Budapest, Hungary, and a BA in Political Science from the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine.
Amb. Steven Pifer is William J Perry Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, affiliated with the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Europe Center. He is also a nonresident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.
Pifer is a retired Foreign Service officer. His more than 25 years with the Department of State included assignments as deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Russia and Ukraine, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and special assistant to the President and senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia on the National Security Council. He also served at the U.S. embassies in Warsaw, Moscow and London, as well as in Geneva with the U.S. delegation to the negotiation on intermediate-range nuclear forces.
Following his retirement from the Foreign Service, Pifer spent nine years as a resident scholar at the Brookings Institution, where he authored The Eagle and the Trident: U.S.-Ukraine Relations in Turbulent Times. He is a graduate of Stanford with a BA in economics.