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: Giles David Arceneaux, Postdoctoral Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom
Kyungwon Suh, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, Syracuse University
The deterrent capacity of a state's nuclear forces is dependent upon the platforms and delivery systems that constitute the arsenal. The crisis between the United States and North Korea in 2017 illustrates this principle, as North Korea's successful demonstration of intercontinental ballistic missile technology forced the United States to account for North Korea's newfound ability to target the U.S. homeland. Despite the importance of specific platforms for nuclear deterrence and coercion, however, existing studies typically evaluate the deterrent power of nuclear weapons by measuring whether a state possesses nuclear weapons or the number of warheads within a state's nuclear arsenal.
This project argues that such measures of nuclear capabilities are inadequate for evaluating the consequences of nuclear proliferation for deterrence and coercion. The mere possession of nuclear weapons does not provide a robust deterrent and nuclear states cannot credibly deter potential adversaries with nuclear threats in the absence of adequate delivery capabilities. The project presents a new dataset that measures the possession of seven nuclear delivery platforms across all nuclear powers from 1945–2019, including: submarine-launched missiles, strategic land-mobile missiles, strategic solid-fuel missiles, nuclear cruise missiles, multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, long-range ballistic missiles, and tactical nuclear weapons. These data provide an alternative conceptual framework that better captures the operational capacity of a state's nuclear arsenal. This project also provides a preliminary analysis of the effect of nuclear platform diversification on dispute initiation and escalation involving nuclear-armed states.
Everyone is welcome to join us online via Zoom! Please register in advance for this seminar: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcsf-6uqTwoHdZZJ3qqoP1Ohy78rsXBc5en