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.”
The European missile defense project—also known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA)—is going forward at a fast pace. At the same time, it seems to be forgotten that the system was originally created against Iran and meant to be adaptable to the actual evolution of that threat. Yet, the strategy has remained unchanged since 2013, despite the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and the fact that previous predictions about the country’s ballistic missile development have been proven wrong. This is because the project is driven by political motivations that have little to do with Iran: in the current climate of regional tensions, missile defense is increasingly viewed as a symbol of NATO unity and a safeguard against Russian aggression. The presentation questions the interpretation of missile defense as a source of security for Europe. In particular, it argues that EPAA’s third phase—which began with groundbreaking on a Polish site in May—is undermining regional security and long-term prospects for nuclear arms control, and hence should be suspended.
Dr. Tytti Erasto is Roger L. Hale fellow at the Ploughshares Fund. She is a former Stanton nuclear security fellow and research fellow in the Managing the Atom/International Security Research programs at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (2012-2013).