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.”
Improvements to strategic situational awareness (SA)—the ability to characterize the operating environment, detect and respond to threats, and discern actual attacks from false alarms across the spectrum of conflict—have long been assumed to reduce the risk of conflict and help manage crises more successfully when they occur. However, with the development of increasingly capable strategic SA-related technology, growing comingling of conventional and nuclear SA requirements and capabilities, and the increasing risk of conventional conflict between nuclear-armed adversaries, this may no longer be the case. With the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the University of California, Berkeley’s Nuclear Policy Working Group undertook a two year study to examine the implications of emerging situational awareness technologies for managing crises between nuclear armed adversaries. Informed by research and eight tabletop exercises conducted with 150 participants overall, the report presented in this seminar lays out the implications of the emerging SA environment, potential escalation pathways, and the way ahead—one that will require new perspectives on the values and risks associated with information dominance.
Read the full report here: https://ontheradar.csis.org/analysis/final-report/