Nuclear Issues

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Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Center Experts Reflect on 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima Bombing

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, launching the nuclear age. On the 75th anniversary of that somber event, Belfer Center experts reflect on the event and its aftermath. 

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Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

'What About China?' and the Threat to US–Russian Nuclear Arms Control

| 2020

The administration of President Donald J. Trump has consistently used fear of China to undermine nearly five decades of bipartisan consensus on US–Russian nuclear arms control. The negative consequences of these actions may last far beyond the Trump presidency. If generations of agreement between Democrats and Republicans on bilateral nuclear treaties with Russia erode, it will pose a significant setback to US national security and global stability. Future leaders may ultimately need to consider new approaches to nuclear risk reduction that preserve the benefits of the arms control regime.

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Trucks carrying weapons including a nuclear-armed missile designed to evade U.S. defenses rumbled through Beijing as the Communist Party celebrated its 70th anniversary in power with a parade Tuesday that showcased China's ambition as a rising global force.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Living with Uncertainty: Modeling China's Nuclear Survivability

| Spring 2020

A simplified nuclear exchange model demonstrates that China’s ability to launch a successful nuclear retaliatory strike in response to an adversary’s nuclear first strike has been and remains far from assured. This study suggests that China’s criterion for effective nuclear deterrence is very low.

A satellite view of Shigatse, Tibet, home to the PLA’s 6th Border Defense Regiment, near the China-India border.

Maxar Technologies / CNES Airbus via Google, used with permission

Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Strategic Postures of China and India: A Visual Guide

| March 2020

Fueled by aggressive rhetoric from both capitals, Indian and Chinese ground forces engaged in a standoff between June and August 2017. The Doklam crisis, as it became known, stimulated introspection among officials and experts in both states about the future of their relationship. Politically, both strategic communities largely concluded that the peaceful resolution of border disputes is now less likely, forecasting more rivalry than cooperation. Militarily, Indian discussions on the strength of its military position against China in their disputed ground frontier areas have converged on the view that China holds the conventional and nuclear edge over India in this domain.

Based on our analysis of data on the location and capabilities of Indian and Chinese strategic forces and related military units, we conclude that this assessment of the balance of forces may be mistaken and a poor guide for Indian security and procurement policies. We recommend that instead of investing in new nuclear weapons platforms that our analysis suggests are not likely to be required to deter China, New Delhi should improve the survivability of its existing forces and fill the gap in global arms control leadership with an initiative on restraint and transparency.

Military helicopters fly over the training ground during strategic command and staff exercises Center-2019 at Donguz shooting range near Orenburg, Russia, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

AP Photo/Sergei Grits

Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Defense Playbook for Campaigns

    Authors:
  • Richard Kuzma
  • David Michelson
  • Jacqueline Parziale
  • Kathryn Reed
  • Ryan Solís
  • Tom Wester
  • William Wright
| March 2020

The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) is predicated on a single organizing principle: America’s military pre-eminence is rapidly eroding. This is not a new concept. For years, experts have warned that the economic and technological advancements of U.S. adversaries, coupled with the 2008 financial crisis and America’s focus on peripheral conflicts, have caused a decline in America’s military dominance. 

In this context, the advances of near-peer competitors such as China and Russia have created plausible “theories of victory” in potential conflicts across Eastern Europe and East Asia. Competitors’ unaddressed improvements in strategic innovation, economic investment, and dual-use technology increases the risk of conflict and strains the U.S. alliance system. It is urgent that the United States reestablish and maintain credible deterrents against these near-peer competitors. After decades of focusing on post-Cold War ‘shaping’ operations, the American military needs to reinvigorate for full spectrum great power competition.

This report is intended as a blueprint on how to begin that process from graduate students at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Contained inside are 12 memorandums. Each provides a high-level overview and specific recommendations on a key issue of American defense policy.