Nuclear Issues

1519 Items

Posters of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack on Jan. 3, 2020, are seen in front of Qiam, background left, Zolfaghar, top right, and Dezful missiles displayed in a missile capabilities exhibition by the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini grand mosque in Tehran on Jan. 7, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

America Has No Good Options on Iran

| Jan. 17, 2022

The hard truth is that the United States now has few good options for containing Iran’s nuclear program. It can persist with the no-deal status quo, allowing Iran to continue inching closer to a bomb while suffering under sanctions. It can pursue a return to the 2015 agreement and then attempt to get Iran to agree to a “longer and stronger” pact, as the Biden team has suggested. It can try for various other deals, either more or less stringent than the 2015 agreement. Or it can attempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure with a military strike, possibly setting Tehran’s progress toward a bomb back by a few years but almost certainly provoking retaliation and possibly a sprint toward the nuclear finish line.

Tomas Roggero via Flickr

Tomas Roggero via Flickr

Report Chapter - Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

China's Nuclear Force Modernization

| January 2022

Under the guidance of its self-defence nuclear strategy, China will continue to modernise its nuclear force in order to maintain a reliable second-strike retaliatory capability. China’s nuclear weapon modernisation has been responsive to the advances of military capabilities of other countries, particularly the US. As Hu Side emphasised, “The sole purpose for China to maintain a limited nuclear counterattack force is to deter a potential nuclear strike. However, the development of US missile defense and the long-rang strike capability with high accuracy to target mobile missiles is in practice to decrease the effectiveness of Chinese nuclear deterrence. Thus, it surely leads to Chinese attention."

YJ-18 missiles on display (Salah Rashad Zaqzoq/Wikimedia Commons).

Salah Rashad Zaqzoq/Wikimedia Commons

Report Chapter - International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility

China's Nuclear Weapons Strategy and Modernization Program

| Fall 2021

Recently published documents, news reports, and other sources of open source information indicate that China is accelerating its current nuclear force modernization programme. It is clear that it is driven largely in response to the growing United States (U.S.) missile defense program, which China perceives as a threat to its minimum credible deterrence. While China is not altering its nuclear doctrine, it believes that it needs to enhance the reliability, survivability, and effectiveness of its retaliatory capability in response to a first-strike. In addition to expanding the size of its nuclear arsenal, it is enhancing its delivery capabilities, for example, by increasing the number of ICBMs and making them more sophisticated. It is building more Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) warheads as well as a new class of ballistic missile submarines. China’s ongoing nuclear modernization aims to increase the survivability, reliability, safety, and penetration capability of its small nuclear arsenal and thereby assures a limited, reliable, and effective counterattack capability that will deter a nuclear first-strike. China’s nuclear modernization program will likely continue to be guided by its nuclear policy, which is characterized by a no-first-use pledge and a commitment to “minimum nuclear deterrence.” Finally, while China supports the total elimination of nuclear weapons, it does not believe it is in China’s interest to participate in discussions about nuclear disarmament until the U.S. and Russia reduce their arsenals to one thousand each, or lower.

actical nuclear air-to-air rocket

Wkimedia CC/Boevaya mashina

Journal Article - Journal of Politics

Antinormative Messaging, Group Cues, and the Nuclear Ban Treaty

| Forthcoming

What types of foreign policy cues are most likely to turn public opinion against a popular emerging norm? Since 2017, the U.S. government has sought to discredit the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and its nuclear nonpossession norm among the largely prodisarmament American public. The authors fielded a national U.S. survey experiment (N=1,219) to evaluate the effects of these elite cues as well as social group cues on public opinion. Their study thus offers one of the first experimental assessments of public attitudes toward nuclear disarmament.

Department of Defense via Flickr

Department of Defense via Flickr

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Will the Nuclear Posture Review Reveal the Biden Doctrine?

| Oct. 12, 2021

In managing expectations across a broad spectrum of stakeholders, the Biden administration should aim to release an NPR grounded in clear-eyed analysis but moderate in tone and posture. It should be guided by what international relations theorists call “defensive realism.” While depicting vividly and without hesitation a world in crisis, the NPR should argue that a return to a classical nuclear deterrence posture is the most effective strategy for the United States. 

CTBTO analysts working at the organization's International Data Centre in Vienna in 2020.

CTBTO via Flickr

Analysis & Opinions - European Leadership Network

The CTBT at 25: How Might the International Community Better Foster Its Entry Into Force?

| Sep. 24, 2021

Creating the conditions for the CTBT to enter into force has eluded the international community for the past 25 years. Since the CTBT opened for signature in 1996, the geopolitical landscape has only deteriorated.

The infrasound station array at infrasound station IS49, Tristan da Cunha, U.K.

CTBTO/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Arms Control Today

The CTBT at 25 and Beyond

| September 2021

Despite political and legal uncertainty, the CTBTO and its member states have shown remarkable ingenuity in establishing a successful global monitoring network—the International Monitoring System (IMS)—of unprecedented scale and sophistication. The system relies on superb and still unsurpassed technical capabilities for monitoring and verifying the global nuclear test ban. Nevertheless, serious technical and political challenges to the long-term sustainability of the organization and the monitoring system are slowly emerging. Consequently, although this would be undesirable and politically costly, the international community should consider taking steps to decouple the IMS from the treaty’s fate in order to maintain and expand on the extraordinary technical investments that the monitoring system represents.

Presidents Putin and Obama in 2015.

Wikimedia Commons

Book Chapter - James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

US-Russian Cooperation to Improve Security for Nuclear Weapons and Materials

| August 2021

Today, US-Russian political relations are as poisonous as they have been in decades. Former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and former Senator Sam Nunn have warned that “not since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 has the risk of a US-Russian confrontation involving the use of nuclear weapons been as high as it is today." In Washington, there is more talk of new sanctions than of paths to cooperation. Nevertheless, there are some hints in both capitals that despite the larger political confrontation, both sides would like to find areas of common interest where cooperation might be possible. The next time the US and Russian presidents meet and issue a joint statement, they should include direction for their nuclear experts to begin working together again— on an agenda that includes nuclear energy, nuclear security, nonproliferation, technologies for verifying future arms agreements, and more.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2017.

khamenei.ir/Wikimedia Commons

Book Chapter - Springer/T.M.C. Asser Press

Backchannel Non-Proliferation: Militarily Non-Aligned States and Nuclear Diplomacy

| July 27, 2021

What roles can small militarily non-aligned States play in nuclear non-proliferation diplomacy with actual or suspected proliferators? And how might international law shape such contributions? Current literature identifying effective approaches to nuclear non-proliferation and rollback is somewhat one-dimensional, emphasising the behaviour of great powers and international organisations. By contrast, this chapter analyses activities militarily non-aligned States may undertake supporting negotiations in accordance with international legal norms and institutions. More specifically, it explores Swedish and Swiss initiatives in the early 2000s, a period of growing tensions over the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes. Drawing upon resources including unpublished elite interviews, the chapter offers new insights into theoretical backchannel non-proliferation mechanisms. It complements existing literature on nuclear proliferation by offering a fuller account of diplomatic negotiations. Ongoing crises suggest many future challenges to the non-proliferation regime will emerge, and militarily non-aligned States may hold one of the few keys to facilitating dialogue. International law can both compel these States to act and provide them with influential—but often-overlooked—non-proliferation roles. Indeed, reconsidering dominant narratives about ‘players’ involved in nuclear diplomacy may provide new avenues for policy-making and theorising aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.