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.”
Recent MTA Work
The Project on Managing the Atom (MTA) has a dual mission: (1) leading the advancement of policy-relevant knowledge about the future of nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, and the connections between the two; and (2) preparing the next generation of leaders for work on these issues. MTA researchers not only engage in policy research and analysis, but also propose and promote policy innovations, and provide authoritative information for an interested public.
MTA’s research focuses primarily on four broad issues and on the interactions between them:
- Reducing the risk of nuclear and radiological terrorism: MTA has maintained a major focus on analyzing, proposing, and pushing for initiatives to keep nuclear weapons and materials out of the hands of terrorists and secure nuclear stockpiles throughout the world.
- Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons: MTA’s work focuses on strengthening nonproliferation efforts and addressing regional proliferation challenges in the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia, with attention to both constraining the supply of nuclear technology and reducing demand for nuclear weapons.
- Reducing the dangers of existing nuclear stockpiles: MTA’s work suggests practical steps for reducing the risk of the use of nuclear weapons in war or crises, and for reducing the size of nuclear arsenals themselves.
- Lowering the barriers to the safe, secure, and peaceful use of nuclear energy: Nuclear energy would have to grow substantially to be a significant part of the answer to the climate change challenge. MTA examines how nuclear energy could be made as safe, secure, and proliferation-resistant as possible – and how the problem of radioactive waste can be successfully addressed.
Our research is intended for a variety of audiences: experts in nonproliferation, energy, and international politics; policy makers; and the general public. The work of the project appears in publications such as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Arms Control Today, International Security, Foreign Policy, and Science and Global Security. Experts associated with the project also provide opinion pieces and commentary to a wide variety of media, including The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the major news networks.
The project sponsors an international group of resident fellows, who—like the project’s staff and faculty members—engage in individual and collaborative research. MTA fellows conduct their research in an interdisciplinary work environment—blending policy and technical concerns—and enjoy frequent opportunities to interact with colleagues, faculty, and visiting policy makers and experts. In addition to pursuing their own research, MTA fellows participate in group seminars, and prepare themselves for future careers in academia and policy.
The project is a joint venture of the Belfer Center programs on Science, Technology, and Public Policy (STPP); International Security (ISP); and Environment and Natural Resources (ENRP).
The Project on Managing the Atom is an inclusive and supportive research group. We strive to foster a culture of respect for the ideas and contributions of each member of our community. The Project on Managing the Atom does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital or parental status, disability, or status as a veteran in its selection of fellows, employment of staff, or in its provision of access to or treatment in its projects and activities.The MTA Project is committed to recruiting and retaining a highly diverse group of research fellows, associates, and staff. We work to ensure that our appointments and selection procedures consciously identify and evaluate people from underrepresented groups.
Major funding for MTA comes from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Belfer Center's Middle East Initiative, and the Emirates Leadership Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School. In the recent past, additional funding was provided by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Ploughshares Fund.
Student Research Assistants
MTA Analysis and Commentary on the Nuclear Implications of the War in Ukraine
Media and Analysis
- In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Matthew Bunn discusses the consequences of sabotage at Zaporizhzhia.
- Matthew Bunn discusses consequences and likely next steps if Russia does use nuclear weapons.
- Mariana Budjeryn reflects on the war in Ukraine after one year.
- Harvard Kennedy School faculty and staff share their thoughts here and here on lessons from the Ukraine War after one year (including MTA's co-PI, Matthew Bunn, discussing impacts on the global nuclear order).
- MTA Senior Research Associate, Mariana Budjeryn, releases her book Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine, outlining the recent history of Ukrainian disarmament after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- Mariana Budjeryn writes about her return home to Lviv, Ukraine on the edge of war and peace.
- David M. Allison argues that in ascending order of predictive power, warnings of an imminent nuclear strike would come from Russian whistleblowers, the U.S. intelligence community, and Putin himself.
- Matthew Bunn reflects on Russia's dirty bomb disinformation campaign, annotating their own messaging and debunking their claims, published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
- Writing in The Boston Globe, Mariana Budjeryn argues to pay attention to the human dimension of nuclear safety at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
- Mariana Budjeryn on France24 discussing Putin's nuclear threats.
- Matthew Bunn discusses the risks to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant with Vox.
- Mariana Budjeryn continues to inform the world about dangers in Ukraine on CNBC, France24, CNN International, NPR's The World, and the Today Show.
- Discussing ongoing danger at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Mariana Budjeryn shares her insight with ABC Australia.
- Mariana Budjeryn appears on France24 and NPR's Morning Edition to discuss the shelling of Zaporizhzhia.
- Alexander K. Bollfrass and Stephen Herzog write about the war in Ukraine and global nuclear order in Survival.
- Francesca Giovannini writes in Arms Control Today about negative security assurances after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
- Marina Lorenzini and Francesca Giovannini offer insights into Russian export practices given the variety of sanctions leveled since the start of the war in Ukraine.
- Mariana Budjeryn offers a personal perspective on the ongoing war in Ukraine.
- Julien de Troullioud de Lanversin addresses four unanswered questions about the intersection of war and nuclear power.
- Mariana Budjeryn discusses the legacy of Ukrainian disarmament after the collapse of the Soviet Union in Foreign Affairs.
- Mariana Budjeryn goes on the At the Brink podcast to discuss the history and consequences of Ukrainian decisions related to nuclear weapons.
- Heather Williams writes in Foreign Policy about arms control after the Ukraine crisis and whether we are entering an arms control renaissance or dark age.
- Mariana Budjeryn joins Smerconish at CNN to discuss the Budapest Memorandum and the potential for global proliferation.
- Matthew Bunn assesses the threat and possible consequences of chemical weapon use in Ukraine.
- Stephen Herzog and Alexander Bollfrass discuss the war in Ukraine and its effects on global nuclear order.
- Swedish national radio conversation featuring Mariana Budjeryn and other experts discussing nuclear issues and Ukraine.
- Heather Williams and Mariana Budjeryn comment on the potential use of Russian tactical nuclear weapons.
- Matthew Bunn and Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer appear on Wbur's On Point to discuss the prospects of nuclear war and the war in Ukraine.
- Matthew Bunn, via MTA's twitter feed, explains the risks of Russian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine
- Mariana Budjeryn comments on Chernobyl and the current crisis in Ukraine
- Matthew Bunn and Mariana Budjeryn refute the claim that Ukraine is building a nuclear bomb
- Heather Williams comments on recent nuclear posturing by Vladimir Putin
- Mariana Budjeryn speaks on CNN's Hala Gorani Tonight
- Francesca Giovannini speaks to Italian Media on nuclear dimension of the war in Ukraine
- Matthew Bunn discusses recent events at the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology on whether there are any significant nuclear risks
- Speaking on CNN Newsroom Live, Mariana Budjeryn discusses nuclear concerns in the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- In conversation with Leila Fadel, Mariana Budjeryn comments on NPR about Russian advances on nuclear facilities
The Project on Managing the Atom’s Atomic Voices seminar series aims to critically reexamine the mainstream theories and structures that shape the nuclear field by providing the forum for marginalized actors, perspectives, and issues in nuclear research and policy. The goal of the Atomic Voices series is to critically rethink the kinds of questions we ask in the nuclear field and the kinds of voices that get heard and broaden the aperture of actors/spaces, regions, and epistemologies.
Atomic Voices Events
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