Reports & Papers

118 Items

A missile on display during a military parade in Moscow's Red Square in 2016.

Wikimedia Commons

Report Chapter - American Academy of Arts & Sciences

The Rise and Decline of Global Nuclear Order?

| April 2021

The first half century of the nuclear age witnessed the gradual construction of a global nuclear order designed to mitigate nuclear dangers, inhibit arms racing, and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states. Spurred by the experiences, the dangers, the crises, the near misses, and the frightening risks on display in the early years of the Cold War, sustained efforts were made, in McGeorge Bundy’s vivid phrase, “to cap the volcano.” The time had arrived, Bundy wrote in 1969, for the two great nuclear superpowers “to limit their extravagant contest in strategic weapons,” a contest that had “led the two greatest powers of our generation into an arms race totally unprecedented in size and danger.” In the subsequent twenty-five years after Bundy’s appeal, an increasingly elaborate and institutionalized arms control process produced, with many ups and downs, a detailed web of constraints on the nuclear behavior of the superpowers. The articulated goal was to stabilize the superpower nuclear balance by reinforcing mutual deterrence. The vast nuclear arsenals of the superpowers, however, were not the only source of nuclear danger. In a world in which the number of states armed with nuclear weapons was slowly growing and many additional states had interest in acquiring such weapons or the technology to produce them, there was reason, as Albert Wohlstetter warned in 1961, to be “concerned with the enormous instabilities and dangers of a world with many nuclear powers.” Such a world—“life in a nuclear armed crowd”—Wohlstetter wrote in a later famous study, was widely believed to be “vastly more dangerous than today’s world.” The desire to prevent this unattractive world led to the negotiation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, and to the subsequent development of an associated regime intended to create legal and technical barriers to the spread of nuclear weapons. Thus, in reaction to the major perceived dangers of the nuclear age, there emerged what Lawrence Freedman calls the “twin pillars” of the global nuclear order: mutual stability in the major nuclear rivalry and nonproliferation to inhibit or prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states.

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

A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century

Many of the most serious challenges the United States will face in 2021 and beyond will require our diplomats to take the lead. These include the return of great power competition, leading a global response to the pandemic and its consequences, supporting American companies overseas during a devastating recession, mounting a major effort on climate change, negotiating an end to the Afghan and Iraq wars, and helping American citizens in every corner of the world who need the support of their government. Morale in the State Department, however, is at an all-time low and efforts to promote greater racial and ethnic diversity have failed just when the country needs women and men of all backgrounds as our primary link to nearly every country in the world. There are challenges to be met inside the Foreign Service, including an honest self-assessment of the Service’s internal culture.

Sensors and fencing at Japan's Integrated Support Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security.

Dean Calma/IAEA

Paper - American Nuclear Policy Initiative

The Trump Administration on Preventing Nuclear Terrorism

| May 2020

An act of nuclear terrorism anywhere in the world would be a humanitarian, economic, and political catastrophe. This is why reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism has been a priority for every US president for more than two decades. The most effective strategy for reducing this risk is to keep weapons-usable nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists by strengthening security at nuclear facilities around the globe. While the Trump administration continues to move forward with this mission, it has decreased the US focus on the most effective strategies for accomplishing it. Greater resources and political attention to international initiatives are needed to ensure that nuclear terrorism risks continue to decline. This paper reviews the key factors impacting nuclear terrorism risks and analyzes how much progress the Trump administration has made reducing that risk.

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.

A member of the Czech Army takes part in an anti-terrorism drill at the Temelin nuclear power plant near the town of Tyn nad Vltavou, Czech Republic, April 11, 2017.

REUTERS/David W. Cerny

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

Revitalizing Nuclear Security in an Era of Uncertainty

| January 2019

Nuclear security around the world has improved dramatically over the last three decades—which demonstrates that with focused leadership, major progress is possible. But important weaknesses remain, and the evolution of the threat remains unpredictable. The danger that terrorists could get and use a nuclear bomb, or sabotage a major nuclear facility, or spread dangerous radioactive material in a “dirty bomb,” remains too high. The United States and countries around the world need to join together and provide the leadership and resources needed to put global nuclear security on a sustained path of continuous improvement, in the never-ending search for excellence in performance.

Satellite Imagery facilities at the IAEA Department of Safeguards, March 2015.

Dean Calma/IAEA via Flickr

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

Future Directions in IAEA Safeguards

| November 2018

The IAEA safeguards system faces serious challenges, writes John Carlson in a new Managing the Atom Discussion Paper. The IAEA must not only contend with increasing tensions among the major powers and the growing salience of nuclear weapons, it must also confront a series of specific safeguards controversies.

Oil painting of four men

Saleh Lô

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

Anger Management

| June 21, 2018

The goal of this report is to address the role that popular frustration can play in the politics of the Arab world. It analyzes contemporary populist movements to identify how the internal logic of populism could be applied in this region and how the cultural context can shape local messages, addressing in particular the roles of Islam, anti-Western sentiment and extremist propaganda. It also proposes actionable guidance for Western practitioners, including in terms of communication.

Paper - Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy

Stabilizing Sino-Indian Security Relations: Managing the Strategic Rivalry After Doklam

| June 21, 2018

The paper provides a detailed analysis of the contemporary Sino-Indian conventional ground and nuclear force balances and carefully reconstructs how mutual developments in these areas are perceived by both New Delhi and Beijing.

The Future of Politics Report

Credit Suisse Research Institute

Report Chapter

An Outlook on Global Politics 2018

| Jan. 23, 2018

Nicholas Burns, Professor at Harvard Kennedy School and former US Under Secretary of State, looks at what lies ahead for global politics as well as current geopolitical risks. “The world is experiencing the most profound leadership transition in a generation,” states Burns, who adds that 2018 promises to be a year of significant challenge to global stability and peace.  


Report - International Panel on Fissile Materials

China’s Fissile Material Production and Stockpile

| January 2018

China began producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium for nuclear weapons in the 1960s and is believed to have halted production the 1980s. Despite the passage of thirty years there has been no official policy declaration in this regard. This report uses newly available public information from Chinese sources to provide an improved reconstruction of the history of China’s production of HEU and plutonium for nuclear weapons. This allows improved estimates of the amount of HEU and plutonium China has produced and of its current stockpiles.