Reports & Papers

224 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.

The main hall for the IAEA’s Talks on Supplying Nuclear Fuel for Iranian Research Reactor, Vienna, Austria, 19 October 2009. 

Dean Calma/IAEA

Paper

The Deal That Got Away: The 2009 Nuclear Fuel Swap with Iran

| January 2021

With concerns and uncertainties regarding Iran’s nuclear future persisting to this day, this paper seeks to review the TRR negotiations and the context in which they unfolded in order to capture some of the lessons of negotiating with Iran regarding its nuclear program, primarily from the viewpoint of senior U.S. officials involved at the time. The paper is also informed by the personal perspective of one of the authors (Poneman) who led the U.S. delegation in the 2009 Vienna talks, and who, prior to this publication, had not publicly elaborated on his experience. The other author (Nowrouzzadeh), who supported the TRR talks in an analytical capacity within the U.S. Department of Defense, also conducted an extensive interview with Poneman as part of their collaboration on this paper. By drawing on existing literature and recent interviews with several senior U.S. officials involved in the negotiations now that over ten years have passed, the authors seek to draw useful lessons from this episode that can assist policymakers in understanding Iran’s nuclear decision-making and in their continued efforts to shape the future trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program.

Tractors on Westminster bridge

AP/Matt Dunham

Paper - Institut für Sicherheitspolitik

The Global Order After COVID-19

| 2020

Despite the far-reaching effects of the current pandemic,  the essential nature of world politics will not be transformed. The territorial state will remain the basic building-block of international affairs, nationalism will remain a powerful political force, and the major powers will continue to compete for influence in myriad ways. Global institutions, transnational networks, and assorted non-state actors will still play important roles, of course, but the present crisis will not produce a dramatic and enduring increase in global governance or significantly higher levels of international cooperation. In short, the post-COVID-19 world will be less open, less free, less prosperous, and more competitive than the world many people expected to emerge only a few years ago.

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Paper - Institute for Nuclear Materials Management

IAEA Nuclear Security Recommendations (INFCIRC/225): The Next Generation

In 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released the fifth revision of its Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities. This update of IAEA nuclear security guidance was a significant improvement upon its predecessors, suggesting new and strengthened approaches to nuclear security in a range of areas. Nearly a decade later, however, the global nuclear security landscape has changed. Nuclear security regulations and practices have improved. International institutions and norms supporting global nuclear security architecture are stronger. Countries have made new political commitments to strengthening their nuclear security. Legally binding agreements are more widely subscribed than they were before. Meanwhile, new global threats have surfaced, presenting new challenges to physical protection systems. A range of emerging technologies creates new opportunities, but also new risks.

Nuclear test

Creative Commons/Pixabay

Report - American Nuclear Policy Initiative

Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos

| May 2020

Edited by former Project on Managing the Atom (MTA) Associate Jon Wolfsthal and featuring papers authored by Wolfsthal and MTA Associate Nickolas Roth, this report from the American Nuclear Policy Initiative details the Trump administration's first three years of efforts on nuclear proliferation, strategic stability, nuclear modernization, Iran, and North Korea. The authors provide an objective summary of nuclear policy under the current administration and its record on protecting the United States and its allies against perhaps the greatest national security danger facing humanity.

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.

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. 

President Obama at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Paper - International Atomic Energy Agency

Assessing Progress on Nuclear Security Action Plans

| February 2020

Participants at the final Nuclear Security Summit in 2016 agreed on “action plans” for initiatives they would support by five international organizations and groups—the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, INTERPOL, the United Nations, and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Destruction. These institutions were supposed to play key roles in bolstering ongoing nuclear security cooperation after the summit process ended. The action plans were modest documents, largely endorsing activities already underway, and there have been mixed results in implementing them. To date, these organizations have not filled any substantial part of the role once played by the nuclear security summits.

A drone Interceptor MP200, top, prepares to catch a drone DJI Phantom 2 with a net during a demonstration flight in La Queue-en-Brie, France, in 2015 (AP Photo/Francois Mori).

AP Photo/Francois Mori

Paper - Nuclear Threat Initiative

The Risks and Rewards of Emerging Technology in Nuclear Security

| February 2020

Nuclear security is never finished. Nuclear security measures for protecting all nuclear weapons, weapons-usable nuclear materials, and facilities whose sabotage could cause disastrous consequences should protect against the full range of plausible threats. It is an ongoing endeavor that requires constant assessment of physical protection operations and reevaluation of potential threats. One of the most challenging areas of nuclear security is how to account for the impact–positive and negative—of non-nuclear emerging technologies. The amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (amended CPPNM) states it should be reviewed in light of the prevailing situation, and a key part of the prevailing situation is technological evolution. Therefore, the upcoming review conference in 2021, as well as any future review conferences, should examine the security threats and benefits posed by emerging technologies.