Working Group 3:

Arms Control and Emerging Technologies


This working group will look at the complex interactions of nuclear and conventional deterrence with arms control policies and an emerging generation of novel technologies with military applications.

 


Working Group Co-Chairs

Heather Williams

Center for Strategic and International Studies

Ulrich Kühn

University of Hamburg

Baselines & Questions



This working group will look at the complex interactions of nuclear and conventional deterrence with arms control policies and an emerging generation of novel technologies with military applications. Against the background of an ongoing crisis in arms control, the group seeks to develop innovative arms control approaches, taking into account emerging technologies.

 

Today, the future of nuclear arms control between Washington and Moscow remains in question. With the unraveling of the INF Treaty in 2019 and ongoing ambitious nuclear modernizations in both countries, and with the collapse of the New START agreement having been avoided by a whisker in 2021, some have concluded that the “chances are slim that new nuclear arms agreements will be reached anytime soon.” A future “ world without nuclear restraint”—like the world before arms control came to bear—has once more become imaginable. Russia’s war against Ukraine and Russian nuclear threats to shield its invasion make it even more questionable whether arms control with Russia has a future and what that future could or should look like. At the same time, risks of accidental escalation in Europe remain high for the time being. Again, a paradoxical situation, in which meaningful arms control is most needed but least achievable, seems to take hold.

 

At the same time, a new generation of technologies promises to change life significantly. Their current and future military application raises growing concerns. Decision-makers that aim to mitigate these concerns, for instance through arms control measures, face an uphill battle due to a combination of speed of technological innovation and the unclear impact of emerging technologies. Their potentially multiple negative effects on strategic stability and human security as well as their concerning interactions with established nuclear systems should make regulation of some of these technologies a priority of the international community. An intensifying military-technological competition between the United States and Russia and China, however, threatens to seriously impede international arms control efforts to regulate emerging technologies.

Questions for the Working Group

  • How can we make arms control more feasible, even under constraining conditions?
  • How can we best overcome the siloing of arms control, nonproliferation, disarmament, and deterrence debates?
  • To what degree can conventional arms control augment or even replace nuclear arms control?
  • Which effects of certain emerging technologies could benefit deterrence as well as arms control efforts?

Alongside the principal Arms Control and Emerging Technologies working group—chaired by Heather Williams and Ulrich Kühn—Di Cooke and Tim Thies chair the Rising Voices working group, which supports the efforts of the principal working group to advance new thinking on arms control and emerging technologies and their impact on deterrence. Through its inclusion of up-and-coming authors from a range of backgrounds, the Rising Voices working group aims to facilitate diverse and out-of-the-box thinking on a topic that is central to national and international security.

Research Questions for the Rising Voices working group:
  • How does the advancement of emerging technologies affect the feasibility of nuclear arms control?
  • How might nuclear norms impact efforts to control emerging technologies?
  • What lessons learned in terms of tools and institutional design from both (nuclear) arms control and governance of emerging technologies might inform efforts going forward?
  • How does the changing landscape in terms of global powers, politics, and stakeholders impact nuclear and emerging technologies control regimes?

Selected Publications