Nuclear Security Matters

74 Items

Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty gather in Geneva for NPT Prepcom 2018.

JWB/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Contemporary Security Policy

Durable Institution Under Fire? The NPT Confronts Emerging Multipolarity

| Nov. 07, 2021

The regime built around the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has helped curtail the spread of nuclear arms for fifty years. In hindsight, it is remarkable only nine states possess the world’s most powerful weapon. The NPT achieved much success during Cold War bipolarity and U.S. unipolarity in its aftermath. But today, China’s rise and Russia’s resurgence have ushered in a new era of emerging multipolarity. Can the treaty withstand the potential challenges of this dynamic environment? There is a real risk that multipolarity may shake the scaffolding of the nonproliferation regime, presenting a significant test to the NPT’s durability. This article identifies four essential elements of the nonproliferation regime: widespread membership, adaptability, enforcement, and fairness. History suggests bipolarity and unipolarity in the international system largely sustained and promoted these NPT features. When international regimes lack such elements, it sharply curtails their long-term efficacy.

Signing of the SALT treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. is observed by officials as U.S. President Richard Nixon, left and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, right, sign document in Moscow, May 26, 1972. (AP Photo)

AP Photo

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Arms Control as Wedge Strategy: How Arms Limitation Deals Divide Alliances

| Fall 2021

Wedge strategy theory explains how states use strategic arms control to divide adversaries by affecting their trust, threat perceptions, and beliefs about a commitment’s trade-offs. Examining three landmark arms control negotiations shows how the wedge motive was a key component to these negotiations.

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Correspondence: Are Belligerent Reprisals against Civilians Legal?

    Authors:
  • Christopher A. Ford
  • John R. Harvey
  • Franklin C. Miller
  • Dr. Keith B. Payne
  • Bradley H. Roberts
  • Allen S. Weiner
| Fall 2021

Christopher Ford, John Harvey, Franklin Miller, Keith Payne, and Bradley Roberts respond to Scott Sagan and Allen Weiner’s spring 2021 article, “The Rule of Law and the Role of Strategy in U.S. Nuclear Doctrine.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event Monday, March 8, 2021, in the East Room of the White House in Washington

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Analysis & Opinions - Just Security

The Illegality of Targeting Civilians by Way of Belligerent Reprisal: Implications for U.S. Nuclear Doctrine

| May 10, 2021

To date, the U.S. government has not declared that it no longer reserves a purported right to target civilians by way of reprisal, in response to an unlawful attack against U.S. or allied civilians. As we have argued elsewhere, and as Adil Haque recently called on the Biden administration to do, it is time for the United States to acknowledge that customary international law today prohibits targeting civilians in reprisal for an adversary’s violations of the law of war.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper holds a Q&A session during a visit to the U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt AFB, Neb., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

The Rule of Law and the Role of Strategy in U.S. Nuclear Doctrine

| Spring 2021

When properly applied, the key principles of the law of armed conflict have a profound impact on U.S. nuclear doctrine. Specifically, it would be unlawful for the United States to intentionally target civilians, even in reprisal for a strike against U.S. or allied civilians.

Soldiers assigned to the New York National Guard's 24th Civil Support Team based at Ft. Hamilton, search for a simulated weapon of mass destruction based on elevated radioactivity levels they found in a warehouse during an exercise in Brooklyn, N.Y., Oct. 22, 2019. The 22 person team made up of Airmen and Soliders of the NYNG respond to incidents of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive, and every 18 months have to go through an evaluation where the unit is certified in their mission.

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Ryan Campbell

Analysis & Opinions - European Leadership Network

It’s Time to Prohibit Radiological Weapons

    Authors:
  • Sarah Bidgood
  • Samuel Meyer
  • William C. Potter
| Feb. 01, 2021

Today, the origins of the concept of RW have largely been forgotten.  Indeed, since 9/11, radiological weapons have been associated mainly with non-state actors, who may not have the means or motivations to acquire and use far more lethal nuclear explosives.  A fixation on the very real dangers posed by nuclear terrorism, however, should not obscure the risks that states also may again pursue radiological weapons.

President-elect Joe Biden and his climate envoy, John Kerry, at The Queen theater.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Analysis & Opinions - Bloomberg Opinion

What Does Success Look Like for a Climate Czar?

| Dec. 02, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to create a new cabinet-level position for climate-related issues — and to choose so prominent a figure as former Secretary of State John Kerry to fill it — demonstrates Biden’s sincerity over putting climate at the very center of U.S. foreign policy. It is easy to understate the importance of this appointment, given the flurry of czars created by most new administrations.

Ukraine flag

Benn Craig/Belfer Center

Analysis & Opinions - Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

International History Declassified - Ukrainian Nuclear History and the Budapest Memorandum with Mariana Budjeryn

| Aug. 24, 2020

In this episode of International History Declassified, Kian and Pieter speak with Dr. Mariana Budjeryn of Harvard University's Belfer Center. Dr. Budjeryn explains the significance of the Budapest Memorandum, which was signed 25 years ago on the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and which made Ukraine one of the few countries to give up its nuclear arsenal. Dr. Budjeryn also provides fascinating insight into her experiences researching in Ukrainian archives and interviewing Soviet generals.

teaser image

Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Center Experts Reflect on 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima Bombing

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, launching the nuclear age. On the 75th anniversary of that somber event, Belfer Center experts reflect on the event and its aftermath. 

mushroom cloud

Public Domain

Analysis & Opinions - Portland Press Herald

Listening to Atomic Bombing Survivors' Stories is More Important Than Ever

| Aug. 06, 2020

Rebecca Davis Gibbons writes that having a full appreciation of the consequences of nuclear weapons and their place in society means learning from the stories of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—but also from the stories from other survivors of nuclear explosions: those who lived and worked adjacent to testing sites in Algeria, French Polynesia, Australia, the United States, France, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Western China, and Kazakhstan.