Russia's nuclear threats in the context of their invasion of Ukraine have put nuclear deterrence once more high on the political agenda. At the same time, an increasing technological competition is taking place between China, Russia, and the United States. Emerging technologies with military applications are calling previous principles of arms control into question and could permanently affect existing deterrence relationships.
This raises the question of whether nuclear deterrence is still appropriate in the 21st century.
To answer this question, the Harvard Belfer Center's “Managing the Atom” programme has launched a research network on “Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence”. The project aims to address two questions:
1. Given the deteriorating geopolitical and security landscape, how do we make sure nuclear deterrence does not fail?
2. What alternatives can replace nuclear deterrence, and what conditions should exist to materialize them?
The network consists of researchers from more than ten research institutions and is divided into four working groups.
1. Preventing Nuclear Wars, co-chaired by Harvard University and the India Centre for Air Power Studies.
2. Ethics, Law, and Nuclear Deterrence, co-chaired by Stanford University and the University of Oxford.
3. Arms Control and Emerging Technologies, co-chaired by the IFSH and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
4. Beyond Nuclear Deterrence, co-chaired by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) of ETH Zurich, Kings' College London, and the University of Southern Main.
Under the leadership of Dr Ulrich Kühn (IFSH) and Dr Heather Williams (CSIS), the research group “Arms Control and Emerging Technologies” will bring together leading international scholars in the period up to 2024. In regular meetings, they will develop new approaches to arms control and research the interactions of new technologies with the principle of deterrence. The reflections of the group will lead to various scholarly publications, among other things.
The project is funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
Learn more about the project here