Preventing Catastrophic Nuclear Risks and Exploring the Future of Arms Control

The global security environment is experiencing monumental strains, including from the weakening of long-held norms, worsening relations among many nations, clear violations of the rules-based international order as exemplified by Russia’s second, and devastating, invasion of a sovereign Ukraine, and mounting strains from a multiyear pandemic, economic strains, the worsening effects of climate change, and more. 

In recent years these issues have shaped and been shaped by severe setbacks to nuclear arms control and the world stepping toward a new nuclear arms race. The danger is rising that nuclear weapons will be used, and that their use at so-called “lower levels” is becoming more palatable. This risk is being fueled by multiple nations seeking to expand the types of nuclear weapons they possess and design new capabilities into their nuclear arsenals that are likely to increase tensions and opportunities for miscalculation.  

As such, the Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons (the Nolan Center) is working to help revert this global growth in nuclear weapons risks. For the United States, the Nolan Center is advancing ideas for a smarter path on nuclear policy and plans that should strengthen deterrence while reducing the risks of nuclear war. The Nolan Center team is also working in cooperation with other nations and international organizations to advance shared definitions of nuclear strategic stability in the multipolar world and common understandings of the responsibilities of nuclear weapons-capable states.

Since 2018, The Nolan Center staff have also conducted analysis and Track 1.5 dialogues to develop specific new steps to drive the future of arms control—-and details regarding how they might be implemented in the years ahead. As the international landscape continues to evolve, successful arms control in the 21st Century will require new approaches grounded in the mutual security interests of countries involved. Working in collaboration with governments and other think tanks from around the world, the Nolan Center is developing new arms control concepts that countries may pursue together with special attention to classes of nuclear weapons that carry the highest risks of ambiguity, escalation, and altering strategic calculations.

CSR’s continued work is grounded in a strategic vision for nuclear-armed nations to strengthen nuclear strategic stability while pursuing decreasing reliance on and possession of nuclear weapons over time.


Specific Steps To Strengthen Nuclear Strategic Stability

The following resources expand upon the strategic vision noted above, and detail how specific steps might proceed along the path it sets forward. 

Nuclear Signaling Between NATO and Russia, By Rear Admiral John Gower, CB OBE, European Leadership Network, October 2018

The Problem of Blurring Conventional and Nuclear Deterrence, By Christine Parthemore, In Perspectives on Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century, Chatham House, April 2020

The Dangerous Illogic of Twenty-First-Century Deterrence Through Planning for Nuclear Warfighting, By Rear Admiral John Gower, CB OBE, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2018

The Ambiguity Challenge, By Christine Parthemore, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 2017

The Benefits of Further Declarations of Restraint from the Use of Nuclear Weapons, By Rear Admiral John Gower, CB OBE, Council on Strategic Risks, October 2021 

Nuclear Weapon Sole Purpose: The Strongest Future for U.S. National Security and Global Stability, By Hon. Andrew Weber and Rear Admiral John Gower, CB OBE, Council on Strategic Risks, January 2021

Here Is The Nuclear Triad We Actually Need For Deterrence, By Hon. Andrew Weber, The Hill, May 2021

If Biden Reviews Nuclear Weapons Plans, Focus on New & Low-Yield Weapons, By Christine Parthemore, Council on Strategic Risks, January 2021 

Are U.S. Nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missiles Necessary? A Japanese Security Analysis, By Dr. Michiru Nishida, Council on Strategic Risks, February 2022 

The Next Great Idea in Arms Control: An End to Nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missiles, By Jasmine Owens and contributing authors Christine Parthemore and Hon. Andrew Weber, Council on Strategic Risks, February 2021 

The Next Great Idea in Nuclear Arms Control: Putting the “N” Back in INF, By Dr. Natasha Bajema and Christine Parthemore, Council on Strategic Risks, February 2021 

Biden-Xi Signal Opening to Explore Strategic Stability Talks, By Christine Parthemore, Council on Strategic Risks, November 2021 

Nuclear Weapons & US Alliances in the Next Administration, By Christine Parthmore, Council on Strategic Risks, November 2020 

Verifying Absence of Nuclear Weapons: Looking Back To Look Forward During the UN First Committee Meetings, By Christine Parthemore, Council on Strategic Risks, October 2020 

Is Change Coming? Smartly Reshaping and Strengthening America’s Nuclear Deterrent, By Christine Parthemore and Hon. Andrew Weber, War on the Rocks, October 2020 

“Where do we go after the INF Treaty?” Possible OptionsCouncil on Strategic Risks, By Amb. Nobuyasu Abe, January 2020 

Cruise Control: The Logical Next Step in Nuclear Arms Control?, By Hon. Andrew Weber and Christine Parthemore, Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, October 2019

The Future of Arms Control is Global: Reconsidering Nuclear Issues in the Indo-Pacific, By Hon. Andrew Weber and Christine Parthemore, War on the Rocks, February 2019

Smarter US Modernization, without New Nuclear Weapons, By Hon. Andrew Weber  and Christine Parthemore, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 2019 

Revive Arms Control and Start with Nuclear-Armed Cruise Missiles, By Sico van der Meer and Christine Parthemore, War on the Rocks, June 2016