This post was written by Sylvia Mishra, a Herbert Scoville Jr. Fellow working with NTI’s Global Nuclear Policy Program. Previously, Mishra was a visiting fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), in Monterey, Calif. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Hindu College, University of Delhi, a Master of Science in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Master of Arts in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Every year, the University of San Diego’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation hosts a Public Policy and Nuclear Threats (PPNT) boot camp, a summer workshop-in-residence that offers participants a platform to learn, understand and debate the future U.S. nuclear policy issues and features lectures and discussions by leading policy and technical experts and specialists. As a Scoville Fellow working at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), I was selected to be part of the PPNT 2018. Here are some of my key takeaways from the discussions.
Return of great power competition: The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2018 highlighted that the intensification of nationalistic politics has impacted the world’s major power relations. Increasingly, states are becoming more assertive related to their own interests while consensus on a rules-based global order frays. There is precedent for this trend. Throughout history, nations have clashed for power, influence and dominance. Sometimes these struggles, as historian Hal Brands have taken either the form of cold war, such as the US-Soviet competition, or resulted in hot conflicts, from the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta to the world wars of the 20th century. In the immediate post-Cold War era, the United States enjoyed a ‘unipolar moment’ and was the unchallenged superpower. However, almost two decades later, the re-emergence of Russia and China as leading foreign policy actors willing and ready to shape geopolitical balances has brought great power rivalry back to the fore. US security planners, as the states, believe that the central challenge to US prosperity and security is the re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition. Similarly, the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review that the United States must recognize the reality of a return to great power competition and posture itself accordingly.
Nuclear weapons are coming back into sharper focus: Nuclear weapons primarily have had a deterrent role preventing armed conflict. In the post-Cold War era, however, the principal nuclear threat emanated from concerns of . In the last couple of years, nuclear weapons-possessing states have begun developing new weapons and modernizing their delivery systems. A nationalistic regime in North Korea is developing and enhancing its nuclear and missile capabilities. are undertaking long-term programs to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems. A new that in Southern Asia, China, India and Pakistan are expanding their nuclear warheads and enhancing delivery platforms. Several countries’ development of tactical nuclear weapons also has lowered the nuclear threshold. While there is a strong taboo on nuclear use post-1945, expanding nuclear weapons inventories only increases the likelihood of nuclear war. Simultaneously it also increases the chances of miscalculation, accidental use and inadvertent escalation.
Threat of nuclear
terrorism continues: Analysts across the globe agree that the threat of nuclear terrorism is
one of the biggest challenges facing the world today and countries should pay
greater attention to this problem. There are several reported incidents of
breaches of secured stockpiles of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium across
the globe. The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
that between January 2013 and June 2018, of nuclear or other radioactive materials outside of
regulatory control occurred in 51 countries. It is imperative that in the
absence of the Nuclear Security Summits (NSS), countries take a leadership role
to secure these materials from terrorist groups and other non-state actors.