New Paper Outlines Immediate Steps to Reduce Nuclear Risks

Browne, Ischinger, Ivanov, and Nunn Call for New Engagement to Prevent Dangerous Military Confrontation between the West and Russia
International statesmen Des Browne, Wolfgang Ischinger, Igor Ivanov, and Sam Nunn call on Western and Russian leaders to reduce the risk of a dangerous military confrontation by adopting measures outlined in a new report launched today by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

The report, Rising Nuclear Dangers: Steps to Reduce Risks in the Euro-Atlantic Region (PDF), was developed based on the results of a survey of leading security experts from the United States, Russia, and Europe. It offers recommendations for Western and Russian leaders to avoid military accidents, enhance predictability, and build confidence. 

“Russia and the West are at a dangerous crossroads. During the past several years, we have been in a state of escalating tension, trapped in a downward spiral of antagonism and distrust. Unless Western and Russian leaders take immediate steps to improve transparency and enhance predictability, they may inadvertently risk a deadly confrontation,” write the four leaders in a foreword to the report.

Over the last two years, NTI and its partner organization—the European Leadership Network—have documented multiple “near-misses” between NATO and Russian aircraft and ships. With political tensions being this high and absent robust channels of communication, nearly every close encounter between NATO and Russian military assets carries an unacceptable risk of escalation.  

The report, by NTI’s Robert E. Berls, Jr. and Leon Ratz, offers nine urgent and practical recommendations to reduce the risk of accident or miscalculation between Russia and the West: 

  1. Require all military aircraft to fly with transponders turned on.
  2. Agree on safe distance limitations for U.S. and Russian aircraft and ships.
  3. Restore U.S.-Russia and NATO-Russia military-to-military communication.
  4. Address concerns about the deployment of nuclear-capable ballistic missile systems and missile defense systems in Europe.
  5. Reduce notification and observation thresholds for military exercises.
  6. Refrain from incorporating nuclear or nuclear-capable forces into military exercises.
  7. Reaffirm that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
  8. Stop reckless nuclear rhetoric.
  9. Launch a high-level dialogue on strategic stability and nuclear risk reduction.

The report highlights the need to resume Western-Russian communication, particularly at the military-to-military level, on strategic stability and nuclear risk reduction. “Absent engagement, nuclear risks will only continue to increase, endangering all of us. The time to act on our common security interests is now,” conclude Browne, Ischinger, Ivanov, and Nunn. 

The report is available for download in both English and Russian

About the Nuclear Threat Initiative
The Nuclear Threat Initiative works to protect our lives, environment, and quality of life now and for future generations. We work to prevent catastrophic attacks with weapons of mass destruction and disruption (WMDD)—nuclear, biological, radiological, chemical, and cyber. Founded in 2001 by former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and philanthropist Ted Turner, NTI is guided by a prestigious, international board of directors. Sam Nunn serves as chief executive officer; Des Browne is vice chairman; and Joan Rohlfing serves as president.

December 14, 2016
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International statesmen Des Browne, Wolfgang Ischinger, Igor Ivanov, and Sam Nunn call on Western and Russian leaders to reduce the risk of a dangerous military confrontation by adopting measures outlined in a new report launched by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

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Leon Ratz
Leon Ratz

Senior Program Officer, Materials Risk Management