6 Tech Innovations That Could Upset the Post-Cold War Nuclear Security Balance

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The nuclear status quo is less stable than most people realize. In order to examine these threats to nuclear deterrence, Carnegie Corporation of New York announced a request for proposals earlier this year.

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The Big Six

1Hypersonic Missiles

Hypersonic weapons rely on the same technologies that might someday allow you to fly to London at five times the speed of sound. The Rand Corporation will examine how the spread of hypersonic systems, with their short time of flight and target ambiguity, could compress decision-making time and accentuate nuclear risks.

2Cyber Conflict

Cyberspace encompasses vast swaths of the private, public, and military sectors, and cuts across international borders. How might such connections complicate issues of escalation during international conflict? The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech will study these dynamics through a series of scenario-based exercises.

3Anti-Satellite Weapons

The U.S. relies heavily on space capabilities for conducting effective military operations around the globe—a fact that’s sparked countermeasures from other countries, including Russia. A joint study by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and Harvard’s Belfer Center will draw on Russian perspectives to examine potential pathways to escalation.

4Conventional Weapons

As U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Chinese relations become more strained, it’s critical to understand under what circumstances advanced conventional weapons might precipitate a nuclear response. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace draws on its network of centers in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing to assess the impact of disruptive technologies on strategic stability and to identify solutions.

5Missile Defenses

How will next generation missile defense systems affect future geopolitical standoffs? Strategic gaming can provide insights into these unpredictable dynamics. The Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London will make post-gaming data available as unclassified, open-source material for further investigation.

6Secretive, Disruptive Technologies

The computer revolution has made nuclear weapons arsenals more vulnerable to attack as increasingly secret military capabilities, especially in targeting and surveillance, complicate traditional deterrence and escalation control strategies. A team of researchers from four institutions, coordinated through Georgetown University’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, will give scholars, policymakers, and the broader public a better understanding of technology’s role in nuclear deterrence and help identify policy options for avoiding miscalculation.

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