Meeting the security challenges of the future will require a sustained effort over the long-term by a multidisciplinary cadre of nuclear experts who are equipped with critical knowledge and skills. The Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) runs two signature programs – the Nuclear Scholars Initiative and the Annual Conference Series – to engage emerging nuclear experts in thoughtful and informed debate over how to best address the nuclear community’s most pressing problems. The papers included in this volume comprise research from participants in the 2019 Nuclear Scholars Initiative and the PONI Conference Series. These papers explore such topics as the impacts of emerging technologies and capabilities, deep-diving on nuclear strategy and national policies, proposing paths forward for addressing proliferation challenges, and enhancing arms control in contentious environments.

Table of Contents (Click on the links to view summaries)

Mary Boatman | Moving Forward in a Post-INF World

Rick Cassleman | Expanding Cyber Resilience Beyond Convention: Resiliency and Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications

Madison Estes | New Futures for Nuclear Arms Control: Examining a Framework and Possibilities with Hypersonic Weapons

Sam Guthrie | Will the Adoption of Artificial Intelligence-enabled Decision Support Tools by India Reduce Nuclear Stability with Pakistan?

Rafael Loss | Artificial Intelligence, the Final Piece to the Counterforce Puzzle?

Craig Neuman | The Cult of Accelerated WarHow U.S. and Chinese Warfighting Doctrines Increase the Risk of Escalation

Dev Patel | India’s Sea-Based DeterrentEvaluating the Effectiveness of India’s Submarine Nuclear Deterrent

James H. V. To | Assessing the Impacts of the PLA’s Nuclear Modernization Efforts on the Stability of the Taiwan Strait

Kyle Yohoe | An Offensive LeapAn Analogy of Hypersonic Weapons to Early ICBMs

Summaries

Mary Boatman | Moving Forward in a Post-INF World

The future of the U.S.-Russian arms control relationship is in a nebulous state. Evolving global threats in the modern era and a swift return of the great power competition amongst states have challenged the very nature of arms control as the two powers with massive nuclear arsenals seek to justify realist strategic policies. The benign period in the U.S.-Russia relationship has come to a halt in the wake of egregious and illegal behaviors by the Russian Federation:2 aggressive territorial annexation and arms control treaty encroachments. The bilateral withdrawal of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty3 is the latest catalyst to drive a deeper wedge of distrust between the United States and Russia. The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have urged Russia to abide by international law and return to treaty compliance; however, Russia continues to obfuscate their actions. As the international community seeks a path forward in spite of fears of increased instability, it is imperative that the United States wields control of the arms control narrative in an effort to save future arms control agreements, assure allies, deter against further aggression, and promote international stability through arms parity.

Rick Cassleman | Expanding Cyber Resilience Beyond Convention: Resiliency and Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications

Implementing cyber resilience is vital to the nuclear enterprise. This paper addresses the challenges to implementing cyber resilience in nuclear networks like NC3, including conceptual differences between nuclear operations and cyber operations, upcoming modernization initiatives, and Advanced Persistent Threats. Ways to overcome these difficulties are presented, including concrete resiliency techniques and discussions on artificial intelligence (AI). There are potential benefits from cyber resilient nuclear communication systems, including increased situational awareness and reduced miscalculation. Finally, there are still several unanswered questions that arise for the nuclear enterprise in an age of increased reliance on networks and technological advancement.

Madison Estes | New Futures for Nuclear Arms Control: Examining a Framework and Possibilities with Hypersonic Weapons

While not “strategic” in the same manner as nuclear weapons, advanced dual-capable technologies born out of long-term technological improvements and advancements, such as hypersonic weapons, hold the potential to render strategic effect by eroding the survivability of strategic forces. Compounding existing disagreements, these trends have consequently undermined the robustness of nuclear deterrence and increased the complexity of maintaining U.S.-Russia strategic stability. The potential expiration of the New START Treaty serves as an opportunity to begin considering what cooperative measures may come next in a new era of advanced threats. While there are several narratives surrounding the threats hypersonic weapons pose to U.S.-Russia strategic stability, existing cooperative mechanisms offer a logical, accessible, and low difficulty starting point that has the potential to address most of these concerns simultaneously. Additionally, there are other steps that exist outside of these frameworks—and break with the START treaty family reductions paradigm—that may promote stability, but their feasibility will require additional investigation.

Sam Guthrie | Will the Adoption of Artificial Intelligence-enabled Decision Support Tools by India Reduce Nuclear Stability with Pakistan?

This essay examines the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on nuclear stability between India and Pakistan. The sources studied include statements by serving officials, papers discussing existing applications of the technology, and the academic literature on strategic stability and emerging technologies. I argue that the alluring prospects of AI in the nuclear and conventional domains are already driving Indian research and development. If Pakistan believed that India had AI-assisted intelligence capabilities that threatened to undermine the survivability of Pakistan’s nuclear forces, this development could influence Pakistan’s decisionmaking for the worse in any future crisis. Consequences include a reduction in Pakistan’s confidence in its strategic deterrent, an increase in India’s perceived ability to coerce and engage in brinksmanship, and the resumption of destabilizing behaviors on both sides.

Rafael Loss | Artificial Intelligence, the Final Piece to the Counterforce Puzzle?

Craig Neuman | The Cult of Accelerated WarHow U.S. and Chinese Warfighting Doctrines Increase the Risk of Escalation

Dev Patel | India’s Sea-Based DeterrentEvaluating the Effectiveness of India’s Submarine Nuclear Deterrent

On November 5, 2018, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the first deterrent patrol of the INS Arihant, a nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-carrying submarine (SSBN), equipped with nuclear-tipped submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The successful month-long deterrent patrol of the Arihant marks the establishment of India’s nuclear triad. This paper studies the extent to which India relies on its SSBN fleet to provide nuclear deterrence and to enhance second-strike capability.

James H. V. To | Assessing the Impacts of the PLA’s Nuclear Modernization Efforts on the Stability of the Taiwan Strait

After seven decades, the complex trilateral relationship between the Republic of China (or Taiwan), the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the United States remains one of the most troublesome, yet dormant, flash points in geopolitics. In the past, the perception of the United States’ military superiority played an integral role in maintaining the stability of the Taiwan Strait. However, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been rapidly modernizing, diversifying, and integrating new capabilities in both the conventional and nuclear realms. This raises the concern that the status of Taiwan would serve as a catalyst in an unmanageable crisis in the Indo-Pacific. What would happen if Beijing concludes that it must reunify with Taiwan through the use of force, and Washington decides to intervene? The political pressures facing either side are drastically different. This raises two questions about the hypothetical conflict: Would the escalation dynamic in the Taiwan Strait produce necessary conditions for the PRC to alter its nuclear policy and employment strategy? What are some of the possible triggers that could lower the threshold of nuclear weapons usage? This paper attempts to shed light on these inquiries as well as assess the effects of PLA nuclear modernization.

Kyle Yohoe / An Offensive LeapAn Analogy of Hypersonic Weapons to Early ICBMs

Hypersonic weapons pose a great leap in offensive standoff capability, the likes of which has not been seen since the introduction of the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). Traveling at speeds above Mach 5, hypersonic weapons are highly maneuverable, evading detection and out-speeding defenses. A country may be capable of identifying the launch of a hypersonic weapon, but it will be unable to ascertain its target and whether it carries a nuclear payload. This ultimately will increase the risk of nuclear confrontation due to miscalculation. The last time the world faced a new credible strategic threat like this was immediately following the creation of ICBMs, when counterforce capability was underdeveloped, and missile defense was not yet technically achievable. This paper seeks to analyze the impact of emerging hypersonic weapons on global strategic stability and uses a historical case study of ICBMs to identify, manage, and address the strategic implications of this new weapons technology.

PONI would like to express gratitude to our partners for their continued support, especially the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Department of Defense, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.