War & Peace: Nuclear Weapons and Strategy
War & Peace: Nuclear Weapons and Strategy
Podcast / Europe & Central Asia 5 minutes

War & Peace: Nuclear Weapons and Strategy

In this continuing War & Peace podcast sub-series, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to expert guests about all things nuclear weapons. Tune in to hear a range of perspectives about everything from deterrence to civil defence to nuclear-weapons-free zones.

Seaon 3 Episode 7: New Ways to Think About Nuclear Weapons

The threat posed by nuclear weapons is changing and policy-makers are struggling to keep up. As the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference approaches, it is clear that the nuclear security field needs a new way of thinking. Nuclear-weapon states are expanding their arsenals and non-proliferation efforts have faltered: it is estimated that Tehran’s nuclear breakout time is now less than a month away, following Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran deal in 2018 that had extended that timeline to 12 months.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Special guest-host Ali Vaez, Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director, are joined by Dr Emma Belcher, President of Ploughshares Fund, to ask whether and how bold innovation can solve some of these intractable challenges. They discuss the ways in which policy debates have, or have not, evolved, the continued dominance of deterrence theory and the wave of new, diverse and creative thinkers challenging stale ideas. They also discuss the resumption of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, prospects for other non-proliferation efforts and hopes for a nuclear-weapon-free future.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Make sure to learn more about Dr Belcher’s work at Ploughshares Fund by visiting ploughsares.org and listening to Ploughshares podcast Press the Button.

Season 2 Episode 20: The Under-loved Logic of Nuclear-free Zones

In 2004, the UN Security Council recognised that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security. While common discourse has generally normalised the existence and purpose of nuclear weapons, a growing movement within international relations is calling for a world without them. Is a new normal under construction?

María Antonieta Jáquez, counselor at the permanent mission of Mexico to the UN and member of the Mexican foreign service since 1994, tells Olga and Hugh that this is already the norm for most of the world. In fact, the shift against nuclear proliferation gained traction as early as the 1960s, underpinned by principles of international humanitarian law and embodied in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). While 116 countries have signed such treaties since then, the question remains: have nuclear weapons really deterred wars? Jáquez makes the case for global disarmament and shares what inspires her diplomatic efforts to bring about a new reality in a field often too preoccupied by theories of deterrence and power projection.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Season 2 Episode 17: Has the Spread of Nuclear Weapons Added to Global Stability?

Maintaining the balance of power is considered essential to stability and peace. What happens when nuclear weapons enter the equation? Petr Topychkanov, senior researcher at the SIPRI Nuclear Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Program, tells Olga and Hugh that nuclear proliferation in South Asia has lessened the intensity of traditional warfare fuelled by local geopolitics. Together they explore what his findings mean more broadly for doctrines of deterrence.

It’s not just new nuclear states that pose new challenges for conflict prevention. Petr weighs in on the question of how inclusive and transparent arms control discussions should be, given China is currently excluded from the U.S.-Russia strategic dialogue and the UK has opted for a nuclear policy of ambiguity. He also discusses how artificial intelligence, among other new technologies, is altering the nature of warfare and to what extent nuclear weapons encourage restraint in the face of these growing capabilities.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more information check out Petr Topychkanov’s latest report: South Asia’s Nuclear Challenges: Interlocking Views from India, Pakistan, China, Russia and the United States.

Season 2 Episode 15: What’s the Point of Nuclear Weapons Today?

Nuclear weapons sometimes sound like a throwback to another era, but they don’t just remain on stand-by. Nuclear-armed nations are investing heavily in creating more sophisticated and diverse nuclear arsenals. 

After the end of the Cold War, NATO, like the U.S. and Russia, significantly reduced its reliance on nuclear weapons and nuclear policy took a back seat. Then came the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014 and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Since then, there has been a renewed interest in nuclear capabilities and a focus on the alliance’s nuclear policies to make sure that NATO forces are a deterrent to Russia. 

Jessica Cox, Director of Nuclear Policy at NATO, explains to Olga and Hugh why nuclear weapons still matter to the alliance and to what extent nuclear powers like Russia pose a threat to NATO allies. They also talk about the latest nuclear technology, the alliance’s deterrence capability and why NATO does not support the nuclear ban treaty that entered into force in January. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Season 2 Episode 13: Planning for Nuclear Armageddon

While the threat of imminent nuclear armageddon may not be at the forefront of the average person’s mind today, it was a real, globe-spanning fear not so long ago during the Cold War. Absent the treaties and confidence-building measures developed since to mitigate the risk of such an event, U.S. and Soviet civil defence then was totally consumed with the daunting task of planning for the worst.

So how does a state prepare for the event of a nuclear attack? How do you ensure continuity of government in a country laid waste? How conscious are ordinary citizens of this reality and how involved are they in preparedness efforts?

Olga and Hugh debate these all-important questions from the height of their salience to now with Edward Geist, policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and author of the book Armageddon Insurance: Civil Defense in the United States and Soviet Union, and Ivan Kalugin, Moscow-based researcher and Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) affiliate. Together they discuss how the two superpowers went about tackling them, from the survivability of essential infrastructure and public information campaigns to the logic of mutually assured destruction and the rumoured existence of automatic launching systems known as the ‘Dead Hand’.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 12: Of Nightclub Bouncers and Arms Control 

“Policies today are geared toward power, strength and pushing back. They are not geared toward talking to each other, and that is the prerequisite for arms control”. 

For Ulrich Kuehn, our guest on War & Peace this week, we have entered an age of regression of predictability in the international military balance. States are gradually dismantling many of the treaties won in hard negotiations during and after the end of the Cold War, arguing that they have become obsolete.

What does this mean for those countries who depend on cooperative mechanisms, but who have little say in what happens to them? And what are the implications for Europe? Does it have the political and military strength to be an autonomous arms control actor?

Tune in now to find out more, including why it’s sometimes useful to think of deterrence in terms of how nightclubs view their bouncers. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 1: Europe and Iran 

What was so significant about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and how important was Europe’s contribution to it? Why has U.S. President Trump’s ripping up of the accord and subsequent “maximum pressure” strategy not worked? Amid the ongoing standoff between the U.S. and Iran, what role can the EU and Russia play in salvaging the deal and averting a military confrontation?

Rob Malley, a negotiator of the Iran deal, joins Olya and Hugh to explore these questions.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify 

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