Challenges to 21st Century Deterrence (Part I)

November 2021 No Comments

Speaker(s): Bahney, B. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [LLNL]); Péczeli, A. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [LLNL]); Sisson, M. (Brookings Institute)

Date: 30 November 2021

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a panel discussion with Mr. Benjamin W. Bahney (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [LLNL]), Dr. Anna Péczeli (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [LLNL]), and Dr. Melanie Sisson (Brookings Institution) as part of its SMA STRATCOM Effort Speaker Series.

If states are engaging in nuclear deterrence, then they are in a no-win situation. Successful nuclear deterrence is only achieved when all actors agree that a nuclear conflict is not an option. However, the development of new dual-use technologies and more frequent digital intrusions are degrading states’ ability to deter others. Cyber attacks are making it harder for states to hide their true nuclear arsenals and second-strike capabilities. Dr. Sisson commented that the belief a country has second strike capabilities, or the ability to launch a counterattack after suffering a nuclear assault, is crucial to successful nuclear deterrence. Also, states have been focused on creating and integrating dual-use technologies that have both nuclear and conventional military capabilities into their armed forces.

The integration of dual-use technology into conventional military forces will change how civilian and military leaders participate in brinksmanship. It also increases the potential for nuclear escalation. Mr. Bahney commented that this technology is diverse and includes bombers, missile systems, and cyber capabilities. As the US and Russia continue to intermingle their nuclear and traditional capabilities, China is growing its nuclear arsenal to achieve nuclear parity with the other great powers. Dr. Péczeli commented that the perception of actors plays a significant role in their ability to deter others. Because of this, the US should focus on increasing its resilience to digital, create a more cooperative environment in the future, and avoid situations that could lead to nuclear escalation.

Speaker Session Recording

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