Towards a Third Nuclear Age?

September 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Futter, A. (Professor of International Politics, University of Leicester, UK)

Date: 8 September 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Prof. Andrew J. Futter (Professor of International Politics, University of Leicester, UK) as part of its SMA STRATCOM Academic Alliance Speaker Series.

The world is undergoing an era of nuclear transition while the mechanisms normally used to control these transitions are being placed under stress. Moreover, technological, geopolitical, and normative changes can influence the nuclear ecosystem and how actors handle nuclear threats and understand nuclear technology. Mr. Futter argued that this nuclear transition is a global and multifaceted phenomenon. He separated nuclear transitions into three-time frames: a) the first nuclear age (1945-1990), b) the second nuclear age (1990s-2014), and c) the third nuclear age (2018-present). These ages are defined by actors’ policy choices and the number of actors acquiring nuclear power.

Technological innovations that are equipping nuclear weapons with new capabilities are driving changes in nuclear policy today. New technologies are also providing new avenues for actors to carry out non-nuclear missions and to give operators a better understanding of the blurring of dual use technologies.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has almost completely driven the development of norms and values relating to nuclear policy. However, in recent years, several other countries have acquired nuclear-capable weaponry or nuclear warheads, making it more difficult for the US to shape the nuclear environment. Mr. Futter stated that the world could experience a trilateral nuclear weapons race if diplomacy breaks down. China and India could prove to be an example of this, as both are currently seeking competitive advantage in the South China Sea. To avoid a nuclear conflict or escalation of competition between nuclear-capable states, normative governmental shifts should occur among nuclear actors. These shifts could include new mechanisms for arms control, a codification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) coupled with the rejection of nuclear weapons, and the creation of “critical nuclear studies” to help expand understanding of nuclear politics.

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials


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