Deterrence, disruptive technology and Disarmament in the Third Nuclear Age

Andrew Futter

We are living in an era of flux in the global nuclear order where nuclear risks are changing and the methods, mechanisms and frameworks that have been devised to manage the nuclear condition are under pressure. A perfect storm of rapid widespread technological innovation and the emergence of a global system of great power nuclear competition is calling into question how we prevent future nuclear use, and whether the traditional organization of global nuclear politics around a “managed” system of nuclear deterrence and mutual vulnerability, can continue to provide stability and peace in the ways that many believe it has in the past. At the same time, technological and geopolitical shifts are unfolding in a global normative nuclear environment where dominant hegemonic ideas of past control are being challenged – both theoretically by the emergence of the academic field of “critical nuclear studies” and practically through agreements such as the 2017 Nuclear Ban Treaty.The result is pervasive, and has implications for how we think about nuclear weapons and the way that we keep ourselves safe (whether this be through better managed deterrence and stability, or by a renewed drive towards abolishing nuclear weapons entirely). This suggests that we may be at a pivotal moment in our nuclear history where political choices about the nature of our nuclear future, nuclear deterrence, and especially nuclear disarmament, will be fundamental to what lays ahead.