Publications

Disruptive technology and nuclear risks

Survival 64:1 (2022)

Andrew Futter

Hype and fear have arisen about how certain technological developments are impacting the current nuclear order. New weapons systems and support facilities, potential vulnerabilities and associated destabilising dynamics could all place considerable strain on the global nuclear balance and accompanying architecture. This article examines five disruptive dynamics, explains their intricacies and nuances, and puts them in political and strategic context. The nature of nuclear risk is changing (in many cases for the worse), and there are a number of pressures which could have significant negative implications for escalation, stability and order if left unchecked. But these phenomena remain fundamentally political, and there are political mechanisms which can help reduce risks. Accordingly, while the risks posed by disruptive technologies to the nuclear order are real and growing, they should not be insurmountable.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00396338.2022.2032979


Professor Andrew Futter

More Publications

Travelling While Black

Olamide Samuel

A first-hand account of the restrictive visa system impacting diversity at nuclear policy conferences

As the 2022 NPT RevCon enters its second week in New York, there have been reports of its noticeable lack of diversity. Olamide Samuel gives a personal account of his efforts to secure an Austrian and US visa to attend nuclear policy conferences this summer and calls on conference organisers to pay attention to the visa regimes that pose logistical barriers to entry for people from the global south.

Italy and the Nuclear Ban Treaty: A Hesitant Opening?

Ludovica Castelli

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is the first legally binding international treaty whose aim is to ban nuclear weapons comprehensively. Substantially, it hinges on the lethal humanitarian and environmental impact of nuclear weapons and is thereby aimed at further stigmatising their use, including in the domain of nuclear deterrence.

Difficult Conversations: Fingers off the Button

Andrew Futter

On Thursday 5 May 2022, Prof Andrew Futter, Dr Cameron Hunter, Dr Olamide Samuel, Marion Messmer & Dr Matthew Bolton participated in the Difficult Conversation Series. ‘Fingers off the Button’ was the fourth installment of the series.

The panel primarily considered questions regarding nuclear weapons in the UK.  

View the recording of this session, by clicking the link below. 

Defence Concepts and Capabilities: from Aspiration to Reality

Andrew Futter

On Tuesday 17 May 2022, Andrew Futter gave evidence to the UK House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee on the subject: Defence Concepts and Capabilities, from aspiration to reality. View the recording of this session, by clicking the link below. 

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.

"PUTIN’S WAR MIGHT BE DESTROYING THE GLOBAL NUCLEAR ORDER"

Olamide Samuel

It appears that Russian aggression in Ukraine has taken extensive notes from the western playbook. Russia’s indiscriminate attacks that have jeopardized the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, its willingness to consider “sharing” its nuclear weapons with Belarus, and its ability to caricature the UN Security Council with false justifications, all point to one underlying fact: International law has been persistently weakened by exemptions….

Dr Olamide Samuel

Research Associate

"The Global South: Access to Nuclear Technologies and the Ban Treaty"

Andrew Futter & Olamide Samuel

Conventional wisdom holds that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (the “ban treaty”) is about reinvigorating the push for nuclear disarmament and seeking justice for those adversely impacted by nuclear testing. Yet, there is hardly any indication from the nine current nuclear-armed states that they are serious about nuclear disarmament, and the countries responsible for nuclear weapons tests have failed to offer assistance or compensation to the victims. But by focussing only on frustrations about disarmament and nuclear testing, and by implications a very “Western” view of nuclear politics, both supporters and detractors have overlooked other national interests in states’ decisions to sign the ban treaty, especially the interests of states from the global south. ..

Prof. Andrew Futter

Principal investigator

Dr Olamide Samuel

Research Associate

Ben Zala publishes piece "Washington Rediscovers 'nuclear responsibility' in Ukraine crisis"

Ben Zala

Aside from Donald Trump’s bluster about “fire and fury” and Kim Jong-un’s similarly theatrical replies in the manufactured “crisis” of 2017, serious nuclear threats made during an international crisis have been happily MIA for the better part of the past 40 years. Not so now. Less than four days after invading Ukraine’s sovereign territory, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s nuclear forces to be placed on “high combat alert”, citing aggressive statements from NATO member states as the main catalyst for the decision.

Dr Ben Zala

Research Associate