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Cover of Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons at an Inflection Point

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons at an Inflection Point

Michael Frankel, James Scouras, and George Ullrich

The world has changed greatly since the last Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was formulated only some seven years ago, and US nuclear policy must be responsive to these changes. In particular, the 2010 NPR assessed that Russia and the United States are “no longer adversaries” and their “prospects for military confrontation have declined dramatically.” This assessment has been directly confronted in the intervening years by Russia’s steady stream of nuclear saber rattling, its naked aggression in Ukraine, and its palpably bellicose willingness to project its military might beyond Europe. Moreover, large asymmetries in nonstrategic nuclear capabilities, coupled with Russia’s escalate-to-deescalate doctrine and earlier abandonment of its commitment to a no-first-use nuclear posture, suggest that Russia views nuclear weapons as useful instruments of intimidation and warfighting. We argue that Russian first-use of nuclear weapons in Europe should be addressed as a high priority nuclear threat in the Trump administration’s NPR. We address the roles of allied nonstrategic nuclear weapons in Europe; the challenges posed by asymmetries in numbers, systems, and doctrine; and NATO’s potential response options. Looking forward, we anticipate key nuclear policy decisions the Trump administration must face, and suggest that the issue of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, heretofore treated as a nearly irrelevant epicycle orbiting the greater strategic nuclear issues at play, can no longer be neglected.

Cover of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and their Role in Future Nuclear Forces

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and Their Role in Future Nuclear Forces

Dennis Evans and Jonathan Schwalbe

This report presents analyses relevant to a decision on whether to retain an ICBM force beyond about 2035 and—if ICBMs are to be retained—what characteristics would be desirable in a future ICBM force. This report also identifies relevant policy issues that need to be resolved before making large acquisition decisions or deciding on new treaties for nuclear weapons. We begin with top-level conclusions, followed by key assumptions, survivability of US forces against a preemptive attack, target coverage, comparison of force structure options on survivability and price to attack, and final observations, in that order. Other relevant metrics (discussed to some extent in the main body of the report) include sensitivity to alert posture; sensitivity to enemy intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities; inflight survivability; and cost.

Cover of Assessing the Risk of Catastrophic Cyber Attack

Future Fleet Project. What Can We Afford?

Mark Lewellyn, Chris Wright, Rodney Yerger, and Duy Nhan Bui

Many factors affect the size and makeup of the Navy’s fleet. Not the least of these is the amount of money available to recapitalize the ships and submarines that comprise the fleet. Recent assessments by the Congressional Budget Office show that the funds needed to support the Navy’s current thirty-year shipbuilding plan will need to increase by about a third over the average funds used by the Navy during the past thirty years. This paper explores fiscally constrained modernization strategies for the Navy’s future fleet designed to achieve key priorities, such as recapitalization of the sea-based nuclear deterrent, while minimizing reductions to other components of the plan.

Cover of Superstorm Sandy: Implications for Designing a Post-Cyber Attack Power Restoration System

Superstorm Sandy: Implications for Designing a Post-Cyber Attack Power Restoration System

Paul Stockton

This Perspective summarizes electric grid restoration challenges posed by Superstorm Sandy and contrasts them with those that would be produced by a cyber attack on the grid. It examines the implications of these disparate challenges for the electricity industry’s mutual assistance system and proposes potential steps to build an “all-hazards” system that can account for the unique problems that cyber attacks will create. The study also analyzes support missions that state and federal agencies might perform in response to requests for assistance from utilities and analyzes how to build a cyber response framework that can coordinate such requests. 

Cover of Little Green Men: A Primer on Modern Russian Unconventional Warfare, Ukraine 2013–2014

“Little Green Men”: A Primer on Modern Russian Unconventional Warfare, Ukraine 2013–2014

Robert R. Leonhard, Stephen P. Phillips, and the Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) Team

This document is intended as a primer—a brief, informative treatment—concerning the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. It is an unclassified expansion of an earlier classified version that drew from numerous classified and unclassified sources, including key US Department of State diplomatic cables. For this version, the authors drew from open source articles, journals, and books. Because the primer examines a very recent conflict, it does not reflect a comprehensive historiography, nor does it achieve in-depth analysis. Instead, it is intended to acquaint the reader with the essential background to and course of the Russian intervention in Ukraine from the onset of the crisis in late 2013 through the end of 2014.

Cover of The Uncertain Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Use

The Uncertain Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Use

Michael Frankel, James Scouras, George Ullrich

The considerable body of knowledge on the consequences of nuclear weapons use underlies all operational and policy decisions related to US nuclear planning—but very large uncertainties still remain. As a result, the physical consequences of a nuclear conflict tend to have been underestimated, and a full-spectrum all-effects assessment is not within anyone’s grasp now or in the foreseeable future. This work outlines the current state of our knowledge base and presents recommendations for strengthening it.

Cover of Assessing the Risk of Catastrophic Cyber Attack

Assessing the Risk of Catastrophic Cyber Attack

Michael Frankel, James Scouras, Antonio De Simone

Reflecting on the similarities between cyber and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks, the authors of this Research Note explain how the approach used by the EMP Commission to assess the likelihood and consequences of EMP attacks could provide useful lessons for analysts grappling with the analogous assessment of cyber attacks.


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