[WMD] Great Power Risk Reduction Measures and Lessons for the Asia-Pacific
Special Reports

[WMD] Great Power Risk Reduction Measures and Lessons for the Asia-Pacific

Threats to global peace and security are growing and national leaderships need to step up the efforts on limiting and reducing the risks of major military conflicts, particularly those which can easily spiral out of control and lead to nuclear use with the most dramatic consequences. In this Special Report, Dmitry Stefanovich suggests that risk reduction measures can be used as a foundation for any future steps addressing weapons of mass destruction and other strategic weapons on a regional or global scale.

Stefanovich suggests that whereas legacy arms control agreements between the US and Russia have now unravelled, lessons can be learnt from the great powers’ experience with risk reduction and some of their mistakes can be avoided in the 21st century. Recent positive actions by great powers and the NPT Nuclear Weapon States are acknowledged, and potential opportunities to further limit the dangers of nuclear escalation are outlined.

The author examines future risk reduction measures and incident prevention mechanisms, with a focus on possible opportunities for the Asia-Pacific region. He argues that the public image of the risk reduction measures, and arms control should emphasize the national and international security implications of such efforts, and the paramount importance of introducing new joint solutions in this domain.

Key recommendations:

  • Building on existing risk reduction ideas: Existing ideas on risk reduction need to be refined and tailored to current and future circumstances. In the Asia-Pacific, especially, with states pursuing non-nuclear deterrence, nuclear-conventional “entanglement,” and non-nuclear armaments, the idea of how these capabilities affect nuclear risk reduction should be a major topic of consultations. Patience, innovation and ambition are important to come up with realistic and workable nuclear risk reduction measures.
  • Risk reduction specific to deterrence equations: Instead of abstract and improbable strategic arms treaties at the level of P5, it is more useful to identify ways to concretely reduce risks in each of the specific nuclear-prone bilateral and multilateral “deterrence equations” in which nuclear threat is present. This way of framing grounds ‘nuclear risks’ in global and regional insecurities.
  • Risk reduction measures focused on five common interests of all nuclear-armed states:
    1. delimiting deployment at sea (ballistic missile-firing submarines) to reduce adversary’s fear of disarming strikes and development and deployment of long-range Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities
    2. decoupling nuclear weapons from aircraft staging bases, so that non-strategic nuclear weapons can be noticed when they are deployed
    3. establishing a regional, multilateral long-range missile and space launch rocket notification regime, that enable states to monitor and verify compliance with the regime and departures therefrom
    4. establishing hardened, modernized, and harmonized multilateral hotlines between the capitals of the region for transmission of missile launches notifications and for crisis communications
    5. reinforcing the now customary nuclear-use taboo by more stringent application of the Law of Armed Conflict to nuclear operations of all kinds.

Click on the adjacent link to download the full report.

About the Author

Dmitry Stefanovich is a Research Fellow at the Center for International Security, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS). He is also a non-resident Fellow with IFSH Hamburg and a Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Expert. His main research interests are disruptive technologies challenging strategic stability and the logic behind the development and deployment of new strategic weapons. He has written articles on global security, strategic stability, nuclear weapons, and military applications of emerging technologies. He has contributed to events hosted by the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, King’s College London, RUSI, UNODA, SIPRI, UNIDIR, IISS, and Pugwash.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the position of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network or any of its members.

Image: iStock

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