Reducing, and ultimately eliminating the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction requires a new strategic partnership based on advanced methods of cooperative security. The past decade has shown that fundamentally new approaches to security problems will not automatically emerge in response to changed political and technical circumstances, nor will they necessarily evolve out of incremental adaptations to current practice. The most direct way to foster new thinking about nuclear issues, particularly among the upcoming generation of security experts that lacks direct experience with the formative Cold War period, is to reconceptualize both what and how students are taught about nuclear weapons.
Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia have neither the deep ideological disagreements nor the massive conventional force deployments that once justified huge nuclear arsenals on high alert. Nevertheless, they plan to retain many thousands of nuclear weapons continuously prepared for a massive assault within minutes. The destructive capacity of these forces poses the greatest physical threat to both societies and the rest of the world, yet there has been no serious attempt to terminate mass deterrent operations. Although the likelihood of large-scale nuclear aggression is now dwarfed by the dangers of inadvertent launch, unauthorized access, or accidental detonation, operational practices still emphasize deterrence over forms of reassurance needed to avoid misperceptions and ensure safe management of residual nuclear arsenals.
Since the dominant issues of operational safety involve interactions between the American and Russian military forces, and since decisive improvements would require direct and reasonably intimate collaboration, it makes sense to develop a new curriculum jointly for simultaneous use in Russia and the United States. Topics for the curriculum will include:
- comparison of current security problems with Cold War experience;
- examination of risks associated with ongoing nuclear practices;
- exploration of cooperative security arrangements as a preferable response;
- assessment of political, technical, legal, and institutional obstacles that must be overcome to move from deterrence to reassurance;
- consideration of emerging security problems, such as civil conflict and catastrophic terrorism.
The use of video-conferencing, and other interactive technology will let Russian and American participants hear first-hand how security experts and students in each country view such issues and evaluate policy options. Week and semester-long exchange visits will provide Russian and American students with opportunities to work together on solutions to pressing security problems.
This project is a partnership between CISSM and the School for International Security and World Politics at the Institute of USA and Canada Studies in Moscow (ISKRAN) and has been funded in part by grants from the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.