New Challenges for Strategic Deterrence in the 21st Century

After a decades-long hiatus, issues involving nuclear weapons have returned to the forefront of international security concerns. The Finnish Institute of International Affairs conducted a study of the changing nature of strategic deterrence, especially insofar as it involves the role of nuclear weapons, and the implications for Europe over the coming decade or so.  The study examined how deterrence currently operates in major potential conflict regions (with an emphasis on Europe), the changes (e.g., technological, doctrinal, and political) that likely will shape its development over the next decade or so, and the implications of new approaches to deterrence for Europe, in general, and Finland, in particular. 

The following were the key sets of research questions and issues addressed:

General global/European issues
  • What does “deterrence” mean today?  Has the Western understanding of deterrence concepts changed since the end of the Cold War? 

  • What has been the contribution of various treaty and other agreements to strengthening (or weakening) deterrence?  (Include arms control/reduction accords, non-proliferation agreements, and the pending Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.)

  • What would be the most likely first- and second-order consequences of a failure of deterrence in Korea?

The perspective of the “nuclear allies” (United States, United Kingdom, France) and NATO as an organization:

What are the main strategic arguments in favor of sustaining and modernizing their respective nuclear deterrents? 

How important are their respective nuclear sustainment and modernization programs relative to other defense efforts?

What factors determine the size and nature of nuclear systems and national doctrines associated with nuclear weapons?  What are major areas of cooperation among the “nuclear allies?”

How are any (or all) of the above likely to change over the coming decade or so as a result technological changes (e.g., advances in non-nuclear weapons technology, missile defense developments) and “horizontal” as well as “vertical” proliferation?

How important is “nuclear burden-sharing” within NATO, both politically and operationally?  Do the views of NATO partners regarding nuclear weapons have any influence on NATO policy?  How does NATO, as an organization, view the actions and policies of key partners (Finland and Sweden) as contributing to overall Western deterrence? 

Is a “European deterrent” feasible as an alternative to US “extended deterrence?”

Russian developments:

What are the main areas of broad Western agreement and/or disagreement regarding Russia’s nuclear modernization programs, doctrine, and use of “nuclear saber-rattling” (e.g., in deployments, exercises, and rhetoric)?  (Include description of key nuclear systems, modernization plans and status, and public attitudes toward nuclear weapons.)

  • How do Russian nuclear developments, when taken into consideration with its conventional force improvements and “anti-access/area denial” strategy, affect the strategic environment in the Nordic region, Far East, and broader Middle East?

Nordic contributions to deterrence and non-proliferation:
  • How do various Nordic countries contribute to deterrence and non-proliferation, either nationally or through multilateral efforts?  Where and how might their contribution(s) be expanded?

  • What might be expected of Finland in terms of crisis prevention, crisis response, protection of Finnish nationals, and humanitarian assistance in the event of a failure of deterrence in other regions?  How are other Nordic states assessing and/or planning for their response in such a contingency?

The final report was presented at a large public conference organized by FIIA, featuring a prominent keynote speaker and panel presentations from select members of the high-level experts group.

The project was part of the implementation of the Government Plan for Analysis, Assessment and Research activities.

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New Nuclear Challenges in Europe and Beyond
02.05.2018 13:00 -
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