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Report | 17 June 2021

New technologies, complexity, nuclear decision making and arms control: Workshop report

The importance of emerging technologies in nuclear and security policy have been highlighted this week in the NATO Summit Communique and the G7 statement, and in last week’s New Atlantic Charter, signed by US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that pledged both the US and UK would “embrace the promise and manage the peril of emerging technologies”.

Against this backdrop, this workshop report by the ELN – in partnership with and funding from the German Federal Foreign Office – looks at the nexus between disruptive technologies and nuclear decision-making and arms control.

The report includes six policy recommendations:

  • To regularise, reframe and strengthen strategic stability dialogue between the United States and Russia and China.
  • To maintain human control in nuclear weapons decision making.
  • To pursue broader arms control efforts and mechanisms to include disruptive technologies.
  • To pursue transparency, confidence-building measures (CBMs) of non-attack, and uphold norms of responsible behaviour in the cyber and outer-space domains.
  • To raise public awareness and education on the disruptive effects of technologies as it pertains to nuclear weapons.
  • To pursue creative new ideas to break gridlocks and stasis in the nuclear policy field.

Today, the speed at which technologies by themselves or in combination can manage, assimilate, and process data can simply overwhelm nuclear weapons decision-makers and abet risks of automation biases. The lack of routine understanding of adversaries’ intent, redlines, and the lack of trust in machines are compounding uncertainties and can impact strategic stability and crisis escalation dynamics. This report is part of a broader project looking at the role of disruptive technologies in conflict scenarios and decision-making to determine how best states can pursue risk mitigation efforts, off-ramps, and de-escalation strategies.

Read the report here.

The opinions articulated above represent the views of the signatories and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.

Image: Flickr, Airman Magazine