Nuclear risks are rising – we are working to reduce them
States have employed risk reduction strategies in order to manage some of the unintended consequences of tensions between nuclear armed states since the Cold War. While states focused mostly on reducing risks related to proliferation of nuclear materials, nuclear terrorism and nuclear accidents throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, strategic risk reduction has returned as a topic of global importance in the 2020 NPT review cycle. Risks faced and actors involved vary by geographic region, but the overarching consensus is that the risks of nuclear escalation have increased globally. Experts share the concern that while risks have increased, the risk management tools of the Cold War have fallen in disuse since the late 1980s.
In the tense 2020 NPT review cycle, risk reduction can also serve as a political tool. It has the potential to provide a common foundation for collaboration even under challenging conditions in a polarised system. However, relying on risk reduction as a unifier does not come without problems. There is no consensus on risk definitions and best practice when it comes to approaches to risk reduction. That carries its own risks of potentially exacerbating polarisations between nuclear possessor and non-nuclear possessor states.
BASIC monitors and analyses strategic relationships among the P5 and between nuclear possessor states and non-nuclear possessor states to assess how shifts in the relationship impact upon strategic nuclear risks. We provide timely and practical recommendations for how to reduce these risks and maintain stability, so that states can focus on building trust and working on disarmament.
In 2019-2020, we delivered a project on “Reducing Nuclear Risks in Europe”, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This project analysed the biggest nuclear risks in Europe and developed a range of pragmatic policy recommendations on how to reduce some of these risks. We are grateful for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ generous support.
Programme Director: Marion Messmer
With thanks to our funders at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
Analysis and Publications for this Programme
In June 2022, BASIC held a roundtable with Russian experts to discuss risk reduction and crisis de-escalation in general terms. In this roundtable report, Dr Gry Thomasen outlines these findings and presents a set of policy recommendations.
‘Applying a Systematic Approach to NATO-Russia Risk Reduction: NATO’s North-Eastern Flank Reacts to the War in Ukraine’ is the third in a series of four reports that address the current threat assessments and perceptions of nuclear and conventional escalation risks in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Applying a Systematic Approach to NATO-Russia Risk Reduction: Perspectives from the North-Eastern Flank addresses the current threat assessments and perceptions of nuclear and conventional escalation risks in Eastern Europe and Russia.
BASIC is delighted to announce that we are continuing our cooperation with the Ministry of…
Polish threat perceptions and risk assessments are heavily influenced by Poland’s proximity to Russia – and the author suggests solutions to contain them.
Lithuania’s current nuclear and conventional risk assessments, and possible policy responses.
Recent deadly military incidents and an ongoing border conflict between China and India has led…
BASIC believes in making progress on nuclear disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation through multiple complementary approaches. We continuously develop our programmes – streams of research – through sustained engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, collectively searching for the art of the possible.
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