Report: Strategic Risk Reduction in the European Context

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 this work has 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 this Non-Proliferation Treaty (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 into disuse since the late 80s.

This report marks the end of an 18-months project between BASIC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. In January 2019, we set out to examine what factors contributed to nuclear risks increasing in Europe, and what steps could be taken in order to reduce them. Areas of contention between Russia and NATO have been growing in scope and significance since the early 2000s and point to fundamentally different interpretations of each others’ actions which in turn further increases tensions. This report presents the results of this consultation process: it explores some of the factors which have led to the risk of nuclear escalation increasing in Europe and presents a range of policy options to counteract this trend. 

We are grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands for their generous support of this project. Special thanks is also due to the group of 70 experts from 25 different European states, institutions and organisations who have given their time and expertise to the workshops and to provide feedback on a draft document of the policy recommendations. 

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