What are the most likely scenarios for the first use of nuclear weapons in the next five years on the NATO-Russia periphery, in South Asia, and in Northeast Asia? What is the likelihood that nuclear first use in these scenarios would result in humanitarian disaster? And, what are the key drivers that could increase or decrease the likelihood of first use? Assumptions about the answers to these questions underlie every debate about deterrence and disarmament—yet, analysts rarely make them explicit, let alone debate them. This session aims to fill that gap and hence clarify some of the conceptual confusion that impedes consensus on how best to reduce nuclear risks.


Scott Sagan, Center for International Security and Cooperation and the Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University


Alexey Arbatov, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences
Jüri Luik, International Center for Defense and Security
Vipin Narang, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Caitlin Talmadge, George Washington University

Transcript forthcoming

Polling Question

What is the likelihood that, within the next decade, a nuclear weapon will be detonated as an act of war or as the result of an accident?

Number of respondents: 63

This poll was taken during the conference but was not specifically linked to this session.