The risk of nuclear weapon use—be it deliberately in an escalating crisis or war, in accordance with one’s own nuclear doctrine or due to inadvertent events—has grown in the Euro-Atlantic region, mainly as a function of the recurring competition between the Russian Federation and the United States. As this chapter argues, decision makers are correct to see a riskier environment. Yet in considering the risk of nuclear weapon use, analysts and policymakers alike are assessing threats by often focusing on highimpact/low-probability scenarios, driven by misreading of one another’s plans and intentions. As a result, they are assessing the risks wrongly, and respond to the wrong things. This chapter first addresses actors, interests, and political change at three levels of analysis. It then establishes a menu for manipulating and perceiving risk, focusing on asymmetric capabilities, (unofficial) doctrines, and poor risk analysis. It concludes with a set of recommendations on how to mitigate the most pressing risks of nuclear use in the Euro-Atlantic.
The original article was published as a chapter in "Nuclear Risk Reduction: Closing Pathways to Use," edited by Wilfred Wan and published by UNIDIR.