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Explaining the Nuclear Challenges Posed by Emerging and Disruptive Technology: A Primer for European Policymakers and Professionals

Explaining the Nuclear Challenges Posed by Emerging and Disruptive Technology: A Primer for European Policymakers and Professionals
Andrew Futter
Publisher: SIPRI
March, 2021

This paper is a primer for those seeking to engage with current debates on nuclear risk in Europe. It demystifies and contextualizes the challenges posed by emerging and disruptive technologies in the nuclear realm. It looks in detail at five significant and potentially disruptive technological developments—hypersonic weapons, missile defence, artificial intelligence and automation, counterspace capabilities, and computer network operations (cyber)—to highlight often-overlooked nuances and explain how some of the challenges presented by these developments are more marginal, established and manageable than is sometimes portrayed. By emphasizing the primacy of politics over technology when it comes to meeting nuclear challenges, this paper also seeks to provide a basis for targeted risk reduction and arms control, as well as normative recommendations for policymakers and professionals working across Europe.

Contents

I. Introduction

II. The significance of hypersonic missiles

III. Ballistic missile defence and nuclear stability in Europe

IV. Artificial intelligence and automation in the nuclear realm

V. The importance of space and counterspace weaponry

VI. Nuclear risk and computer network operations

VII. Conclusions and recommendations for European policymakers and professionals

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)/EDITORS

Andrew Futter (United Kingdom) is Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester, UK. He has written widely on nuclear weapon issues and the impact of disruptive technology.