Could unmanned underwater vehicles undermine nuclear deterrence?

Sylvia Mishra

Nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs) are considered to be the most survivable of all nuclear platforms due to their stealth capabilities, mobility and discretion. But as technology improves and the ocean battlefield becomes more complex, these advances could undermine the survivability of strategic forces.


Entanglement: Chinese and Russian Perspectives on Non-nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Risks

James Acton
Russia, China, Counterspace Capabilities, Nuclear Command and Control

The entanglement of non-nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons and their enabling capabilities may create new escalation risks. This report explores the concept of entanglement from American, Russian and Chinese perspectives to understand how each country’s strategic community thinks about the phenomenon and its attendant risks.


Escalation through Entanglement: How the Vulnerability of Command-and-Control Systems Raises the Risks of an Inadvertent Nuclear War

James M. Acton
Counterspace capabilities, Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine, Crisis and Escalation, Nuclear Command and Control

The entanglement of non-nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons and their enabling capabilities may create new escalation risks. This article focuses on two mechanisms, “misinterpreted warning” and the “damage-limitation window”, that could contribute to crisis instability.


Global Counterspace Capabilities: An Open Source Assessment

Brian Weeden and Victoria Samson
North Korea, Counterspace capabilities, Russia, China

Drawing on publicly available information, this report provides an assessment of counterspace and anti-satellite capabilities in development around the world. It assesses the current and near-term capabilities of the United States, Russia, China, Iran, India and North Korea.


How to Think About Nuclear Crises

Mark S. Bell and Julia Macdonald
Crisis and Escalation, Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine

How dangerous are nuclear crises? What dynamics underpin how they unfold? In this article, the authors provide a framework for understanding nuclear crises based on two variables: incentives to use nuclear weapons first in a crisis and the extent to which escalation is controllable by the leaders involved.


Invisible Doomsday Machines: The Challenge of Clandestine Capabilities and Deterrence

Brendan Rittenhouse Green and Austin Long
Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine, Deterrence

Some modern elements of military power depend almost entirely on their secrecy for military effectiveness. However, keeping them secret can rob them of their potential political effect. This article explores the role and contradictions of these “clandestine” capabilities.


Space Threat Assessment 2019

Todd Harrison, Kaitlyn Johnson, and Thomas G. Roberts
Counterspace capabilities, North Korea, China, Russia

Space Threat Assessment 2019 reviews the open-source information available on the counterspace capabilities that can threaten U.S. space systems. It focuses on the countries that pose the greatest risk for the United States: China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.


Space Threat Assessment 2020

Todd Harrison, Kaitlyn Johnson, Thomas Roberts, Tyler Way, Makena Young
Counterspace capabilities

This year’s edition of CSIS space threat assessment finds that threats to space systems are growing as more countries and non-state actors acquire counterspace capabilities and, in some cases, employ them in more ways.


Spies, Lies and Algorithms: Why U.S. Intelligence Agencies Must Adapt or Fail

Amy Zegart and Michael Morell
Russia, Artificial Intelligence

U.S. intelligence agencies will face a moment of reckoning as a combination of new technologies, new threats, and the leveling of the intelligence-gathering playing field erode the advantages that technologically advanced nations traditionally enjoyed.


Stalking the Secure Second Strike: Intelligence, Counterforce and Nuclear Strategy

Austin Long and Brendan Rittenhouse Green
Russia, Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine, Deterrence

Both during and after the Cold War, the United States developed substantial intelligence capabilities to track and target submarines and mobile missiles, rendering adversary second strike forces far more vulnerable than most analysts are willing to credit.


The New Era of Counterforce: Technological Change and the Future of Nuclear Deterrence

Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press
North Korea, Nuclear Strategy and Doctrine, Deterrence

For most of the nuclear age, it seemed impossible to eliminate an adversary nuclear arsenal through a “counterforce” attack. Today, however, technological advancements are making counterforce attacks more plausible, and in doing so, are eroding the foundation of deterrence.

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