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Towards Greater Nuclear Restraint: Raising the Threshold for Nuclear Weapon Use

Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm:
May, 2020

This report focuses on the risks that a lack of nuclear restraint pose for international security. On the one hand, the problem has to do with uncertainty regarding the first use of nuclear weapons, which has increased in recent years as a result of technological developments, political tensions, and the deadlock in nuclear arms control. On the other hand, there is a longer-term trend of a lowering nuclear threshold in response to WMD proliferation threats by non-nuclear weapon states. After identifying some of the most problematic aspects of the current nuclear policies of the five nuclear weapon states (NWS), the report makes the case for greater restraint, including recommendations for reducing doctrinal ambiguity and more credible assurances that the threshold for nuclear weapon use remains high. The report also seeks to provide conceptual tools for a broad international dialogue on nuclear doctrines, based on a recent agreement by the NWS to pursue such dialogue in the 1968 Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT) context.


Dr Tytti Erästö is a Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme.
Dr Petr Topychkanov is an Associate Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme.