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Matthew Bunn

James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy


The states that possess nuclear weapons – and other states that rely on their security guarantees -- see them as essential to their security.  At the same time, nuclear deterrence comes with the ever-present risk of devastating failure, posing an existential risk to much of human civilization.  This course will explore a range of views on the benefits and dangers of nuclear deterrence, in the context of events including Russia’s war on Ukraine and nuclear saber-rattling, China’s rapid nuclear buildup, North Korea’s near-constant missile testing and nuclear threats, Iran’s expanding ability to produce nuclear weapons material should it ever choose to do so, an ongoing nuclear arms competition between India and Pakistan, and more.  The nuclear world is becoming more multipolar, hostility between nuclear-armed states is at a fever pitch, and new technologies from hypersonic missiles to cyberweapons and artificial intelligence are making both conventional and nuclear balances more complex and potentially more dangerous.  This class will explore different concepts for managing nuclear balances and reducing their dangers; approaches to nuclear strategy and force posture; prospects for nuclear arms restraint; and ideas about what a world that no longer relied on nuclear deterrence might look like.  The course will confront students with real-world and hypothetical policy dilemmas, training them in risk-informed thinking about managing these issues, through case studies, policy memos, and negotiating or crisis simulations.  The course will equip students with concepts and tools for careers managing nuclear deterrence policies.