Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos

Jessica Sleight, Program Director / March 25, 2020


In 2019, Global Zero pulled together an elite group of seasoned and mid-career experts to assess how the Trump Administration is addressing nuclear threats facing America and the world.  Under the direction of Senior Advisor Jon Wolfsthal and Global Zero, the American Nuclear Policy Initiative seeks to develop a bold, politically-feasible set of policies that can make the United States safer and less reliant on nuclear weapons despite today’s difficult political environment. The longer-term goal is to develop a set of programs – along with a plan for implementation – that might appeal to a future administration (of either party) that seeks to restore America’s leadership on nuclear restraint, nonproliferation and disarmament. (Global Zero’s Alternative Nuclear Posture Review is a major substantive input into this project. Many of the experts recruited for this effort have served in government and may likely do so again after the 2020 election, or will help shape nuclear American policy for years to come.)

For the past year, the project has been developing a comprehensive assessment of the Trump administration’s nuclear policies to date that lays out successes and failures, setbacks and opportunities. This will be released in early 2020, followed by regular sessions and workshops with the task force and narrowly focused sub-groups. Over the course of the year, the task force will produce a set of peer-reviewed policy papers on functional and regional issues, including: U.S. nuclear deterrence and reassurance policy, plans for U.S. nuclear weapons modernization, revitalizing the global nonproliferation regime, strategies for enhancing global security on nuclear materials, future approaches and goals for negotiated arms control with Russia and China, recovering from US violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and future U.S. approaches to eliminating North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Some papers might be released during 2020 as they are developed, circulated to key policy audiences (particularly to receptive audiences in Congress or made available to the presidential campaigns), and/or published and promoted as a package in advance of a new administration taking office. Some of the papers are being developed in cooperation with parallel projects by other non-governmental organizations. 

In addition, select members of this initiative will engage European and NATO allies on the options for new U.S. approaches to extended deterrence and nuclear deterrence with Russia, and lay the groundwork for both reductions in numbers and changes to strategy including adoption of a No-First-Use nuclear policy by the United States. Having these discussions before the beginning of a new administration will be essential to understanding the underlying positions of key allies and developing a set of proposals that can gain broad support among American friends and partners.