Nuclear Crisis Group Releases NATO-Russia Crisis Brief

Experts Recommend Steps to Reduce NATO-Russia Tensions

WASHINGTON – Today, Global Zero’s Nuclear Crisis Group (NCG) — a task force of seasoned diplomats, military leaders, and national security experts from nuclear-armed and allied countries working to prevent the use of nuclear weapons — published a new report warning about the risks that a NATO-Russia conflict that could quickly escalate to nuclear use, and recommending steps governments can take to mitigate tensions, lower the odds of miscalculation, and enhance stability. 

The NCG’s NATO-Russia Crisis Brief features insight from six eminent experts and former officials from the United States, Russia and Europe on the current state of affairs between the US/NATO and Russia. It proposes pragmatic near-term steps to improve stability and reduce the risks of conflict and escalation in Europe, focusing on the need for and demonstrating a wide range of options to enhance security in what the NCG has identified as a “nuclear flashpoint” — one of four regions in the world where the risk of nuclear conflict is highest.


Here’s what the leading experts had to say: 

  • Sarah Bidgood, Director, Eurasia Nonproliferation Program, Center for Nonproliferation Studies: “A single proposal or initiative cannot eliminate the potential for conflict in a tense and complicated Russia-NATO relationship, and even the modest steps outlined here may prove too ambitious for some to consider. If put into practice, however, they could offer important insights into the roots of the current Russia-NATO security dilemma and strategies to manage its impacts safely.”
  • Lt. Gen. (ret.) Evgeny Buzhinsky, Fmr. Head, International Treaties Department, Russian Ministry of Defense“Instruments aimed at preventing a destabilizing buildup of forces and enhancing security through confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) in the maritime domain could be essential elements of a plan to stabilize the Baltic region.”
  • Hon. Madelyn R. Creedon, Fmr. Assistant Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense: “There are two steps that could be taken now to reduce the potential for crisis and possible nuclear escalation, and one that would lay a foundation for future opportunities. These steps would improve situational awareness for space and cyber activities and remove legal impediments to future military-to-military engagement.”
  • Rear Adm. (ret.) John Gower, CB OBE, Fmr. Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Nuclear & Chemical, Biological), U.K. Ministry of Defence: “The simple lesson for the nuclear order from COVID-19 is that global problems require global solutions arising from global cooperation. Global cooperation exists only in an environment of international trust. In the nuclear domain, the current state of this trust is discouraging.”
  • Łukasz Kulesa, Deputy Head of Research, Polish Institute of International Affairs: “The biggest challenge to NATO-Russia relations is currently not a danger of a military clash, but rather both sides’ preference to stick to the status quo rather than pursuing genuine diplomatic outreach.”
  • Dr. Dmitri Trenin, Director, Carnegie Moscow Center: “The current confrontation is not a new cold war. These days, conflict between NATO and Russia could only happen inadvertently. To prevent it, handling incidents and exchanging information is key.”

“The present state of affairs between NATO and Russia is unnecessarily dangerous. The reality remains that an unintended crisis, conflict, or mistake could lead to a rapid military escalation and a spasmodic use of nuclear weapons at almost any time. A lack of trust, increasingly close military interactions, and influential third-party actions mean all reasonable precautions need to be taken to prevent miscalculation and accidental crisis escalation,” said Jon Wolfsthal, senior advisor at Global Zero and director of the NCG. “In addition to extending New START considered an obvious step to maintain limits and insights into U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals there are a broad array of options to pursue over the coming months. What is lacking at the highest levels of government, and what a new U.S. administration could lead on, is both the recognition of the dangerously high risk of nuclear use and the will to take action to reduce those dangers.”