The Scowcroft Center’s namesake, General Brent Scowcroft, was the chairman of the 1983 Scowcroft Commission that established the foundation for US nuclear deterrence and arms control policy through the present day. As the United States enters a new era of strategic challenges, the Scowcroft Center’s Forward Defense program is proud to play a central role in crafting an effective and nonpartisan strategic forces strategy and policy for the twenty-first century.

The 2022 National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review caution that the United States will, for the first time in its history, face the challenge of simultaneously deterring two nuclear great powers, each with aggressive revisionist goals. Our Nuclear Strategy Project, within the Forward Defense program, focuses on the role of nuclear deterrence, nuclear strategy and employment, missile defense, and arms control in deterring conventional aggression and nuclear escalation against the United States, its allies, and partners.

Principal research areas

Nuclear Strategy

Shape US nuclear strategy and implications for extended deterrence, allied assurance, and nuclear escalation.

Inform the national and/or international debate concerning potential changes in nuclear strategy and nuclear force structure.

Assess the changing requirements for extended deterrence and assurance of allies under nuclear triploarity.

Arms Control

Understand and shape the changing nature of and role for arms control in the new trilateral security environment.

Assess the relationship between US nuclear deterrence requirements and nuclear arms control to inform US negotiating positions for a potential future arms control framework.

Missile Defense

Shape the relationship between homeland missile defense and US nuclear strategy as it relates to North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China.

Anticipate and inform the national and international debate on new technologies for missile defense and its implications for strategic stability.

Emerging Threats

Assess the implications of new threats and technologies for US nuclear deterrence and strategy.

Understand and assess which threats have the greatest potential for affecting the military balance and nuclear deterrence.

Must read

New Atlanticist

Jun 14, 2023

Before embarking on arms control talks, Biden needs a nuclear deal with Congress

By Robert Soofer

The White House and Congress disagree over the type and number of nuclear weapons needed to deter Russia, China, North Korea, and potentially Iran.

Arms Control China

Commentary & quick analysis

New Atlanticist

Sep 13, 2023

What the Putin-Kim authoritarian get-together means for Russia’s war and North Korea’s capabilities

By Atlantic Council experts

Experts react to Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia.

China Conflict

New Atlanticist

Aug 18, 2023

Experts react: The US-Japan-South Korea summit was ‘historic.’ But what did it accomplish?

By Atlantic Council experts

President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and President Yoon Suk Yeol set forward a common security agenda at Camp David. Atlantic Council experts share their insights on what’s next.

China East Asia

New Atlanticist

Aug 3, 2023

Congress should fund the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile

By Robert Soofer and Walter B. Slocombe

The deployment of SLCM-Ns would send a clear message to adversary and ally alike that the United States maintains the resolve and capabilities to respond to any foe’s nuclear use.

Nuclear Deterrence Security & Defense

New Atlanticist

Jul 19, 2023

Experts react: South Korea embarks on a new nuclear era. How will it play out?

By Atlantic Council experts

US and South Korean officials just met in Seoul for the inaugural meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group, a new bilateral platform to coordinate deterrence against a North Korean nuclear attack.

Crisis Management East Asia

New Atlanticist

Jun 28, 2023

Reading between the lines of the new North Korea intelligence estimate

By Markus Garlauskas

The US intelligence community has just released its National Intelligence Estimate on North Korea, a watershed analysis. But more is worth adding to the discussion.

China Intelligence

Reports & issue briefs


Aug 16, 2023

The United States and its allies must be ready to deter a two-front war and nuclear attacks in East Asia

By Markus Garlauskas

This report highlights two emerging and interrelated deterrence challenges in East Asia with grave risks to US national security: 1) Horizontal escalation of a conflict with China or North Korea into simultaneous conflict; 2) Vertical escalation to a limited nuclear attack by either or both adversaries to avoid conceding.

Arms Control China

Issue Brief

Aug 16, 2023

Biases blind us to the risk of Chinese military intervention in Korea

By Jonathan Corrado

This paper examines the historical record of cognitive biases, focusing on the US intelligence community’s failure to forecast PRC intervention in the Korean War, despite collecting information and evidence indicative of that outcome.

Arms Control China


Jun 15, 2023

US-China lessons from Ukraine: Fueling more dangerous Taiwan tensions

By John K. Culver, Sarah Kirchberger

The lessons that Washington and Beijing appear to be learning from Russia’s war against Ukraine could set the stage for a crisis over Taiwan in the next few years.

China Defense Industry

Issue Brief

May 1, 2023

US strategy and force posture for an era of nuclear tripolarity

By Keir Lieber, Daryl G. Press

Keir Lieber and Daryl Press lay out a vision for the future of US nuclear doctrine and strategy under the condition of nuclear tripolarity.

China Defense Policy

Issue Brief

Dec 20, 2022

Arms racing under nuclear tripolarity: Evidence for an action-reaction cycle?

By Matthew Kroenig

Matthew Kroenig argues that there has not been a nuclear arms race since the Cold War—but that China’s nuclear buildup might start one.

Arms Control China

Past events

In the news

In the News

Sep 15, 2023

Garlauskas appears as a guest on Brussels Sprouts

On September 15, Markus Garlauskas spoke on an episode of Brussels Sprouts, a transatlantic security-focused podcast. In this episode, titled “The New Authoritarian Axis: Russian Relations with North Korea and Iran,” Garlauskas discussed the recent Putin-Kim summit and the concerning implications of this developing relationship for containing North Korea’s WMD programs. He also addressed the […]

China Indo-Pacific

In the News

Sep 14, 2023

Cynkin interviewed by VOA on recent Putin-Kim summit

On September 12, IPSI nonresident senior fellow Thomas Cynkin was quoted in VOA Korea for his insights on the recent Putin-Kim summit. He was also featured in broadcasts by VOA Korea on September 12 and VOA Russia on September 13, explaining that “this meeting is a reaction to the isolation that the two countries, Russia […]

Indo-Pacific International Norms

In the News

Sep 13, 2023

Garlauskas quoted in War on the Rocks

On September 12, Markus Garlauskas was quoted in War on the Rocks. The article references the findings described in Garlauskas’ recently published report, stating that “the likelihood of a two-front conflict [in East Asia] is non-zero and worth serious consideration and accommodation.”

China Crisis Management

In the News

Sep 12, 2023

Kroenig quoted in Haaretz on a potential US-Saudi-Israeli deal

By Atlantic Council

On September 8, Dr. Matthew Kroenig, Atlantic Council vice president and senior director of the Scowcroft Center, was quoted by Haaretz on a possible new agreement between the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. He argues that President Biden should not let Saudi Arabia enrich uranium.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Politics & Diplomacy

In the News

Sep 5, 2023

Garlauskas quoted in TribunNews

On September 4, Markus Garlauskas’s recent comments to Nikkei Asia were quoted in TribunNews, an Indonesian media outlet. In particular, the article referenced Garlauskas’s explanation of how North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities and its improving ties with Russia and the PRC are altering the Kim regime’s strategic calculus on nuclear use.

China Defense Policy

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Forward Defense

Forward Defense, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, generates ideas and connects stakeholders in the defense ecosystem to promote an enduring military advantage for the United States, its allies, and partners. Our work identifies the defense strategies, capabilities, and resources the United States needs to deter and, if necessary, prevail in future conflict.