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 Reads

Report

Feb 2, 2024

Requirements for nuclear deterrence and arms control in a two-nuclear-peer environment

By Greg Weaver and Amy Woolf

Gregory Weaver and Amy Woolf discuss the future of US nuclear posture and arms control, as the United States will soon face two adversaries with peer nuclear arsenals.

Arms Control China

Commentary & quick analysis

New Atlanticist

Feb 15, 2024

Russian nuclear anti-satellite weapons would require a firm US response, not hysteria

By Clementine G. Starling, Mark J. Massa

If fielded, such weapons would directly challenge norms of responsible behavior in space and present a serious risk to all nations’ satellites.

Arms Control Russia

Experts react

Feb 15, 2024

Experts react: What to know about Russia’s apparent plans for a space-based nuclear weapon

By Atlantic Council experts

Reports that Russia is developing a space-based nuclear anti-satellite weapon have raised national security concerns in Washington.

Defense Policy National Security

New Atlanticist

Nov 28, 2023

As the US faces down new nuclear threats, will Cold War solutions work once again?

By Alyxandra Marine

The tripolar nuclear power world is certainly new; but the deterrence theories of the Cold War may not need to be completely changed, our experts find.

China Nuclear Deterrence

New Atlanticist

Nov 15, 2023

AUKUS is hamstrung by outdated US export control rules. Here’s what Congress can do.

By Deborah Cheverton, John T. Watts

US lawmakers must show that they are willing to make the necessary changes to a needlessly limiting export control regime that does more harm than good.

Arms Control Australia

New Atlanticist

Oct 13, 2023

What needs to change about US nuclear weapons strategy?

By Atlantic Council experts

Our experts break down the 2023 Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States report.

China Indo-Pacific

Reports & issue briefs

Issue Brief

Nov 15, 2023

US homeland missile defense: Room for expanded roles

By Robert Soofer and Matthew Costlow

Matthew Costlow & Robert Soofer explore how expanded roles for US homeland missile defense could enhance deterrence with two nuclear peers

China Defense Policy
A general view of fire assault drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea March 10, 2023, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Credit: KCNA via REUTERS

Report

Nov 9, 2023

Deterrence is crumbling in Korea: How we can fix it

By Markus Garlauskas, Lauren D. Gilbert

Conventional wisdom in the United States holds that deterrence in Korea is strong, but this widespread confidence is based on a backward look at long-standing assumptions that are no longer tenable, along with rapidly shifting politico-military conditions. This report explains the urgent actions required to get ahead of these changes and maintain effective deterrence.

China Indo-Pacific

Report

Oct 26, 2023

Continued US and allied integration is essential to deter Russian CBRN use

By Natasha Lander Finch, Ryan Arick, Christopher Skaluba

This report presents the findings and recommendations of the Atlantic Council project Conceptualizing Integrated Deterrence to Address Russian Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Escalation. The objective of this project was to develop an approach for incorporating European allies and partners into the US model of integrated deterrence against Russian CBRN use.

Arms Control Defense Policy

Report

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

Past events

In the news

In the News

Feb 16, 2024

Garlauskas published in Foreign Affairs

On February 15, Markus Garlauskas and the Korea Society’s Jonathan Corrado published a new piece in Foreign Affairs titled, “The Arsenal of Autocracy: How North Korean Weapons Fuel Conflict—and How to Stop the Flow.” The article emphasizes the importance of building a United States-led international effort to stop North Korea from establishing arms trade relationships […]

Arms Control China

In the News

Feb 13, 2024

Guevara Moyano in eseuro.com on arms transfer controls

By Inigo Guevara Moyano

On February 13, Transatlantic Security Initiative nonresident senior fellow Inigo Guevara Moyano published an opinion piece on the eseuro.com website discussing arms transfer controls.

Arms Control Europe & Eurasia

In the News

Feb 9, 2024

Zysk in thebulletin.org on nuclear threats and de-escalation

By Katarzyna Zysk

On February 9, Transatlantic Security Initiative nonresident senior fellow Katarzyna Zysk was quoted in thebulletin.org discussing the Russian nuclear threats. 

Europe & Eurasia Nuclear Nonproliferation

In the News

Feb 6, 2024

Garlauskas quoted in the Daily Beast on fears of North Korean aggression

On February 5, Markus Garlauskas’ remarks from a recent public event at the Korea Society were quoted by the Daily Beast. The article, examining rising fears of North Korean aggression, referenced his recent comments that the focus should not be on full-scale war, but “in that space between provocation of war.” 

China Conflict

In the News

Jan 31, 2024

Garlauskas published in Newsweek on rising threat of North Korea

On January 30, Markus Garlauskas published an op-ed in Newsweek at their request on “The Rising Threat of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea.” In his article, he explained that despite recent concerns that Pyongyang will pursue war on the Korean Peninsula, the imminent threats posed by North Korea are its advancing weapons programs, its evolving […]

Defense Technologies Indo-Pacific

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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.