During the Cold War or the “First Nuclear Age,” the confrontation between two nuclear superpowers shaped nuclear policy thinking and practice—including concepts of deterrence as well as systems for arms control and non-proliferation. Much of this thinking persisted after the Cold War, despite the transition from the First Nuclear Age to a “Second Nuclear Age,” which saw changing power dynamics and further nuclear proliferation.
Now, in the “Third Nuclear Age,” unfolding multipolarity combines with advances in technology, including new delivery and defence systems, and an evolving geostrategic environment shaped by multiple, intersectional systemic forces. Technological advancements may provide strategic benefits, but they also harbour significant risks. Meanwhile, changes to the environment in which these actors operate can create uncertainty, new sources of conflict, and increase the risk of escalation, miscalculation, or accident.
The diplomatic structures that maintained stability in previous eras are struggling to adjust to these 21st-century challenges. The war in Ukraine and growing geopolitical tensions further cement this deadlock. While the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) remains, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) continues to face stern challenges. At the onset of this Third Nuclear Age, new thinking and approaches are needed to prevent conflict and increase stability.
ISYP exists to provide the younger generation with the opportunity to reflect on and address the threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as other sources of conflict. ISYP’s “Third Nuclear Age” project seeks to provide a space for young professionals and scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas and solutions concerning the diverse and unique risks associated with the Third Nuclear Age.