Our Uncertain Nuclear Future: How Do We Proceed if Treaties are Trashed?

Donald Trump’s announcement of intent to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty constitutes another severe blow to a treaty-based system of nuclear arms and threat reduction. One last treaty governing formal, verifiable draw-downs of nuclear forces remains — the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Mr. Trump has vacillated wildly in his comments on the future of U.S. strategic forces, ranging from an expressed interest in deep cuts to significant arms build-ups. For now, he has declined Vladimir Putin’s offer of extending New START. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, might be expected to seek withdrawal from New START, and he might well succeed, rather than to leave the decision of its extension and further reductions to the winner of the next presidential election.

Please join us for a discussion of our nuclear future with Nina Tannenwald, Jon Wolfsthal and Lynn Rusten. Our speakers will address the following questions: What role will norms play in our nuclear future? What role will treaties play, with specific reference to New START? Will we be entering a future of “arms control without agreements”? If so, what might this look like? Stimson’s Co-founder, Michael Krepon, will moderate our discussion.

WHAT: An on the record discussion of our nuclear future with Nina Tannenwald, Jon Wolfsthal, Lynn Rusten, and Michael Krepon.

WHERE: The Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 8th Floor, Washington DC, 20036

WHEN: Wednesday, December 12th, 4:00-6:00pm

RSVP: Click here to RSVP for the event. 

FOLLOW:  @StimsonCenter on Twitter for event news and use #StimsonNow to join the conversation.


Nina Tannenwald, Director of the International Relations Program at Brown University. Nina Tannenwald is Director of the International Relations Program at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies and a Senior Lecturer in Political Science. Her research focuses on the role of international institutions, norms and ideas in global security issues, efforts to control weapons of mass destruction, and human rights and the laws of war. Her book, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945, was awarded the 2009 Lepgold Prize for best book in international relations. Her current research projects include targeted killing, the future of the nuclear normative order, and the effectiveness of the laws of war. In 2012-2013 she served as a Franklin Fellow in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation in the U.S. State Department. She holds a master’s degree from the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs and a Ph.D. in international relations from Cornell University.

Jon Wolfsthal, Director of the Nuclear Crisis Group and Senior Advisor to Global Zero

Jon Wolfsthal is a non-resident fellow at the Managing the Atom Project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. From 2014-17, Wolfsthal was Special Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs and senior director at the National Security Council for arms control and nonproliferation. He also served as Special Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden for nuclear security and nonproliferation and as a director for nonproliferation on the National Security Council from 2009-2012. During his time in Government, he helped negotiate and secure the ratification of the New START arms reduction agreement with the Russian Federation and helped support the development of nuclear policy, including through the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. He was previously a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and deputy director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

Lynn Rusten, Vice President of the Global Nuclear Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative

Before joining the Nuclear Threat Initiative in 2017, Lynn Rusten served as the senior director for arms control and nonproliferation on the White House National Security Council staff and held positions at the Department of State including chief of staff for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and senior advisor in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC), where she led the interagency backstopping process supporting the negotiation and ratification of the New START Treaty. In 2009, Rusten was a consultant at NTI. From 2003-2008, she was a senior professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, handling a wide range of foreign and defense policy issues. She previously served in a variety of positions in the Department of State and at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder/Senior Associate at The Stimson Center

Michael Krepon co-founded the Stimson Center in 1989. He served as Stimson’s President and CEO until 2000, and continues to direct Stimson’s programming on nuclear and space issues. He was appointed the University of Virginia’s Diplomat Scholar, where he taught from 2001-2010. He is the author and editor of twenty-one books, most recently The Lure and Pitfalls of MIRVs: From the First to the Second Nuclear Age.  He worked previously at the Carnegie Endowment, the State Department’s Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Carter Administration, and on Capitol Hill. He received the Carnegie Endowment’s Thérèse Delpech Memorial Award in 2015 for lifetime achievement in non-governmental work to reduce nuclear dangers. 

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