SPECIAL REPORT: Assessing the modernization of nuclear postures
Pandemic-Nuclear-Nexus Project

SPECIAL REPORT: Assessing the modernization of nuclear postures

The article examines the recent decisions taken by central nuclear-armed states to give expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans. The decisions reflect the increased salience of nuclear weapons in their national security strategies. It marks a reversal of the post-cold war trend toward the relative marginalization of nuclear weapons.

Political and military leaders in these countries are moving away from the goal of limiting the nuclear weapons role to the sole purpose of deterring aggression with the use of the same type of arms. Instead, they are emphasizing nuclear options to respond to conventional and even cyber-attacks. This lowering of the nuclear threshold coincides with the stagnation of the nuclear arms control. Simultaneously, the political distrust grows between Russia and the USA, NATO, and also between the United States and China.


Nuclear weapon; nuclear doctrine; no-first-use; nuclear deterrence; nuclear modernization; arms control

About the Author

Dr Petr Topychkanov (Russia) is a Senior Researcher in SIPRI’s Nuclear Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme, working on issues related to nuclear non- proliferation, disarmament, arms control and the impact of new technologies on strategic stability. Prior to joining SIPRI in 2018, he held the position of Senior Researcher at the Centre for International Security at the Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences. From 2006–17, Topychkanov was a Fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Nonproliferation Program. He received his PhD in History in 2009 from the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Moscow State University. His recent publications include The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Strategic Stability and Nuclear Risk Volume III, South Asian Perspectives (SIPRI: April 2020, editor and co-author).