To the Point of Failure: Identifying Failure Points for Crisis Communications Systems
Leah Walker, Alexa Wehsener
Although most states agree that the need for nuclear risk reduction is more urgent than ever, the pathways to peace are elusive. Existing use of hotlines is wrought with political and technical failures. In some cases, nuclear weapons states may not even possess direct communication lines to their nuclear adversaries or allies. Geopolitical tensions are rising and could be exacerbated if the number of states possessing nuclear weapons or those existing under nuclear security umbrellas continue to grow.
Nuclear crisis communications and other diplomatic communication systems reduce nuclear risk by increasing transparency and predictability in state actions and intentions, while combating miscommunication. Failures in those communication systems can eliminate their ability to reduce risk, and may, in fact, increase the risk of war. This report assesses operational, adversarial, accidental, and institutional failure points in existing nuclear crisis communications. These existing points of failure are cemented by the increasing complexity of today’s strategic environment and the additional risks it creates for reliable crisis communication use.
- Operational Failures
- Adversarial Failures
- Accidental Failures
- Institutional Failures