An increasingly dangerous ‘second nuclear age’ is threatening the survival of humankind as geopolitical competition increases between established nuclear powers, unstable ‘rogue states’ and transnational terrorist groups seek nuclear arms, and an emerging technological arms race breaks out. In this context nuclear weapons look set to remain a permanent feature of the international strategic landscape, making it critical that developments undermining nuclear deterrence and strategic stability are interrogated. This chapter does this in four stages. First, it outlines the evolution of nuclear deterrence theory during the Cold War, and how changes after the Cold War led to a reconceptualization of deterrence theory and strategy by the United States. Second, it shows that a raft of emerging technologies, including ballistic missiles defenses, cyber technologies, Artificial Intelligence and social media, are undermining the foundations of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability. Third, it explains why contemporary international politics is not conducive to the nuclear disarmament agenda, as great power competition escalates between the U.S. and China, and U.S. and Russia. It concludes by asserting that the arms control regime must be reconfigured to address the most destabilising features of the contemporary security environment.
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