Abstract: Once limited by concerns about its technological feasibility, affordability and destabilizing potential, today, missile defense is becoming a multinational enterprise deployed on a global scale. The 21st century renaissance of missile defense technology has been powered by the belief that the capability to defend against ballistic missiles will reduce nuclear risks in the post-cold-war era. The assumptions that underpin this conclusion are challenged by a shift in the international security environment – the re-emergence of Russia, a major nuclear power, as a regional threat to the United States and its European allies. Both Cold War and more recent scholarship cannot fully explain contemporary dynamics. I will provide an overview of the current U.S., NATO and Russian missile defense programs and discuss their strategic, operational and technical dimensions. I will explain why we need a new understanding of the relationship between missile defense and nuclear weapons in the current strategic environment.
About the Speaker: Ivanka Barzashka is a MacArthur Nuclear Security Fellow at CISAC. Her research focuses on how ballistic missile defense (BMD) affects nuclear risks in the changing strategic environment. She is concurrently a researcher at the Department of War Studies of King’s College London (KCL). As a visiting scholar at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Barzashka examined options for Bulgarian active participation in NATO’s BMD system, for which she did fieldwork at NATO’s Joint Forces Training Center in Poland. She also assessed technical options for BMD cooperation between NATO and Russia in collaboration with American, European and Russian scientists. Barzashka continued that project at the Centre for Science and Security Studies at KCL, where she developed a physics-based model for assessing BMD effectiveness for policy applications.