Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers: A Stable Channel in Unstable Times

As an always-on crisis prevention mechanism, the US and Russian nuclear risk reduction centers (NRRCs) institutionalize routine and transparent communications between the governments. In their decades of operation, they have significantly contributed to their original mission of reducing inadvertent nuclear risks by facilitating confidence building measures and arms control treaties. The centers evolved to facilitate communication for new agreements, in several domains, with new partners, and on emerging challenges. The question for today is, how can the centers do more to lower nuclear risks?

This paper explores the history of NRRCs in the United States and Russia, considers their performance, and presents ideas for expanding on the NRRC concept to enhance risk reduction.

Gottemoeller and Zhukov demonstrate that the US and Russian NRRCs have fulfilled much of the promise for which they were originally established. The authors make the case that the flexibility of the NRRC model shows that it can be applied to any agreements that include a data exchange and notification component, paving the way for new diplomatic arrangements that mitigate strategic risks or prevent regional crises.



  • The US and Russian NRRCs continue proving their utility for helping avoid inadvertent nuclear escalation during this dangerous moment between the two states, even as factors that increase those risks grow more complex.
  • As a proven channel for secure, reliable, and timely communication, NRRCs can serve as a foundation for advancing multilateral risk reduction efforts.
  • NRRCs could become an essential aspect of mutual confidence-building and dialogue facilitation among the P5 if the UK, France, and China could establish their own versions of the centers.
  • Cooperation in a P5 network of NRRCs could begin with basic briefings on notification protocols, to technical briefings on upgrades to NRRC systems, and briefings on opportunities for innovation with future upgrades.
  • Working toward a P5 agreement on ballistic missile launch notifications is a good candidate for fulfilling the P5 commitment to develop risk reduction measures. Once those countries are accustomed to the routine exchange of notifications under such an agreement, it should be possible to establish a common technical platform through a NRRC agreement among all five.


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