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Wednesday April 21st  4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Rethinking U.S. and International Nuclear Policies: Are Current Practices Including Threats of Nuclear Strikes Legal and Morally Justified?

Public Keynote Panel Moderated by Professor Claire Finkelstein
Panelists: Brigadier General R. Patrick Huston, Congressman Adam Smith, Dr. John Harvey and Dr. Amy Nelson

This keynote event brings together senior level experts to discuss nuclear weaponry and policy concerns in light of sovereign leaders’ rhetoric, the efficacy of current Law of War principles to constrain such communications, and the need to rethink the rule of law’s role for establishing enforceable boundaries for states and non-state actors who issue nuclear weaponry-related threats.

Those committed to preventing, mitigating, and resolving the most violent of conflicts have traditionally leveraged international cooperation based on adherence to the rule of law. But recent examples in conflict escalation (both rhetorical and actual) have left many to wonder what role international law plays in regulating the use of nuclear weapons. Adding to this tension is the difficulty of determining the legality of nuclear threats. Senior-level nuclear policy experts will answer the questions:

  • Do the traditional methods of analyzing a State’s compliance with Articles 2(4) and 51 of the U.N. Charter apply in the context of threat-making when those threats explicitly or implicitly implicate the use of nuclear weapons?
  • Does the inherent right of self-defense include the right to use nuclear weapons?
  • Is nuclear war so different from other forms of warfare that traditional legal doctrines no longer apply, or must they be applied in substantially different ways?

    Additionally, the emergence of totalitarian regimes and non-State actors pursuing nuclear weapons complicates the strategy. Panelists will discuss their views on these questions and more:

  • What does the expanding set of complications portend for nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament?
  • Given the current state of rhetoric by leaders of nuclear sovereigns, are such goals even within the realm of possibility?
  • What roles will strategic communications and the rule of law play in de-escalating nuclear tensions?