As Russia and the United States modernize their nuclear forces and introduce a growing number of digital components, the surface for possible cyberattacks by an adversary and, thus the risk of nuclear escalation increases. Although the United States and Russia are at odds in numerous arenas, there has historically been political will for cooperation on reducing cyber threats to nuclear forces.
Washington and Moscow should promote discussions on nuclear doctrines taking into account the implications of cyber operations among the P5. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States should jointly acknowledge the risks at the cyber-nuclear nexus. The authors further recommend launching bilateral consultations for the United States and RUssia to gain a better understanding of the specific escalation mechanisms and enable decision-makers to exercise restraint in cyber operations. They should start by outlining and jointly evaluating existing internal risk assessment procedures for cyber operations. Lastly, Wahington and Moscow should move from a Launch Under Attack (LUA) to a Decide Under Attack (DUA) launch posture, given the compounded risk of accidental escalation from cyber vulnerabilities of nuclear command, control, communications and intelligence (NC3I) and kinetic vulnerability of silo-based missiles.