Towards a Common, Peaceful and Safe Future: Nineteen Policy Recommendations for the Future of Great Power Arms Control and Strategic Stability

Publication Date

April 1, 2021

Page Number


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This working group of Chinese, European, Russian, and US experts proposes pathways to manage competition, re-learning Cold War lessons, improving crisis communication, maximizing decision-making time in an escalating crisis, clarifying risks of hypersonic weapons, norms for cyber-competition.

According to the initiative, “Strategic stability describes a state of affairs that aims to minimize all types of risks of deterrence failure.” In this sense, strategic stability is not only relevant in the nuclear arena but also in:

  • space,
  • cyber and
  • advanced offensive and defensive conventional weapon systems.

Regional perspectives and priorities

United States

Conventional conflict with Russia or China could escalate to a nuclear dimension. Centred mainly around the idea of escalation between major nuclear powers.


The possibility to conduct a broad kind of strategic attacks. For example, long conventional strikes large scale cyberattacks. Moreover, these capabilities are not regulated with restraints or norms about their use, like nuclear weapons. Poor architecture on arms control and low political investment into adapting and adjusting current frameworks to new realities.

United Kingdom

Worried about preconditions to strategic stability such as survivable second strike and a stable deterrence relationship. Arms control can be a critical tool for strengthening strategic stability and offer reference regarding technological innovation. Furthermore, the purpose of this must be to avoid crisis escalation and to establish new communication channels.


Germany sees itself as a reliable convener between great powers to guarantee strategic stability. Indeed, seen as essential to avoid arms racing and promote the mutual interest to cooperate in the military realm and invest resources in arms control schemes.


An inadvertent military clash between Russia and NATO can escalate into nuclear war due to a first political confrontation. A deliberate attempt from the United States to develop strategic superiority via first-strike weapons and their deployment in Russian proximities.The US apparently intends to undermine Russia’s mutually assured destruction by achieving strategic superiority.


An American interest to pursue and achieve nuclear primacy, seeking to undermine China’s nuclear second-strike capabilities. According to Pekin, a competitive strategic intention, along with the development of powerful new military technologies, poses a significant threat.

The 19 policy recommendations are organized in clusters to exemplify the scope of each solution proposed.:

General Principles

  1. A willingness to manage competition is a precondition for stability
  2. Re-learn the lessons of the Cold War
  3. Focus on what is possible
  4. Prioritize substance over format with regard to asymmetries in capabilities
  5. Respect the interests of non-nuclear allies, including other countries’ allies
  6. Europe should find its own voice in security talks

Low Hanging-Fruit

  1. Engage in arms control “socialization”
  2. Deepen existing exchanges and improve crisis communication among the P5
  3. Pursue joint political declarations
  4. Train and recruit more arms control experts
  5. Identify lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

More Ambitious Goals

  1. Consider mixing systems as a model for trilateral arms control
  2. Try to reconcile divergent interests regarding missile defenses
  3. Encourage measures to maximize decision-making time
  4. Reject nuclear compellence
  5. Address the risk of entanglement
  6. Clarify the risks introduced by hypersonic weapons for strategic stability
  7. Engage in a dialogue on principles of AI use in military weapon systems
  8. Establish norms for cyber competition in the nuclear domain

Find the full report here.

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