Project Atom 2023

A Competitive Strategies Approach for U.S. Nuclear Posture through 2035

How can the United States deter two peer competitors? Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated Putin’s willingness to rely on nuclear threats to pursue regional ambitions. China’s expanding and increasingly diverse nuclear arsenal suggests that it, too, has ambitions that may rely on nuclear threats. U.S. political and military leaders need to determine the nation’s strategy to deter and, if necessary (and possible), defeat two nuclear peers simultaneously or in sequence. In doing so, leadership must also consider the implications of this strategy for nuclear force posture, nuclear modernization, extended deterrence and assurance, and arms control and disarmament strategy and commitments. To assist in addressing these challenges for U.S. strategy, the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) invited a group of experts to develop competing strategies for deterring two peer competitors through 2035.

This publication was made possible by generous support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Director, Project on Nuclear Issues and Senior Fellow, International Security Program
Kelsey Hartigan
Deputy Director, Project on Nuclear Issues and Senior Fellow, International Security Program
Lachlan MacKenzie
Program Coordinator and Research Assistant, Project on Nuclear Issues
Robert Soofer

Robert Soofer

Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council
Tom Karako
Senior Fellow, International Security Program and Director, Missile Defense Project

Oriana Skylar Mastro

Center Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
Franklin Miller
Senior Adviser (Non-resident), International Security Program

Leonor Tomero

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense

Jon Wolfsthal

Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security