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Event | 10 April 2024

‘Technological Complexity and Risk Reduction: A Guardrails and checklist framework for EDTs in nuclear weapons decision-making’.

On 10th-11th April 2024, the European Leadership Network (ELN) convened a group of diverse experts for a workshop at the Auswärtiges Amt (German Federal Foreign Office).

The purpose of this workshop was to consider the core ingredients of a guardrails and checklist framework that will help policymakers anticipate and address challenges arising from Emerging and Disruptive Technologies (EDTs) and their aggregate effects on nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) and nuclear weapons decision-making.

This workshop is one of the three strands of a project funded by the German Federal Foreign Office titled ‘Simulating Technological Complexity & Advancing Risk Reduction’. The project’s aim is to address the technological complexity of EDTs operating in aggregate on NC3 and nuclear weapons decision-making. This aim is distinct from most of the existing research that mostly focuses on examining the effects of individual technologies on strategic stability. The need for this approach reflects growing concern that in the intermediate future (5-10 years), the strategic landscape will evolve, leading to the combined employment of EDTs during crises or conflicts, thereby heightening the risk of nuclear weapons use.

In an earlier iteration of the project, the ELN identified several key EDTs that have the potential to affect decision-making in a nuclear crisis. Building on insights from a workshop held last November where inputs were provided to formulate an initial list of guardrails and checklist elements, participants at this workshop played a key role in refining the framework and providing expert peer review.

The first day of the workshop was dedicated to considering the previously identified list of guardrails. The guardrails are a set of best practices, use cases for certain technologies, and do’s and don’ts for nuclear decision-makers and operators. The guardrails framework is designed as a risk reduction tool that can be used as the basis for discussions with P3 decision-makers. Participants were asked to consider whether the proposed guardrails adequately address the identified risks of EDTs on NC3 systems, whether any elements should be omitted, and if any modifications were required.

The second day of the workshop focused on interrogating the checklist framework. The checklist is intended for engaging nations less inclined to adopt risk mitigation or guardrail measures, enabling independent evaluations of nuclear powers and planners and their NC3 systems Once again, participants were asked to consider whether the proposed checklists adequately address the identified risks of EDTs on NC3 systems, whether any elements should be omitted, and if any modifications were required.

To conclude the event, participants were joined for a guest keynote speech by Merle Spellerberg, Member of the German Parliament for Alliance 90 / The Greens, Parliamentary Parties Rapporteur on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and Deputy Spokesperson for Foreign Policy.


In her address, Merle Spellerberg spoke about how parliamentary work on nuclear risk reduction becomes more complex as technology advances. She highlighted that laws and policies are falling behind the rapid rate of technological development. She thanked the ELN and others who are working on understanding the technological complexity in the context of nuclear weapons decision-making, noting that politicians do not necessarily have a complete understanding of the latest developments of EDTs and they need to draw upon independent and up-to-date analysis. With this expertise, Germany could take on the role of an honest broker to promote the dialogue on arms control and contribute its own ideas – especially in current times of crisis.

As this project progresses, the ELN will be sharing further information on guardrails and checklist framework.