This post is a brief summary of a proposed Nuclear Off-Ramp Toolkit and Framework put forward by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC).
- The Toolkit aims to “avert nuclear weapons use during a time of tensions or conflict”
- It will assist policy practitioners in identifying, planning, and implementing ‘nuclear off-ramps’ (pathways to nuclear de-escalation).
- It will learn from previous cases of nuclear de-escalation.
- It will be disseminated worldwide
- The proposal just won a prize for innovation but has not yet secured funding
These are not my ideas, but a summary of the ideas put forward in an application BASIC made to the Clearer Thinking Regrants program. They are still actively looking for funding. You can read the full application here.
- All quotes come from the full application document.
- For ease of reading I use the future tense when writing about the Toolkit, although given that the project is not yet funded, the future conditional may be more appropriate.
- This summary is published with the consent and assistance of Rishi Paul, the application’s primary author
The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) is “an independent think tank promoting dialogue to advance global security”, with a focus on nuclear security. It is “developing new approaches to overcome states’ dependency on the doctrine of nuclear deterrence”.
BASIC would like to ensure that international disputes never escalate into nuclear conflict:
“Given the increasing frequency of clashes between nuclear possessor states, the critical need for off-ramps, as a mechanism to de-escalate from the nuclear option, whilst also not giving into aggression, is a complex objective and challenge that is mission critical to planetary survival.”
The proposal may be of interest to EAs concerned with x-risk because:
- Nothing like the “Nuclear Off-Ramp Toolkit and Framework” exists right now
- It could plausibly reduce the risk of a large-scale nuclear conflict
- Some readers may want to assist/fund the project (funding has been difficult to obtain since MacArthur left the nuclear sector)
- If the project does not go ahead, someone else could make something similar
What is it?
The Nuclear Off-Ramp Toolkit and Framework is designed to “avert nuclear weapons use during a time of tensions or conflict” by giving state officials a clear framework for implementing de-escalation.
It is hoped that:
- Nuclear-armed states will embed it into their special operating procedures around crisis management.
- This will help defuse crises that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.
The Toolkit is designed for use across a range of geopolitical contexts and adversarial nuclear relationships.
The application identifies two key ingredients of an effective off-ramp strategy, although it is likely that more will be identified in the research phase:
- Shift perceptions - create a “shared understanding of what is at stake” in a nuclear conflict
- A “golden bridge” - a way for parties to back down without losing face
Building the Toolkit
BASIC provides a 2-year plan for developing the Toolkit and Framework.
- BASIC will conduct “desk and field research” and interviews with “academics, policy experts, and practitioners” in order to “extract the core ingredients and conditions that previously enabled de-escalation” in 7 past crises
- They will convene a council of experts to provide feedback and suggestions
- Basic will “invite a select group of officials and experts from each of the seven nuclear possessor states and NATO” to a roundtable event.
- The Framework will be stress-tested in two crisis simulations
The Toolkit will be shared with governments and NGOs around the world. BASIC has used its network of relationships with NGO communities and government officials to determine which states are open to cooperating with the project.
- NATO will be the first to get a briefing on the Toolkit and Framework
- France, UK and USA will go next
- China will get a briefing
- BASIC is “unable to engage” with Russia due to the Ukraine war
- BASIC have not yet approached India and Pakistan
- North Korea and Israel are not involved
BASIC has found that “a substantial portion of our reports and wider publications reach state ministries and officials in both nuclear, and non-possessor states alike”, so it seems likely that all nuclear-armed states will gain access to the toolkit and framework.
In November 2022 the proposal won the GCSP Prize for Innovation in Global Security. The project has not yet secured funding.