In collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS), RUSI co-hosted the 2019 Trilateral Track 2 Nuclear Dialogues. These dialogues bring together former senior officials, nuclear policy experts and government representatives from the US, France and UK to discuss nuclear deterrence, arms control and non-proliferation policy issues.
The 2019 Consensus Statement, signed by all track 2 delegates and published on 13 March 2020, can be found here. Topics discussed during the 2019 dialogues include: the future of the rules-based international nuclear order; the role of alliances; new risks and challenges for escalation and strategy; nuclear responsibility and transparency.
The project leads at RUSI and UK track II signatories have given the following quotes on the Trilateral dialogues.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers, RUSI’s Deputy Director-General, states:
The international nuclear arms control order is under severe strain, with the collapse of the INF Treaty, the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, North Korean defiance of international sanctions, and the growing possibility that the New START Treaty could expire at the start of 2021. In these troubled times, it is even more important that senior officials and experts from the US, UK and France can take part in frank and informed exchanges on these. I know of no other forum which does this with such success.
Tom Plant, Director of RUSI’s Proliferation and Nuclear Policy programme, observed that:
The 2019 Consensus Statement makes several striking recommendations – on the need for extension of New START, on the role of the Iran nuclear deal as the starting point for any new arrangement, and on the importance of reaffirming at the highest levels the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” – but perhaps most significant is its call for the UK, US and France to be more open on nuclear weapons issues. In highlighting the potential for information operations to exploit unnecessary secrecy to weaken public and international trust, and to undermine efforts to maintain stability and deterrence, it indicates a valuable and urgent area of focus for our three governments.
Peter Watkins, formerly Director General in the UK Ministry of Defence responsible for strategic defence policy, and currently an Associate Fellow with Chatham House, comments that:
At a time of growing risks to international stability and increasing pressure on the international arms control framework, it is more critical than ever to build political and public understanding of the achievements of arms control - not least the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself - and the role of credible, responsible deterrence policies. That is the essential mission of these trilateral talks.
Sir Tony Brenton, formerly the British Ambassador to Russia, and currently a Fellow at Wolfson College Cambridge, highlights that:
In the last few years North Korea has become the world's ninth nuclear armed state, Russia has announced a radical modernisation of its nuclear arsenal, the deal holding Iran back from going nuclear has collapsed, and the world's nuclear arms control regime may be on its deathbed. These are deeply worrying developments which underline the importance of the trilateral nuclear dialogue as a way of helping the three Western nuclear powers to stay in close touch on them.
Professor Sir David Omand of the War Studies Department of King’s College London states:
These trilateral discussions provide a unique opportunity to bring together those in the US, UK, and France who had long experience in maintaining responsible nuclear stewardship over many years with current officials who are carrying the responsibility today. It is important that governments, amongst all the other pressing issues facing them, recognise the importance of the nuclear policy and arms control issues that were raised in these discussions.
Tom McKane, formerly Director General for strategy in the UK Ministry of Defence, and currently a Distinguished Fellow at RUSI, outlines that:
At a time when the world felt increasingly unsafe and there are well-founded concerns about the potential for miscalculation and misunderstanding in relation to nuclear deterrence and proliferation, the Trilateral discussions promote real understanding of these important subjects.
Sam Dudin, the UK Nuclear Policy Research Fellow at RUSI, comments that:
These dialogues have called on P3 governments to do more to develop and communicate a narrative supporting their nuclear deterrence policies and nuclear arms control, as part of a genuine, substantive and well-informed debate on nuclear weapons, facilitated by greater transparency with our publics. At a time when the old architecture of nuclear arms control is collapsing, such a debate might outline where there is potential to strike a new arms control deal.