Episode 9: Sir Michael Quinlan and British Nuclear Strategy

With a serious commitment to the ‘Just War’ tradition, Sir Michael Quinlan (1930–2009), chief British nuclear strategist of the late 1970s and 1980s, helped to construct the complex edifice of the British and NATO nuclear deterrence posture.

Sir Michael was both a strategic analyst and, as a key British civil servant, a practitioner in so far as his analysis formed the British nuclear strategy. That he was a Jesuit-educated Catholic and an Oxford-educated Classicist explains much about his approach to nuclear strategy: throughout his adult life, he grappled with the nuclear paradox that peace could be the result of the mutual threat of unbearable nuclear conflagration. He sought serious debate with all and sundry, replacing secrecy with transparency and persuasion where at all possible.

Dr Tanya Ogilvie-White and Dr Kristan Stoddart join Beatrice and Paul for this week’s episode. Both Tanya and Kristan knew Sir Michael and his writings at first hand: Tanya posthumously published his correspondence under the title On Nuclear Deterrence. She is Senior Research Adviser at the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network and a member of the International Group of Eminent Persons – an initiative working to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. Previously, she was research director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the Crawford School of Public Policy (Australian National University) and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and she has held positions at several think tanks.

Dr Kristan Stoddart is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences at Swansea University. He was previously a Reader in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth, and he is the author of Losing an Empire and Finding a Role: Britain, the USA, NATO and Nuclear Weapons, 1964-70 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

The views or statements expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by RUSI employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of RUSI.


Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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Paul O’Neill

Senior Research Fellow

Military Sciences

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