Part of Defense

Strengthening Deterrence

Improvements in adversaries’ conventional and nuclear capabilities are shifting the balance of power and eroding strategic stability. These concurrent improvements combine to create more complex challenges that further stress existing deterrence concepts. The CNAS Defense Program aims to explore options to strengthen deterrence and prevent escalation through the following projects:

Nuclear Deterrence and Escalation Management

Great power competition among nuclear-armed powers has called into question the assumption that nuclear weapons will not be used in combat. This line of effort considers what is needed to enhance deterrence against multiple nuclear armed adversaries, manage escalation in the context of a conventional conflict, and how to mitigate risk.

Improving Posture

The U.S. military posture—its forces, bases, and activities—not only enables rapid responses to crises but is also critical for extended deterrence. Yet a smaller American force struggles to meet the global demands for presence, while adversaries’ growing long-range precision strike capabilities hold U.S. bases and forces at risk. This line of effort seeks develop concepts to better manage the limited pool of American troops and their footprint overseas, while enhancing their survivability and ability to project power to strengthen deterrence by denial.

Enhancing Cooperation with Allies and Partners

The United States will need to work with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and beyond to meet the current and future challenges posed by China and Russia. However, there are significant barriers to greater strategic and operational integration with America’s allies and partners. This line of effort identifies how the United States can improve integration to strengthen deterrence in priority regions.

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