Astronauts and astronomers need better space governance

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, News, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

On November 15, 2021, seven astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) were ordered to take shelter because of the possibility of catastrophic collisions as the station passed through a cloud of debris. The astronauts remained in lifeboats while the ISS passed through the cloud multiple times.

The AI-enhanced kill chain

Branka Marijan Analysis and Commentary, Emerging Technologies, Featured, News, Ploughshares Monitor

Military research and development in recent years have focused on artificial intelligence (AI) tools that gather and analyze data quickly. Combined with improved sensors, they make possible faster and seemingly more accurate targeting of enemy positions. Now this R&D is being operationalized. Last September, according to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, the United States Air Force, for the first time, used AI to help to identify a target or targets in “a live operational kill chain.”

Challenging times

Cesar Jaramillo Analysis and Commentary, Featured, News, Ploughshares Monitor

If we set to one side the COVID-19 pandemic, the two most formidable existential threats are environmental degradation and the existence of nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons. Both could destroy human civilization and irreparably damage the ecosystem. Both are also the products of human decisions and actions; addressing the threat and containing the damage is now the responsibility of all humanity.

Whatever happens in Ukraine, keep nuclear weapons out

Cesar Jaramillo Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Nuclear Weapons

On the second day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin warned the West of “consequences greater than you have faced in history” for any interference. Many observers saw a troubling, if veiled, reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. By day four, any lingering ambiguity about Putin’s willingness to invoke nuclear weapons dissipated: he ordered Russian nuclear forces to be placed on high alert and broadcast the decision for the world to see.

Ukraine crisis an opportunity to rethink the future of transatlantic security

Cesar Jaramillo Analysis and Commentary, Featured

The Ukraine crisis has been characterized by many, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, as a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. But such an oversimplification serves no one—not the West, not Russia, not those attempting to de-escalate. The present struggle is fundamentally about the nature and implications of the security arrangements that have dominated the globe since the end of the Cold War.

The Sputnik moment re-examined

Jessica West Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor, Space Security

A U.S. military official recently described a missile test conducted by China in August as “very close to a Sputnik moment.” It seems that the test involved the launch of a re-entry vehicle capable of entering orbit and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere with its payload intact; this primary vehicle also carried a hypersonic glide vehicle that was released following re-entry.

Q&A: Harnessing the power of story

Wendy Stocker Analysis and Commentary, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor

Virtually every piece of text that appears on the Ploughshares website, in mailings to potential and continuing supporters, and in hard-copy publications, passes through Tasneem’s hands. She lays out text; adds illustrations that add punch to words; and turns raw data into arresting diagrams, tables, and maps. Her work is critical to getting our message out clearly to an audience that ranges from legislators to civil society to subject experts and “regular” citizens. We believe that she is someone that our supporters need to know better.

Government support for the arms industry

Kelsey Gallagher Analysis and Commentary, Conventional Weapons, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor

For more than half a century, Canadian arms manufacturers have been selling weapons to foreign states. Much of this economic activity is the direct result of government assistance. From brokering contracts to staffing international arms fairs, the Canadian government goes to bat for Canadian weapons manufacturers.

Unacceptable risk and autonomous weapons

Branka Marijan Analysis and Commentary, Emerging Technologies, Featured, Ploughshares Monitor

At first glance, it might appear that seven years of international discussions on autonomous weapons have had few concrete results. At the time of writing, the third session of the 2021 United Nations (UN) Group of Governmental Experts on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) was scheduled to take place in early December in Geneva, Switzerland. The most that is expected from these meetings is a proposal to continue talking.