During the Trump administration, relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated significantly, leading to the death of major arms control treaties, escalating cyberattacks, and retaliatory measures. On June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of his first foreign trip as U.S. President, Joe Biden met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin to revive strategic stability talks. The meeting, which concluded with a joint presidential statement that calls for “ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war,” could mark the beginning of a new era of arms control diplomacy.
With a global pandemic and a still undecided U.S. election forming a dramatic backdrop, on November 6, the German Foreign Office hosted a virtual conference, “Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control.” This event, combined with an experts’ preparatory workshop on November 5, were used to shine a light on the transformational capabilities of new technologies on both “old” issues of arms control, such as nuclear weapons, and new ones, including autonomous weapons and drone swarms.