Author Biography

Dr. Brent J. Talbot serves as a Professor of Military and Strategic Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies and recently authored “Eliminating ICBMs—as Part of a 21st Century Deterrence Strategy” in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (2018). His research deals with nuclear proliferation as well as nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence strategy. He spent summer of 2018 as a visiting scholar at the Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he formulated ideas for this paper.



Subject Area Keywords

Asymmetric warfare, Defense policy, International security, National security, Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, Security studies, Strategy, Weapons of mass destruction


The potential for hostilities in the 21st Century is not likely to be deterred by a Cold War deterrence strategy. And while nuclear deterrence remains important, regional powers armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and accompanying long-range delivery capabilities are a rising concern. New technological breakthroughs in the space, cyber, and unforeseen realms could also provide asymmetric means of undermining deterrence. Moreover, the effort to achieve strategic stability in this day and age has become increasingly complicated in light of the changing relationship among the great powers. Today’s world has become one of “security trilemmas.” Actions one state takes to defend against another can, in-turn, make a third state feel insecure. There is great need for both nuclear diversity (theater and low-yield weapons) and increased conventional capabilities in the U.S. deterrent force to provide strategic stability in the decades ahead. In sum, we need a deterrence construct that both deters nuclear use by the great powers and terminates nuclear use by both regional powers and so called rogue states initiating nuclear wars on neighbors. I propose herein a policy of stratified deterrence which addresses deterrence needs at each potential level of conflict.


The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and not the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, or U.S. Government. Comments may be sent to brent.talbot@usafa.edu


The author would like to thank the Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for its assistance in providing a wealth of ideas and resources related to this project.