Difficult Conversations: Public panel to tackle topic of nuclear conflict
A leading international relations expert has warned of the danger of ‘alarmism’ around nuclear weapons ahead of a public panel discussion.
Andrew Futter, Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester, will join international experts and academic researchers at the latest instalment of Leicester’s Difficult Conversations series, in celebration of the University’s Centenary year.
The free event, to be hosted at the University of Leicester Business School (ULSB)’s newly redeveloped Brookfield campus on Thursday 5 May 2022 (6.00pm to 8.00pm), to discuss the current state of the world’s nuclear stockpiles, and the potential courses of action which would reduce the risk of a devastating nuclear conflict.
While stockpiles are much reduced from the Cold War peak of up to 70,000 nuclear weapons, the world’s two biggest nuclear superpowers – the USA and Russia – are estimated to hold between 4,500 and 5,000 such weapons in 2022.
Panellists for the discussion, followed by a public Q&A, include;
- Professor Matthew Bolton, humanitarian and author of Political Minefields: The Struggle Against Automated Killing, Associate Professor of Political Science at Pace University, New York
- Professor Andrew Futter, international politics expert at the University of Leicester and lead for the European Research Council-funded Third Nuclear Age project
- Dr Cameron Hunter, Research Associate in Nuclear Politics within Leicester’s School of History, Politics and International Relations
- Marion Messmer, co-director of independent think tank BASIC and expert in multilateral arms control and disarmament
- and Dr Olamide Samuel, Research Associate in Nuclear Politics at the University of Leicester and former lead for the global #FreezeWeapons campaign
The potential for nuclear conflict has been a hot topic in recent weeks, with conflict in Ukraine leading Russian President Vladimir Putin to announce a move to place his nuclear forces on ‘special alert’.
Professor Futter said: “A lot of commentators and media outlets talk about nuclear weapons with a surface-level understanding of what’s at play – how many nuclear weapons states have, what the UK could do if we were under attack – but it’s important that there’s a proper understanding of the concepts at play beyond the obvious alarmism.
“That’s not to say we shouldn’t be worried. It’s extremely worrying to hear statements like Putin’s about nuclear weapons, but a lot of the coverage has been a throwback to the 1980s in terms of alarmism.
“It’s important that we draw attention at all levels of society to the threats posed by nuclear weapons. These things didn’t disappear 30 years ago with the end of the Cold War: they could still be used whether deliberately or by accident, and so this is a topic that we should all care about.”
Marion Messmer, co-director of independent think tank BASIC, said: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has further increased the risk of nuclear escalation in Europe. It is now more important than ever that we develop ways to reduce nuclear risks, strengthen arms control and advance disarmament.”
Dr Olamide Samuel, whose research focuses on multilateral arms control, diplomacy and nuclear energy, added: “I have been quite surprised by how we have approached many aspects of the Ukrainian conflict. The media has become saturated with ‘hot takes’ about the potential for nuclear conflict, and what such a conflict might actually entail.
“It is important that we shed light on the current nuclear dimensions of this conflict, putting them into adequate context in a manner that helps us to combat alarmism. I also believe that we should combat the sudden amnesia of western media which tends to portray much of what we have seen as ‘unprecedented’. It is time to have a difficult conversation which reflects upon the choices we, as an international community, have made that have led us into this current crisis.”
Difficult Conversations is hosted by Gary Dixon, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the University’s Council, and facilitated by Turi King, Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics, and co-presenter with Stacey Dooley of BBC Two’s DNA Family Secrets.
As well as celebrating 100 years of world-changing research at the University of Leicester, the series also seeks to challenge perceptions on certain topics and encourage members of the public to consider ‘difficult’ questions which impact us all.
Difficult Conversations: Fingers Off the Button is given special significance as the University marks a Century since its foundation as a living memorial to the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland in response to the first truly global conflict: the First World War.
While the event is free to attend, guests are encouraged to book their place through Eventbrite. Parking is available on site.
Explore the University of Leicester’s Centenary celebrations, Our 100 and more about our story so far at le.ac.uk/centenary.