Eryn MacDonald

Analyst

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Ms. MacDonald received her MA in International Relations and Comparative Politics from Cornell University in 2009, specializing in China. Before coming to UCS in 2011 she worked at the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program, and was an instructor at Endicott College teaching courses on international relations. Areas of expertise: Nuclear weapons complex, China

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Eryn's Latest Posts

Is the United States Planning to Resume Nuclear Testing?

Divider was the last U.S. nuclear test conducted in 1992 at the Nevada test site. B. Ebbesen/Wikipedia.

 

After almost thirty years, the US is suddenly contemplating a return to nuclear testing. The Senate Armed Services Committee version of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act provides “no less than $10 million” to “carry out projects related to reducing the time required to execute a nuclear test if necessary.” This follows reports in May that senior Trump administration officials were considering conducting a test as a way to pressure Russia and China to engage in nuclear arms control negotiations. On June 24, the administration’s envoy for arms control told reporters that he was “unaware of any particular reason to test at this stage,” but also refused to rule out the possibility, asking “why would we?”

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The Last Remaining Nuclear Arms Control Treaty Between the U.S. and Russia Could Expire in One Year, Here’s Why That’s Dangerous

New START mandates an intensive monitoring and verification regime that provides the U.S. and Russia with vital transparency into each other’s nuclear arsenals. Photo: Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories.

One year from today, on February 5, 2021, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is scheduled to expire, leaving the United States and Russia without a single bilateral nuclear arms control agreement for the first time in nearly 50 years. This would mean the end of constraints on either country’s nuclear arsenal which, especially when combined with worsening relations between the two, could be a recipe for a new nuclear arms race. It will also end the intrusive verification measures that have provided both countries with substantial confidence in their assessments of each other’s arsenals over the past several decades.

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Iran, the United States, and Nuclear Weapons: Questions and Answers

Just a few days into the new year, 2020 began with high tensions between the United States and Iran. Kicked off by a US airstrike that killed a leading Iranian general and followed by Iranian missile strikes on bases in Iraq housing US troops, many feared that military conflict could be imminent. One question that raised particular alarm was the prospect that nuclear weapons might be involved. The situation has, fortunately, calmed down, but confusion about the relationship between Iran’s nuclear power program and its ability to build a nuclear weapon, as well as US options for using nuclear weapons against Iran, remains.

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“More Nukes” Will Not Make Anyone Safer

The New York Times found an odd way to commemorate this year’s anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings—by publishing on August 9 an opinion piece by columnist Bret Stephens titled “The U.S. Needs More Nukes.” Matt Korda has a nice article about it in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. I wanted to add a few comments of my own. Read more >

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The House is Setting a New, More Rational Direction for US Nuclear Policy

The House today began debating its version of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress’ annual effort to oversee US security policy and set defense program funding levels. What’s different this year is the bill signals a new, much-needed change in direction for US nuclear weapons policy, one that would reduce the nuclear threat and cut some spending on these weapons.

The House bill stands in stark contrast with the version the Senate passed easily in late June, which would fully fund the Trump administration’s nuclear programs and in some cases even increase funding. We support passage of the House version of the NDAA; if its version becomes law, it will be a victory not only for US security, but also for common sense. Read more >

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