Panel: York Festival of Ideas

Dr. Beyza Unal, a Turkish member of The Middle East Next Generation of Arms Control Specialist Network (MENACS), participated on June 7, 2016 in the opening night of the York Festival of Ideas panel. The event started with the doomsday clock theme: “Three Minutes to Midnight.” The event featured, along with Dr. Unal, Sivan Kartha, a member of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and Oliver Morton, Briefing Editor of The Economist.

Dr. Beyza Unal pictured on the right. Photo credit: Ian Martindale, Festival of Ideas.

Dr. Beyza Unal, Research Fellow at Chatham House, discussed contemporary risks of nuclear confrontation. Dr. Unal argued that today the risk of nuclear confrontation is as high as during the Cold War; she focused on five key challenges in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament contributing to the risk of nuclear confrontation:

(a) increased level of high-risk incidents between Russia and NATO member states (e.g. Turkey shutting down a Russian plane, Russia using nuclear tipped cruise missiles from Caspian Sea to hit targets in Syria, increased military activity in the Baltic Sea, etc.),

(b) cyber security vulnerabilities that increase risks of misperception and decrease the threshold during conflict,

(c) The growing interest of terrorist groups, organized crime groups, saboteurs and lone-actors to acquire fissile materials, and the problem of insider threat in nuclear facilities,

(d) increased nuclear proliferation motive from North Korea,

(e) growing discontent from Middle Eastern states such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel, with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran; along with domestic challenges, particularly in Iran and the United States in sustaining the nuclear deal (e.g. upcoming elections, legislation in Congress, denying Iranian visas to Congressmen)

In the second session, Professor Kate Prickett, chair of the panel, conducted conversation among the three speakers and the event concluded with questions from the audience.

Cover image courtesy of Ian Martindale, Festival of Ideas.