In this essay, Paul Bracken analyzes the big structures and large processes of nuclear multipolarity. A framework for analyzing this global system is developed, one made up of national command and control plus the "system dynamics" of their interlinked behavior. The paper underscores how advanced technologies — cyberwar, drones, and anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) — affects NC3. The structures include the national command and control of at least eighteen countries, to include nine nuclear weapon states, "shared" weapons in NATO, missile defense, and key intelligence nodes in select countries. Processes include the delegated flow of launch authority, innovation, and digitization in many forms.
The paper specifically assesses the two big structures that are forming in Europe and Asia. NATO is attempting to modernize its nuclear deterrent for the new realities of European security. In Asia, a pentapolar structure of major powers (United States, Russia, China, India, and Japan) has growing nuclear interactions: in missile defense, cyber, space, and in upsetting the U.S.–Russia strategic balance. The critical importance of information transfer for bolstering a coalition member's ability to target its nuclear forces is analyzed as an example of the "new" dynamics of multipolarity.