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9 Components of the Metaverse of Military Deterrence in the 21st Century


According to S. Сimbala, L. Korb

The first component of the new metaverse of deterrence is the growing threat to the cyber security of states and the possibility of cyber war. Cyber warfare between state and non-state actors is already a serious challenge to international security. In the case of a nuclear deterrent, a nuclear first strike is likely to be preceded by cyber attacks on the enemy's early warning, command and response systems to create confusion or paralysis that could delay or prevent an effective response.

Secondly, the importance of the military use of outer space will sharply increase. Both Russia and China have tested rendezvous satellites in various orbits. The US is also taking steps to make orbital platforms more resilient, for example by launching many small satellites in critical orbits and equipping the satellites with protective features (including stealth and maneuverability).

The third component of the new metaverse for deterrence is artificial intelligence (AI). Some even compare the advent of AI to the discovery of electricity and see it as a new opportunity for warfare. Smart machines can drive decision making according to pre-planned options and pre-set expectations for outcomes.

Fourth, the development of hypersonic weapons, including nuclear warhead delivery systems, should pose serious challenges to deterrence and defense planners. An arms race in the deployment of hypersonic weapons could affect conventional deterrence as well.

The fifth component of the new metaverse of deterrence is the growing capability of missile and air defense. Future missile defenses based on new technologies or platforms, including space-based systems, may provide additional defenses against ballistic missile attacks.

Sixth, the importance of drones is growing. Ukraine's ability to strike Russian military targets hundreds of kilometers from Russia's borders with relatively primitive drones has been a game-changer. As drones become more sophisticated and intelligent, their appeal to major powers for deterrence and defense will only grow.

The seventh component of this new metaverse is the growing possibility of conventional war fought in a nuclear context. As more states acquire nuclear weapons and improve their fourth-generation conventional capabilities, there is a growing danger that both nuclear and conventional military options will be seen as points on a single continuum rather than separate packages of options.

The eighth component is China's apparent determination to join the US and Russia as a nuclear superpower. The Department of Defense report noted that China "will likely deploy about 1,500 warheads by 2035" and is improving its military capability for conventional warfare as well as nuclear deterrence across the board.

Ninth, the challenges to deterrence do not only arise outside states. Contemporary democracies, including the United States and its European allies, also face challenges in their domestic politics and societies that affect, at least indirectly, their ability to maintain military power and deterrence.


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