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Williams, Dr Heather

Lecturer in Defence Studies

CSSS Fellow, MacArthur Foundation grant


Contact Details


Telephone: +44 (0)207 848 7413


I am a Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department at King's College London and a CSSS Fellow, funded by the MacArthur Foundation grant. Previously I was a MacArthur Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, where I also finished my PhD in 2014. Prior to joining King's as a postdoc I was a Research Fellow at Chatham House on nuclear weapons policy and worked at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Washington, DC, where I am now an adjunct Research Staff Member. 
My current research focuses on US-Russia arms control and the impact of geostrategic shifts, domestic politics, and changes in leadership. Other policy-relevant issues I am exploring include tailoring assurance to NATO members, the status of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) amid increasing pressure for nuclear disarmament, and competing concepts of strategic stability. 
Given my policy background, I remain active in the nuclear weapons policy community, regularly engage with government, and am particularly interested in outreach and working with other mid- and early-career experts, along with the next generation interested in working on nuclear issues. My MA is in Security Policy Studies from The George Washington University, and BA is in International Relations and Russian Studies from Boston University.

Research Interests
  • Arms control and strategic stability
  • Assurance and deterrence
  • Nuclear signalling
  • U.S. defense policy
  • Russian defense policy
  • Russian strategic thinking
  • The “first image” in international relations
  • NATO nuclear policy
  • The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • Individuals in policy-making

I am a co-convenor for the Master’s in Arms Control and International Security programme. I teach on three core modules for the MA in Arms Control: 

(1) The History and Politics of Arms Control;

(2) Arms Control Verification Technologies and Concepts; and 

(3) Arms Control Case Studies. I supervise a limited number of MA students.

Publications (recent) 
Book Project

My book project, tentatively titled A Call to Arms Control: Trust in U.S.-Russia Negotiations, 1968-2010, uses a levels of analysis approach to examine the role of trust in arms control based on extensive case study research and interviews with American and Russian negotiators. It explores questions such as, who decides trust is in the national interest? Is there an optimal level of forces to facilitate arms control, such as balance between emerging offensive capabilities and missile defences? And to what extent, if at all, do individual negotiators influence arms control deals? Based on the research I am also developing articles on differing interpretations of strategic stability across cultures, and the role of individuals in policy-making. The findings include a new typology of trust and contains specific policy-relevant trends with regards to a potential future for U.S.-Russia arms control and trust-building in international relations more broadly.

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