Skip to main content

Please note: this event has passed

This research project investigates how the United States went from denying to embracing the applicability of the laws of armed conflict (LOAC) to nuclear doctrine and plans. It traces the gradual legalization of nuclear guidance and plans in the United States and argues that, in this process, the U.S. nuclear posture and the United States’ interpretation of the principles of distinction and proportionality evolved hand in hand. U.S. nuclear and legal doctrine are co-constituted. The move to law in U.S. nuclear doctrine is, however, unfinished as the influence of nuclear doctrine on interpretations of LOAC accounts for controversial interpretive positions which keep nuclear targets on the table that challenge LOAC. We propose concrete shifts in how the United States applies distinction and proportionality to nuclear weapons, arguing that rather than weakening deterrence, as often feared, LOAC can help stabilise it.

Speaker: Professor Janina Dill

Janina Dill is the Dame Louise Richardson Chair in Global Security at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, a Professorial Fellow of Trinity College Oxford, and Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict (ELAC). Her research concerns the role of law and morality in war. She develops legal and philosophical theories about how international law can be an instrument of morality in war, albeit an imperfect one. She also studies how normative considerations shape public opinion on the use of force and the attitudes of conflict-affected populations. In 2021, she won a Philip Leverhulme Prize for work on the moral psychology of war. She currently co-convenes (with Scott Sagan) a research project on the "Law and Ethics of Nuclear Deterrence," which is part of the Research Network on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence, funded by the MacArthur Foundation. She also works on a multi-year study on cumulative civilian harm in war funded by a joint grant from the UKRI and the National Science Foundation.

Chair: Dr Maria Varaki

Dr Maria Varaki is a Lecturer in International Law at the War Studies Department, King's College London, and co-director of the War Crimes Research Group. Before moving to London, she has held posts at the Erik Castren Institute of International Law and Human Rights in Helsinki, Kadir Has University in Istanbul, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the iCourts Centre at the University of Copenhagen. Additionally, she has worked for the OHCHR in Geneva, the UNHCR in New York and the Legal Advisory section of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Since November 2017, she is a member of the ILA Committee on Human Rights in times of emergency.

At this event


Lecturer in International Law

Event details

Dockrill Room (K6.07)
King's Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS