As Bismarck once said, “The great questions of the time will not be resolved by speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood”. In case with nuclear, humanity can’t afford to let iron decide. That’s why we debate. And thanks to PIR Center, MGIMO, MEPhl, and MIIS we debate so intensely, professionally, and emotionally, as if we truly fighted for the future of the world. The III International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates were a unique experience for me to test my knowledge and demonstrate how deeply I’m committed to the nonproliferation spirit, although I had to assume a controversial position for nuclear armament of Iran. I stepped out of the box, imagined myself thinking as national officials who had a primary responsibility to decide. And I experienced how difficult it is to make the right choice. It’s also a tall order to respect your opponents when national security is at stake. But thanks to the debates I learned, grew and matured as a future member of the nonproliferation community.
The International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates are a platform for discussing key issues of nuclear nonproliferation, arms control, strategic stability, global security in general, as well as an effective tool for the formation of a new generation of IR experts.
In memory of Roland M. Timerbaev (gallery of memory).
Discussion of key issues on the global security agenda
(Debates in English)
The important role of a mentor
More about the International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates
In memory of Roland M. Timerbaev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, outstanding diplomat and mentor of PIR Center, PIR Center holds the annual International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates for students and young professionals in the field of nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament and global security. The most successful representatives of PIR Center Alumni Community, including graduates of the International Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation (MGIMO University, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), California, USA, and PIR Center), who currently work in government and research institutions in Russia and the USA, as well as in international organizations, act as moderators and mentors for debating teams.
The annual International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates are dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation, arms control, and strategic stability issues, as well as U.S.-Russian strategic relations and their role in global security. Being held in English, the Debates bring together young talents from Russia, the United States and other countries, who are ready to contribute to the discussion on strategic issues and to propose new ideas and approaches to strengthening global security.
The I International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates were held in 2020 within the framework of the anniversary XX PIR Center International School on Global Security. They were devoted to the topic: “Will the world be safer without nuclear weapons?”. Viktor S. Slipchenko, Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, took part in the Debates and reminded everyone how back in 1990, when there were no Soviet NGO at international scientific conferences, Roland Mikhailovich advocated the creation of a Russian NGO that would deal with nuclear nonproliferation. The Debates participants expressed absolutely opposite positions, argued and discussed, but the main thing is that all the debaters were united by one idea — the idea of a safe world.
The Debates is named after Roland Timerbaev, the man who made a key contribution to the development of the text of the NPT and who stood at the origins of PIR Center as an organization. Roland Mikhailovich never saw himself as a classic of nonproliferation, and his works as a nonproliferation dogma. And the best way to honor his memory is not to be dogmatic, but to argue about the issues of nuclear weapons, which were the basis of Ambassador Timerbaev’s professional life.
The topic of the II International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates, held on November 27, 2020, was the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The participants of the Debates were students of the International Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation (MGIMO University, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), California, USA, and PIR Center). The team of Mariela Langone and Davide Avenia defended the position according to which the NPT undermines the nuclear nonproliferation regime, while the team of Joseph Moses and Samuele Vasapollo stood up for the new Treaty. The Debates were attended by reputable foreign experts: Tariq Rauf, the former Head of the Verification and Security Policy Office at the IAEA, and Thomas Hajnoczi, the former Head of the Disarmament Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria. The experts positively commented on the quality of the Debates and recommended that young nonproliferation experts use more direct and less philosophical arguments in their presentations.
On November 15, 2021, PIR Center held the III International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates that combined two formats — situational analysis and role-playing game. The participants of the Debates successfully discussed country threats to the nonproliferation regime in the medium term. They presented their vision of the nuclear ambitions of Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia, acting as representatives of these countries. “Does the country need nuclear weapons, and should it seek to acquire them?”, — was the main question that debaters had to answer. In total, four tracks of Debates (in English) were held within the framework of the III International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates, each of them was dedicated to a specific country and its ambitions in the nuclear sphere. The debaters demonstrated a high level of training and erudition.
Participating in the III International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates was an incredibly worthwhile and educating experience. In preparation for the debates we had to expand our knowledge and understanding of proliferation beyond our personal beliefs; it was very rewarding to put yourself in another country’s position and better understand their perspectives on proliferation. It was amazing to see the arguments of fellow debaters, and how persuasively they argued positions that at times were contradictory to traditional proliferation ideas.
The IV International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates on the topic “Will the world be safer without nuclear weapons?” were held on June 22, 2022 within the framework of the XXI International School on Global Security. In the Debates participated only representatives of foreign countries — government officials, students and researchers. Among them: Aziz Kyshtobaev, Deputy Director of the Consular Service Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, and Nargiza Umarova, Chief Specialist of the Information and Analytical Center under the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan (Affirmative Team) and Mehman Maharramov, postgradute student of St. Petersburg University, Azerbaijan, and Aphrodite Ramos, student of M.A. Program Modern Journalism of the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), an intern at the Public Relations Development Company (KROS), North Macedonia (Negative Team). Vladimir P. Kuchinov, Associate Professor of the Department of International Relations of the Institute of International Relations of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, Member of PIR Center Advisory Board, was invited as an expert in the Debates. The point of view that the world would still not be safer without nuclear weapons won the Debates.
Until the last moment, our teams did not know what position they would have to defend in the debate. Therefore, it was necessary to prepare arguments both for and against. To this end, I studied the positions of the nuclear States, read several scientific articles and the views of activists. The debate turned out to be very interactive, as all listeners were involved in the discussion of whether or not the world would be safer without nuclear weapons. It was very interesting to sit at the table competing with another team in convincing our listeners to change their original position on this issue to the opposite one
On December 4, 2022, PIR Center held the V International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates within the framework of the seminar on the results of the project Oral History of Nuclear Nonproliferation. This time the topic of the Debates was formulated as follows: “Will new technologies become a factor of strategic instability and a new arms race, or will they have a positive impact on the future of nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament and arms control?”. Vadim B. Kozyulin, PIR Center Consultant, Member of PIR Center Executive Board, Head of the Center for Global Studies & International Organizations of the Institute for Contemporary International Studies of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, acted as an expert of the Debates. Vladimir P. Kuchinov, Member of PIR Center Advisory Board, Associate Professor of the Department of International Relations, Institute of International Relations of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, participated in the Debates as an observer and also commented on the agenda. The working groups were represented by young specialists from Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Switzerland, and Japan. In general, most of the Debates participants are of the opinion that new technologies will have negative consequences for the future of nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament and arms control.
On April 17, 2023, the first track of the VI International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates took place and was devoted to the question: “Will AUKUS Weaken the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime?”. The event was organized jointly by PIR Center, Russia, and James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), USA. Among the debaters were young specialists from Russia, Japan and India mastering educational programs on nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament and global security. Affirmative Team was represented by the students of the M.A. Program Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), USA, namely Sanaa Alvira (India) and Shizuka Kuramitsu (Japan). The team was prepared by mentor Sarah Bidgood, Director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Among the debaters of the Negative Team were Evdokiia Voronkina, currently intern of PIR Center, and Ksenia Mineeva, 2nd-year of the M.A. Program Global and Regional Security and Conflict Management at Ural Federal University (UrFU). The team was mentored by Dr. Ekaterina B. Mikhaylenko, Associate Professor of UrFU. In order to enhance the educational component of the Debates, members of PIR Center Advisory Board were invited to speak as experts, in particularly, Ambassador Sergio Duarte, President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and Tariq Rauf, Former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination, Office reporting to Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Debates provided me with an opportunity to delve into the problem of the impact of AUKUS on the nuclear nonproliferation regime. The format of the Debates, which allowed me to get acquainted with the arguments for and against AUKUS, gave me a fairly complete picture of the situation and helped me form my opinion on this topical issue.
The event was held in the format of the Oxford-style debates. After both teams presented their arguments, Q&A session took place. Participants touched upon the precedent of the transfer of nuclear submarines to a nonnuclear weapons state, the impact of AUKUS on the negotiations on the conclusion of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, the problems of nuclear disarmament, the risks of expanding the trilateral Anglo-Saxon alliance, etc. Both teams successfully implemented the tasks and presented interesting arguments in favor of their positions.
On April 20, 2023, the second track of the VI International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates took place and was devoted to the question: “Should tactical nuclear weapons be used in a theater of military operations within the framework of regional conflicts?”. The 1st-year students of the M.A. Program Foreign Policy and Diplomacy of Russia from Russia and Japan took part in the debate. The Negative Team was represented by students Lilia Vladimirova and Anatoly Shchekin. The team was mentored by Daria Selezneva, a researcher at the Center for International Security at the IMEMO RAS, a graduate of the International Dual Degree M.A. Program Global Security, Nuclear Policy, and WMD Nonproliferation (MGIMO University, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), California, USA, and PIR Center). Members of the Affirmative Team were Ekaterina Vaseneva and Darina Sibul. The team was prepared by Oleg Krivolapov, a researcher at the Department of Military-Political Studies of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a graduate of the PIR Center’s XX International School on Global Security.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to gain experience as a participant in the International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates – for me it was a responsible, interesting and not the easiest task. As part of the debate, I was asked to prove a position that was not close to me – and after preparing to defend the position “for”, before the debate, which seemed to me unnatural and contrary to the basic prerequisites of humanity, I began to better understand this point of view. It seems that I could not work out the ethical, technical and historical aspects of this problem so deeply, get the opinion of experts and a mentor, and finally work in a team, without participating in the debate.
The experts of the second track of the VI International Timerbaev Nuclear Debates were Professor of MGIMO University, Founding Director of PIR Center Dr. Vladimir A. Orlov and Head of the Department of Applied Analysis of International Problems, leading researcher at the Institute of International Studies of MGIMO University Dr. Igor A. Istomin. Both experts gave their comments on the agenda at the beginning of the debate, and also commented on the arguments presented by the debating teams.