Ana Alecsandru

The Role of Trust in Arms Control Negotiations: United States – Russia Strategic Nuclear Arms Control

ICCS PhD spotlight: Ana Alecsandru

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Wheeler and Professor Mark NK Saunders

Ana Alecsandru is undertaking doctoral research into the role of trust for nuclear arms control negotiations. This thesis examines trust as a multi-dimensional universal process. It presents a model for understanding the nature, significance, and consequences of employing trust as a strategic tool to create trustworthiness during nuclear arms control negotiations. 


Ana completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Bath in 2012 before being awarded a full bursary to undertake a Masters at Birmingham. In 2014, Ana was a summer intern at NATO (Brussels) in the WMD Non-Proliferation Centre. In 2016, she was a researcher in the Strategic Planning Unit in the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in New York where she focused on nuclear-related research tasks.

Before joining POLSIS and the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security (ICCS) in September 2014, Ana was the research assistant on the ‘Challenges to Trust-Building in Nuclear Worlds’ project for Prof. Nicholas Wheeler. Her Masters dissertation traced the development of empathy between John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, and his Soviet counterpart Nikita S. Khrushchev during the thirteen days of the Cuban missile crisis. In December 2013, her first Masters dissertation was awarded the Joshua Beeby Prize for the highest dissertation mark in the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Graduate School, at Birmingham.

For her doctoral research, she was awarded a 1+3 studentship by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).


  • BSc (Hons) Politics with International Relations (First Class), University of Bath
  • MA International Relations (Security Studies) (Distinction), University of Birmingham
  • MA Research Methods (Distinction) (as part of the 1+3 ESRC Award), University of Birmingham

Research interests

  • International Security
  • Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament
  • Trust and Emotions in Decision-Making
  • The Effect of New Technologies on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament
  • US-Russia Relations


  • POLS 360 Russian Foreign Policy (second and final year)
  • POLS 350 Strategy and Decision-Making (final year)
  • Associate Fellow Higher Education Academy (AFHEA)

Other activities

  • Westmere Scholar for the College of Social Sciences (University of Birmingham, 2017-2018)
  • Lead organiser of the one-day interdisciplinary workshop 'Finding Trust in Social Sciences', September 2017. Awarded £5,000 by various organisations including the Economic and Social Research Council; BISA PGN; the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security; the School of Government and Society at the University of Birmingham
  • Full scholarship to participate in the ten-day Public Policy and Nuclear Threats Boot Camp at the UC San Diego Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (San Diego, USA, July 2017)
  • Full scholarship to participate in the week-long 16th ESARDA ‘Nuclear Safeguards and Nonproliferation’ training course organised by the European Commission (Ispra, Italy, April 2017)
  • Recipient of Ratiu Foundation Grant for academic excellence (2012-2013)

Conference papers


Invited speaker/Roundtable discussion


  • Participant at the RUSI roundtable on ‘New Technologies and Nuclear Risks: A Discussion with UN Under-Secretary-General Izumi Nakamitsu’ (London, 11 December 2018)
  • Participant at the BASIC roundtable on ‘Pragmatic leadership to achieve progress in disarmament: finding practical steps-within steps’ (London, 22 November 2018)
  • Panellist on the 'INF compliance and misperceptions between Russia and the West' at the Gerda Henkel Forum ‘Trust and Emotions in the Relations between Russia and the West’, 3-4 July 2018, King’s College London, UK 
  • Speaker on 'The Political Challenges for the Nuclear Security Summit in 2016' at the Next Generation Workshop organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on the periphery of the EU Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference (Brussels, 10-12 November 2015)


Conference papers


  • 1st Annual PSA Political Psychology Conference on ‘The Diplomacy of Trust in Nuclear Arms Control: How Trust Can Create Trustworthiness’ (Birmingham, 18 December 2018)
  • ISA Annual Convention on ‘Rethinking Nuclear Learning Through Empathy: The Case of the Cuban Missile Crisis’ (San Francisco, April 2018)
  • ISA Annual Convention, Junior Scholar Symposium panel, on ‘The Role of Trust in Nuclear Arms Control Agreements: The Case of the New START Treaty’ (San Francisco, April 2018)
  • University of Birmingham,  'A Narrative Approach to Trust in Arms Control Negotiations' at the one-day interdisciplinary workshop 'Finding Trust in Social Sciences' (Birmingham, 21 September 2017)
  • Convenor of the Trust Working Group at the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security (2016-2017)
  • Convener of a panel on 'Conceptualising Trust in Multilateral Settings' and paper on 'The role of trusting relationships for verification in arms control agreements' at the British International Studies Association conference (BISA) (Edinburgh, 15th-17th June 2016


'2016 Nuclear Security Summit: Can Obama ‘Finish Strong'?', European Leadership Network, accessed at:

The Importance of Being Earnest: The P5 Process and the 2015 NPT Review Conference’, Security Dilemmas Blog Post, 4 February 2015 accessed at:

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