Lethal autonomous weapon systems: landscape and perspectives

Lethal autonomous weapon systems: landscape and perspectives

Bogdanov K.V.,

Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, cbogdanov@imemo.ru

elibrary_id: 276507 | ORCID: 0000-0002-5922-0791 | RESEARCHER_ID: D-4116-2019

Yevtodyeva M.G.,

Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, marianna133@mail.ru

elibrary_id: 531653 | ORCID: 0000-002-3477-4763 | RESEARCHER_ID: Q-2240-2018

Article received: 2022.04.22. Accepted: 2022.09.01
DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2022.06.06

For citation:

Bogdanov K.V., Yevtodyeva M.G. Lethal autonomous weapon systems: landscape and perspectives. – Polis. Political Studies. 2022. No. 6. P. 67-80. (In Russ.). https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2022.06.06

The article was prepared within the project “Post-crisis world order: challenges and technologies, competition and cooperation” supported by the grant from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation’s program for research projects in priority areas of scientific and technological development (Agreement № 075-15-2020-783).


The active development of military artificial intelligence technologies brings the moment of the mass deployment of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) closer. There is no internationally recognized definition of LAWS, and this has led to terminological disputes behind which are hidden both military-technical and ethical-philosophical problems. The task of keeping control over autonomous weapon systems is complex, and must be addressed in interdisciplinary ways, simultaneously in several dimensions, considering operational issues, moral and ethical dilemmas, and legal collisions. All three types of considerations focus on the problems of meaningful human control and the attribution of responsibility for the application of LAWS. The problem of fictitiousness of nominal human control over complex technical systems using opaque functioning algorithms is analysed. Developers of the new weapons are resisting the creation of adapted regulations, claiming that existing international humanitarian law is enough to regulate the new field, making it difficult to impose additional restrictions on LAWS. Existing agreements to control the proliferation of technology are in fact only partially capable of serving as a tool for controlling LAWS. It was noted that in the case of LAWS, a powerful impetus is possible for the development of a special direction in arms control related to the legal aspects of attribution of responsibility for the misuse of weapons systems, which was not previously observed in the corpus of the international legal framework for arms control. In the context of the collapse of the post-Cold War arms control system, only certain concrete measures related to commitments to prevent the most destabilizing manifestations of LAWS (for example, equipping them with nuclear weapons) can be proposed in the short- and medium-term.


arms control, artificial intelligence, human control, international humanitarian law, lethal autonomous weapon systems, Martens Clause, unmanned vehicles.


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Content No. 6, 2022

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