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Nuclear Proliferation: Causes and Consequences

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Todd Robinson UIUC

on 29 October 2013

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Transcript of Nuclear Proliferation: Causes and Consequences

Nuclear Proliferation: Causes and Consequences
What is nuclear proliferation?
Cases of nuclear proliferation
Causes of nuclear proliferation
Consequences of nuclear proliferation
What is nuclear proliferation?
Defining proliferation is important as an academic exercise, but is also helpful in identifying "proliferators" which has real-world policy implications

Most commonly cited definition - The acquisition of nuclear weapons by states who previously had no such capability
What does acquire mean?
What about terrorists? Can they proliferate?
What about states who can build weapons but don't
Cases of Nuclear Proliferation
President John F. Kennedy once predicted that by 1975, 20 to 25 states would have nuclear weapons.
The reality is that lots of states have tried to acquire nuclear weapons, but only a handful have been successful.
Singh and Way's (2004) Explore, Pursue, Acquire Framework, updated by Bleek (2012)
Causes of Proliferation
(The Demand Side)
Realism - Logical extension of military power, is rational for every state to develop
Neorealism - System is anarchic, states must help themselves. Any state who can develop must develop
Idealism - National Identity Conception
Domestic Politics - Strong domestic advocacy; bureaucracy leading to development
Constructivism - Rules of the road approach; temporal-spatial variation
Other explanations - regime survival, rivalry, proliferating to extort benefits
Causes of Proliferation
(The Supply Side)
Equally as important to the proliferation story is how states acquire nuclear capabilities
Many countries export nuclear technologies, including what are called "sensitive" technology.
There are other actors, however, that are important, including corporations and individuals
Proliferation Phases
Horiztonal proliferation - The spread of nuclear weapons-related technologies to states who had no such capability
Two actors important: the supplier and the demander (will be reflected in theory section)
Vertical proliferation - An increase in either the quantity or quality of a state's nuclear weapons program
Is horizontal and vertical enough to capture the entirety of the process?

Latent proliferation, nuclear latency,
and the breakout scenario
Latent proliferation - a period of time wherein a state has the capability to produce nuclear weapons, but doesn't
Nuclear latency - a measure of how capable of developing nuclear weapons a state is
Nuclear breakout - a state that mobilizes their existing capabilities to produce nuclear weapons in a specified period of time
The Dual Use Problem
One of the biggest problems in identifying proliferators is what's called the dual-use problem, which is the fact that the majority of the technologies required for the production of nuclear weapons can be gained as a byproduct or under the guise of cilivian or commerical processes
Notable Cases of Proliferation
South Africa (1974-1990) - Built 6 gun-type devices between 1982-1989. Has said that they built weapons to counter Soviet expansion in Africa, was very concerned over their invovlement in Afghanistan. Could there be other reasons, though?
Sweden (1945-1968) - Non-aligned state, feared Soviet military capabilities. Soviet Union had not really threatened expansion into the nordic states, possible over-reaction by Sweden. But planned a sizable capability, plan called for 100 bombs built over a ten year period to be carried by strategic bomber.
North Korea (1957-2013) - DPRK's program has almost always been about regime survivial. Yet, on multiple occassions, it seems that they have used their capability as a bargaining chip. Does this seem plausible?

Future Cases of
One of the challenges for academics and policy-makers is identifying future cases of proliferation
Two ways to look at the problem, from a technical perspective and a political perspective
The AQ Khan Network
Nuclear Proliferation Consequences
The nuclear domino effect - when proliferation occurs, it increases the likelihood that it other states will proliferate
Counter-proliferation - actions taken by a sender state to prevent or deter the acquisition of specific technologies by a target state (conventional military strikes, cyber attacks, economic sanctions)
The dual use problem reconsidered
The "proliferation paradox"
Full transcript