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  • Author: Elizabeth N. Saunders
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: When and how do domestic politics influence a state's nuclear choices? Recent scholarship on nuclear security develops many domestic-political explanations for different nuclear decisions. These explanations are partly the result of two welcome trends: first, scholars have expanded the nuclear timeline, examining state behavior before and after nuclear proliferation; and second, scholars have moved beyond blunt distinctions between democracies and autocracies to more fine-grained understandings of domestic constraints. But without linkages between them, new domestic-political findings could be dismissed as a laundry list of factors that do not explain significant variation in nuclear decisions. This review essay assesses recent research on domestic politics and nuclear security, and develops a framework that illuminates when and how domestic-political mechanisms are likely to affect nuclear choices. In contrast to most previous domestic arguments, many of the newer domestic-political mechanisms posited in the literature are in some way top-down; that is, they show leaders deliberately maintaining or loosening control over nuclear choices. Two dimensions govern the extent and nature of domestic-political influence on nuclear choices: the degree of threat uncertainty and the costs and benefits to leaders of expanding the circle of domestic actors involved in a nuclear decision. The framework developed in this review essay helps make sense of several cases explored in the recent nuclear security literature. It also has implications for understanding when and how domestic-political arguments might diverge from the predictions of security-based analyses.
  • Topic: Security, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, International Security, Domestic politics, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Iran, North Korea
  • Author: Eliza Gheorghe
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The evolution of the nuclear market explains why there are only nine members of the nuclear club, not twenty-five or more, as some analysts predicted. In the absence of a supplier cartel that can regulate nuclear transfers, the more suppliers there are, the more intense their competition will be, as they vie for market share. This commercial rivalry makes it easier for nuclear technology to spread, because buyers can play suppliers off against each other. The ensuing transfers help countries either acquire nuclear weapons or become hedgers. The great powers (China, Russia, and the United States) seek to thwart proliferation by limiting transfers and putting safeguards on potentially dangerous nuclear technologies. Their success depends on two structural factors: the global distribution of power and the intensity of the security rivalry among them. Thwarters are most likely to stem proliferation when the system is unipolar and least likely when it is multipolar. In bipolarity, their prospects fall somewhere in between. In addition, the more intense the rivalry among the great powers in bipolarity and multipolarity, the less effective they will be at curbing proliferation. Given the potential for intense security rivalry among today's great powers, the shift from unipolarity to multipolarity does not portend well for checking proliferation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation, International Relations Theory
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China
  • Author: Andrei A. Kokoshin
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In this discussion paper Andrei Kokoshin, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and sixth secretary of the Russian Security Council, offers a concise discussion of the essence of the most dangerous nuclear crisis in the history of humankind.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Security, Defense Policy, Cold War, Nuclear Weapons, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: James K. Sebenius, Michael K. Singh
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Since assuming the presidency of the United States in January 2009, Barack Obama has tried both outreach and sanctions in an effort to halt Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapons capability. Yet neither President Obama's personal diplomacy nor several rounds of talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council-China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States-plus Germany (the "P5 1") nor escalating sanctions have deterred Tehran. Iran has not only continued but accelerated its nuclear progress, accumulating sufficient low-enriched uranium that, if further enriched, would be sufficient for five nuclear weapons. Consequently, as Iran makes major advances in its nuclear capabilities, speculation has increased that Israel or a United States-led coalition may be nearing the decision to conduct a military strike to disable Iran's nuclear program.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, United Kingdom, Iran, France
  • Author: Michael S. Gerson
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Despite heightened expectations for significant change in U.S. nuclear policy—especially declaratory policy— the Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review changes little from the past. The NPR's declaratory policy retains the option for the United States to use nuclear weapons first in a variety of circumstances, including in a first strike against Chinese, North Korean, Russian, and (perhaps) future Iranian nuclear forces. Equally important, the United States can threaten the first use of nuclear weapons to deter and, if necessary, respond, to a variety of nonnuclear contingencies, including large-scale conventional aggression by another nuclear power such as China or Russia and chemical or biological weapons (CBW) attacks from states such as Iran and North Korea.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, North Korea
  • Author: Matthew Bunn
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The United States and the other members of the P5+1 are struggling to launch the first in-depth negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in which the United States has participated. The United States comes to the table with few good options. Sanctions have failed to change Iran's decisions about its nuclear program, and no feasible set of sanctions (given the limits of what China, Russia, and others will agree to) is likely to convince Iran to give up its enrichment program. Military strikes against Iran would probably not set back Iran's program for longer than a brief period and would greatly increase Iran's incentive to go straight to the bomb at covert sites (as Iraq did after Israel destroyed its facilities at Osiraq).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Middle East
  • Author: Simon Saradzhyan
  • Publication Date: 03-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The likelihood of a catastrophic terrorist attack against Russia is growing, as radical separatists in troubled Chechnya increasingly become more desperate, and security at many of Russia's civil nuclear facilities remains insufficient. They have already demonstrated their capability and willingness to inflict massive indiscriminate casualties by organizing an apartment bombing in the southern Russian city of Buinaksk. They have acquired radioactive materials, threatened to attack Russia's nuclear facilities, plotted to hijack a nuclear submarine, and have attempted to put pressure on the Russian leadership by planting a container with radioactive materials in Moscow and threatening to detonate it. These incidents occurred between 1994 and 1996, during Russia's first military campaign in Chechnya at a time when separatists were so overwhelmed and outmanned they believed that acts of terrorism employing nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) materials—if not weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—could be the only way to force Russian troops to retreat from Chechnya.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Andrea Gabbitas
  • Publication Date: 01-2003
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Since September 11, the relationship between the United States and Russia has evolved significantly. At the Crawford summit in November 2001, President George W. Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin officially declared a “new relationship” between the United States and Russia. A significant portion of this new relationship has centered on nonproliferation matters, which have been declared a priority by both presidents. In fighting terrorist threats, Bush and Putin have “agreed to enhance bilateral and multilateral action to stem the export and proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological materials, related technologies, and delivery systems as a critical component of the battle to defeat international terrorism.”
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Asia