Scott Sagan Article Overveiw.docx

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29 Mar 2012
Scott Sagan- why do states build nuclear weapons?
Why build them?
Answer: states will seek to develop nuclear weapons when they face a significant
military threat to their security that cannot be met through alternative means
If they do not face threats, they will remain non nuclear states
Nuclear weapons
More than tools of natural security
* They are POLITICAL objects of considerable importance in
o 1. Domestic debates
o 2. Internal bureaucratic struggles
* Serve as international normative symbols of modernity and identity
3 alternative frameworks involving “models”
1. Security model: which states build nuclear weapons to increase national
security against foreign threats, especially nuclear threats
2. Domestic politics model: which envisions nuclear weapons as political tools
used to advance parochial domestic and bureaucratic interests
3. Norms model: nuclear weapons decisions are made because weapons
acquisition or restraint in weapons development, provides an important
normative symbol of a state’s modernity and identity
30 countries:
Have the necessary industrial infrastructure and scientific expertise to build
nuclear weapons on a crash basis if they chose to do so
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NNT):
Encourages long term trend by promoting the development of power
reactors in exchange for the imposition of safeguards on the resulting
nuclear materials
This underscores the policy importance of addressing the sources of the
political demand for nuclear weapons, rather than focusing primarily on
efforts to safeguard existing stockpiles of nuclear materials and to restrict
the supply of specific weapons technology from the "haves" to the "have-
Security Model: Nuclear weapons and international threats
Neorealist theory in political science, states exist in an anarchical
international system and must therefore rely on self-help to protect their
sovereignty and national security
Because of the enormous destructive power of nuclear weapons, any state
that seeks to maintain its national security must balance against any rival
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state that develops nuclear weapons by gaining access to a nuclear deterrent
First, strong states do what they can: they can pursue a form of internal
balancing by adopting the costly, but self-sufficient, policy of developing their
own nuclear weapons
Second, weak states do what they must: they can join a balancing alliance
with a nuclear power, utilizing a promise of nuclear retaliation by that ally as
a means of extended deterrence
George Shultz once nicely summarized the argument: "Proliferation begets
proliferation”. Every time one state develops nuclear weapons to balance
against its main rival, it also creates a nuclear threat to another state in the
region, which then has to initiate its own nuclear weapons program to
maintain its national security
Examples why countries built bombs
London and Paris are seen to have built nuclear weapons because of the
growing Soviet military threat and the inherent reduction in the credibility of
the U.S. nuclear guarantee to NATO allies once the Soviet Union was able to
threaten retaliation against the United States
China developed the bomb because Beijing was threatened with possible
nuclear attack by the United States at the end of the Korean War and again
during the Taiwan Straits crises in the mid-1950s
Explaining Nuclear Restraint
Why would any state give up such powerful sources of security?
The major recent cases of nuclear weapons restraint can also be viewed
through the lens provided by the security model if one assumes that external
security threats can radically change or be reevaluated
The South African nuclear strategy during this period was designed to use the
bomb both as a deterrent against the Soviets and as a tool of blackmail
against the United States.
If Soviet or Soviet-supported military forces directly threatened South Africa,
the regime reportedly planned to announce that it had a small arsenal of
nuclear weapons, dramatically testing one or more of the weapons if
necessary by dropping them from aircraft over the ocean, hoping that such a
test would shock the United States into intervention on behalf of the Pretoria
South Africa destroyed its small nuclear weapons arsenal in 1991, the theory
suggests, because of the radical reduction in the external security threats to
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