Nuclear Power and Nuclear Proliferation (II)

The authors draw a distinction between a growth in nuclear production by countries with current nuclear capabilities, which as we have discussed in class is unlikely to happen in the near term due to cost competitiveness, and a spread in nuclear production into countries that currently lack this technology. They present an interesting analysis contrasting the current states that have nuclear capabilities versus those that aspire for such technology, and highlight differences in their governance, democracy, and record of terrorism incidents. While they point out that there are many practical and economic obstacles that will hinder these nations’ abilities to develop nuclear technology, this is still an important consideration to bear in mind as it might affect the legitimacy and authority of intergovernmental treaties regarding the use of nuclear technology.

One of their arguments, however, seems contradictory. They claim that one reason countries desire nuclear capabilities is that nuclear weapons remain the “currency of the realm” and are the ticket to the high table of international politics. Because of this, many countries seek this technology in order to acquire the diplomatic and security benefits it provides. The authors argue that this incentive can be lessened by current nuclear weapon states disarming and reducing their arsenals. This, they claim, will devalue and marginalize nuclear weapons. However, this seems overly simplified and optimistic. Pure supply and demand would claim the opposite, that the fewer weapons there are, the more weight the existing ones hold. Therefore if few states have nuclear capabilities, the ones that do will have even greater weight on the international stage. In addition, this ignores subtleties and counterbalances. There are a number of regions in which states desire nuclear weapons in response to a neighboring rival’s weapons. In this instance, a targeted arsenal reduction aimed at the neighboring country, rather than a general international reduction, would be the most effective solution. — A. D.