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Susanna Yates

Specialised Subjects

Cultural Studies, European Studies, Human Rights, International Relations, International Studies, Politics

I work for a global news service on a full-time basis, providing financial news. I also write on a broad range of topics as a freelancer.

I have a Master’s degree with distinction in International Relations and Contemporary Political Theory a UK University. I have a particular interest in US foreign policy, security and strategy studies, European studies, and political processes in the former USSR.

I like to read and keep myself informed about current affairs including politics, economics and business. I am also interested in culture and languages. Last but not least, I like to read fiction, both classics and bestsellers.

Dilemmas of Nuclear Nonproliferation.

“Thinking about Strategy and Security”

Literature Review

Topic: Arms Control and Disarmament

The issue of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is critical today as the ability to split the atom may be possible not only for the so-called rogue states, namely Iran and North Korea, but also for terrorist groups. Opinions vary on how to prevent and manage nuclear non-proliferation: among them is advice on how to eliminate the gaps in the non-proliferation regime; a new doctrine of preemption violating the sovereignty of a state; making the misuse of nuclear programmes impractical; control of rogue states’ desire to obtain nuclear weapons and cooperation with nuclear states – non-parties of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The aim of my work is to compare the views mentioned above by focusing on five articles by different scholars concerning the topic of nuclear non-proliferation. To conclude, I will assess what may be the optimal solution to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and prevent their acquisition by terrorists. Although this issue is important for the whole international community, it is particularly acute for the United States (US), which is one of the main actors influencing non-proliferation. The recommendations of researchers on how to prevent proliferation are directed mainly at the US policy-makers.

In his “Nuclear Weapons and the Grand Bargain”, Leonard Weiss suggests that the problem of proliferation, despite the signing of the NPT, was mainly caused by the violation of its norms not only by NPT non-nuclear states, but the nuclear powers as well. Thus Article I, which prohibits the nuclear weapon states – the US, Soviet Union, China, France and the UK– from assisting non-nuclear states in obtaining nuclear arms, was directly or indirectly violated. Weiss argues “every country that has decided to make nuclear weapons since the end of the World War II received assistance in its nuclear endeavor either as a result of scientific collaboration with the US or other states with nuclear weapons or via espionage”[1]. According to Weiss, the potential for proliferation will exist unless the nuclear powers themselves comply with another important obligation of NPT, that is, Article IV which calls upon nations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Although both Russia and the US have proclaimed their commitment to disarmament, they continue to store rather than dismantle nuclear warheads, which can be quickly redeployed when needed. This fact alongside with the US refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signals to the non-nuclear states that nuclear status is prestigious and beneficial[2]. Possessing nuclear arsenals contains a threat in itself since terrorists are seeking the arsenals which exist, whereas nonexistent weapons would not fall into the wrong hands.

 A similar view of “no nuclear weapons no nuclear terrorism” may be found in Graham Allison’s “How to stop Nuclear Terror”[3]. The author suggests that the Bush administration should pursue a more constructive strategy based on three “No’s”: no loose nukes, no new nascent nukes, and no new nuclear states. According to Allison, more attention should be paid to the fact that hundreds of weapons are stored in conditions that make them vulnerable to theft by criminals who would sell them to terrorists. In case of a nuclear attack on the US, argues Allison, the question of the supplier of the arms to terrorists would not be easy to answer though it surely will be clear that the blame is on unsecured nuclear arsenals and its components. Putting a new “International Security Standard” on all nuclear weapons and materials could ensure the security of the arms from theft. This “no loose nukes” principle has then to be followed by the demand of nuclear powers namely the US and Russia to extract all nascent nukes from all other countries, which in turn, had carried out their nuclear research programmes with the help of the former.

The “no nascent nukes” method also proposes that nuclear aspirants such as North Korea and Iran should stop producing heavy-enriched uranium and plutonium under international control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In dealing with North Korea and Iran, Allison suggests that the goal of regime change not be emphasized but rather that these states are denied the material from which arms can be produced. This seems to be more practical and legitimate than overthrowing the established governments. Allison argues that the US war on nuclear terrorism cannot be done unilaterally and needs the mobilization of all great powers against the threat. The formation of this alliance should include Russia and other nuclear states including the de-facto nuclear powers of India and Pakistan. Like Weiss, Allison also suggests that the US and Russia should recognize their obligations to address this problem by accelerating their current programmes to reduce their arsenals which make 95 per cent of all nuclear weapons and materials[4]. Both Weiss and Allison underline the importance of eliminating nuclear weapons and threats from international affairs, i.e., de-emphasize nuclear weapons in a country’s strategic posture for enhancing security[5].

On the other hand, in the article, “A duty to prevent” by Lee Feinstein and Anne-Marie Slaughter, the authors don’t emphasize the nuclear states’ efforts to reduce their nuclear arms. They instead stress that the threat posed by rogue states and terrorists require not a reactive but a proactive collective action of the international community even at the risk of violating sovereignty. Pointing to the fact that the UN principles, which date back to the end of the World War II, can no longer be fully appropriate for the realm of the XXI century, the authors suggest that the international commissions’ ”Responsibility to Protect” project of 2001 should be a leitmotif for the states willing to counter the humanitarian crisis and nuclear proliferation collectively. It is implied that the link between humanitarian concerns and the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) possession by terrorists is evident, as the governments which lack internal constraints on their power from acquiring and transporting the WMD are, therefore, twice as dangerous. However “a duty to prevent” is valid not for all closed societies with WMD, but for those where the duty can produce beneficial results[6]. In this case, it may be suggested that it should be applied to North Korea and Iran. The authors offer to target regimes not weapons. Labelling potential targets of preemption as “abnormal”, “undemocratic”, “brutal” and “irrational”, the authors claim these two should not be treated like other states; hence, a violation of sovereignty can be justified.  However, the fact that the illiberal regime of Pakistan is not anti-American and it does possess nuclear weapons and enjoys tacit support of the US, can make one skeptical of proposals to distinguish between moral and immoral nuclear states.

It would be useful to try to understand the logic of the nuclear aspirants, such as North Korea and Iran, and by this to fill in important gaps in the nonproliferation regime. In their article “North Korea and Iran: Test cases for an improved Nonproliferation regime?” Joseph Cirincione and Jon B.Wolfsthal say that the motivation to pursue nuclear arms can be affected by the actions of the US and its allies. Here “affecting” does not mean a preemptive strike, but attempts to find possible ways of moderating the interest of these two states in going nuclear[7]. The issue, which requires addressing, is the non-compliance with NPT’s Article IV – i.e., the right of all states to benefit from the peaceful use of atoms. The problem is created not by the article itself, but by the fact that it allows the non-nuclear states to cover their weapons programme by the curtain of “peaceful use”. A possible solution to this, the authors suggest, could be the multilateralization of the fuel cycle. A truly international control over the fuel cycle and fuel supply would dissuade the nation from misusing the nuclear power reactor. The existence of an alternative fuel-cycle arrangement could help. For example, if the US and allies offer Iran appropriate alternatives such as acquiring fresh fuel for its nuclear reactors and removal of the spent fuel, such an option could make the Iranian ayatollahs abandon their troublesome programme. Similarly, North Korea could also be motivated to abandon its nuclear endeavour in return for alternatives provided by the US[8]. As Allison suggests, this could be the survival of the regime in exchange for nuclear disarmament[9]. After all, both Iran and North Korea are preoccupied with their survival and fear the hostile environment, which probably was the main reason for these states’ aspiration for nuclear armory.

However, the need to counter nuclear proliferation should be viewed in a broader context. It is not just about prohibiting the aspirants from acquiring weapons but about understanding what it is in the external environment that motivates them to do so. Thus, Marvin Miller and Lawrence Scheinman in their “Israel, India, and Pakistan: Engaging the Non-NPT States in the Nonproliferation Regime” suggest that to thwart the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, attention has to be paid to the three states remaining outside the NPT.  The US “nuclear double standard” policy, when nuclear aspirations of countries were measured by antagonism or non-antagonism to the US, significantly undermined the NPT, which in turn caused the current concerns about WMD[10] proliferation.  In the case of Iran, the US acquiesces to the possession of nuclear weapons by Israel while opposing their possession by Tehran, and mobilizing the whole international community against the country.  These authors suggest that Iran would not give up its quest for nuclear weapons without some reciprocity on the part of Israel, but the latter’s nuclear ambiguity may be a serious impediment to arms control and nonproliferation. The authors also point to the concern caused by Pakistan which reportedly transferred technologies and knowledge to Pyongyang and Tehran. Thus, the US is encouraged to engage the outliers in the non-proliferation regime. At the same time the authors stress the need to fulfill the obligations of all weapons states under Article VI.

   One may conclude that to counter nuclear proliferation it is critical to fix the gaps in the NPT. This concerns not only the non-nuclear members, but the nuclear states too. The US in particular could affect the denuclearization of so-called rogue states and prevent nuclear terrorism by offering security guarantees to the former by avoiding nuclear double standards and enhancing the disarmament of legitimate nuclear states. In my view, nuclear powers need to prevent dangerous materials from falling into the wrong hands, probably even destroy them, rather than invade one country, and give time to others to exploit the occasion in their interests. As Allison underlines, during the eighteen months the Bush administration sought WMD in Iraq, North Korea and Iran were able to accelerate their own programmes[11] and at this stage it is impossible to guarantee that in targeting one rogue regime, the US would not see another increasing its nuclear arsenal. Although overall nuclear disarmament is required, the situation demonstrates that this option is not being considered by the nuclear powers. As long as the US-led coalition against “evil” continues on its current course, it will paradoxically show that these are democratic and liberal states which retain a monstrous capability to destroy the planet and not the “outlaws” they are fighting against.




  1. Allison Graham “How to stop Nuclear Terror” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004 accessed on 12.11.04
  2. Cirincione Joseph and Wolfsthal Jon.B “North Korea and Iran: Test cases for an Improved Nonproliferation Regime?” Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04
  3. Feinstein Lee and Slaughter Anne-Marie “A Duty to Prevent” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004 accessed on 12.11.04
  4. Miller Marvin and Scheinman Lawrence “Israel, India and Pakistan: Engaging the Non-NPT States in the Nonproliferation Regime” Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04
  5. Weiss Leonard “Nuclear-Weapon States and the Grand Bargain” Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04


[1] Weiss Leonard “Nuclear-Weapon States and the Grand Bargain”/The Nuclear-Weapons States and Article I/ Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04

[2] Weiss Leonard “Nuclear-Weapon States and the Grand Bargain”/ The Nuclear-Weapon States and Article VI/ Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04

[3] Allison Graham  “How to stop Nuclear Terror”/The Three No’s/ Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004 accessed on 12.11.04

[4] Allison Graham  “How to stop Nuclear Terror”/A Grand Alliance / Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004 accessed on 12.11.04

[5] Weiss Leonard “Nuclear-Weapon States and the Grand Bargain”/ Article I and VI are complementary/ Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04

[6] Feinstein Lee and Slaughter Anne-Marie “A Duty to Prevent”/Behind closed doors/ Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004 accessed on 12.11.04

[7] Cirincione Joseph and Wolfsthal Jon.B “North Korea and Iran: Test cases for an Improved Nonproliferation Regime?”/Introduction/ Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04

[8] Cirincione Joseph and Wolfsthal Jon.B “North Korea and Iran: Test cases for an Improved Nonproliferation Regime?”/Dealing with North Korea/ Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04

[9] Allison Graham  “How to stop Nuclear Terror”/No No No/ Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004 accessed on 12.11.04

[10] Miller Marvin and Scheinman Lawrence “Israel, India and Pakistan: Engaging the Non-NPT States in the Nonproliferation Regime”/Delinking Iran and Israel/  Arms Control Today December 2003 accessed on 12.11.04

[11] Allison Graham  “How to stop Nuclear Terror”/The Day After/ Foreign Affairs, January/February 2004 accessed on 12.11.04

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