Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats

Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats

Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats

Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats


In every decade of the nuclear era, one or two states have developed nuclear weapons despite the international community's opposition to proliferation. In the coming years, the breakdown of security arrangements, especially in the Middle East and Northeast Asia, could drive additional countries to seek their own nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons and missiles. This likely would produce greater instability, more insecure states, and further proliferation. Are there steps concerned countries can take to anticipate, prevent, or dissuade the next generation of proliferators? Are there countries that might reassess their decision to forgo a nuclear arsenal?

This volume brings together top international security experts to examine the issues affecting a dozen or so countries' nuclear weapons policies over the next decade. In Part I, National Decisions in Perspective, the work describes the domestic political consideration and international pressures that shape national nuclear policies of several key states. In Part II, Fostering Nonproliferation, the contributors discuss the factors that shape the future motivations and capabilities of various states to acquire nuclear weapons, and assess what the world community can do to counter this process. The future utility of bilateral and multilateral security assurances, treaty-based nonproliferation regimes, and other policy instruments are covered thoroughly.


James J. Wirtz and Peter R. Lavoy

As the first decade of the twenty-first century comes to a close, a feeling of optimism and renewal animates the scholars and practitioners who deal with nuclear nonproliferation. President Barak Obama has embraced nuclear disarmament as a long-term U.S. policy goal, an objective endorsed by other eminent U.S. statesmen. This renewed interest in nuclear disarmament also is reflected in recent scholarly work that seeks to identify practical ways to make total nuclear disarmament a reality. Scholars have suggested that arms control verification, combined with confidence building measures, can reassure the global community that fissile materials, manufacturing facilities, and scientific expertise are not being diverted into clandestine nuclear weapons programs. For many observers, nuclear disarmament is no longer a millenarian dream. Instead, it is a practical objective that should be embraced by national leaders.

Disarmament advocates are quick to identify today’s proliferation threats as justification for their position and policies. Topping this list of threats is the possibility that a nuclear weapon could fall into the possession of a violent extremist group or some other nonstate actor. The fear is that a nuclear weapon might be stolen from a stockpile maintained by a state, or that a primitive fission bomb might be crafted from nuclear material obtained on the black market, or that a “dirty bomb” might be built by wrapping high explosive in a blanket of radioactive material. A. Q. Khan’s ability to siphon off significant nuclear materials and technology from Pakistan’s nuclear program to create a commercial market for nuclear materials, bomb-making equipment, and weapons design information is considered a harbinger of a world in which nuclear trafficking is commonplace. Analysts worry that it is only a matter of time before a terrorist . . .

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