Nuclear Decision-Making in
Libya, Sweden, and Germany
The cases of Japan and Egypt highlight critical lessons in the search for understanding how countries decide whether to pursue a nuclear weapons capability. State elites certainly consider security needs—but how security is defined is much broader and more inclusive than might be predicted by traditional approaches. In both cases, top leadership did want to acquire nuclear weapons, and only after assessing the obstacles (for Japan, a normdriven domestic populace and for Egypt, foreign and technical interruptions) did they acquiesce to nuclear forbearance. Over time, however, the nuclear nonproliferation regime helped change the perception of what security would look like for Japan and Egypt, as well as the perception of the value of nuclear weapons. In addition, we see specific ways in which the international social environment pressured and in some cases persuaded policymakers that they should not seek nuclear weapons.
To what extent can these lessons be generalized to other countries? Are the findings anomalous and not likely to apply elsewhere? Or are the cases of Japan and Egypt likely to open up new insight for a number of other states? To address these questions, this chapter examines the case histories of three more countries that have abandoned the nuclear option: Libya, Sweden, and Germany. Each is important in helping assess the value of lessons learned from Japan and Egypt. Libya is a critical case for a number of reasons. Libya’s recent abandonment of the nuclear option is the only known case in which the same person made both the decision to acquire and then the decision to abandon a nuclear weapons capability. The policy implications are tremendous: What would convince Libya to give up a potential nuclear deterrent? What is the current value of the nuclear nonproliferation regime? Does the NPT still persuade?