IPI HomePublicationsPolicy PapersNuclear Weapons: The Politics of Non-Proliferation

 

print print  |  share share back back

Policy Papers - April 14, 2007

Nuclear Weapons: The Politics of Non-Proliferation

This publication is part of the CWC Working Paper Series [read more about this publication series]

Christine Wing

 

 

From the Introduction: The inherent difficulty is that the existing distribution of nuclear weapons capabilities serves the interests of some states but not others (i.e., how you see the nuclear challenge depends on where you sit). Yet this is not a situation where all points of view are equally valid: the actual detonation of a nuclear weapon would be catastrophic, killing hundreds of thousands of people—a challenge to human and international security, indeed. Thus we need a conception of the nuclear question that assumes an irreducible interest in preventing nuclear use, yet simultaneously acknowledges the intense politicization of the nuclear issue. The fundamental challenge is this: how can we build effective approaches to reducing the risk of nuclear use, in the context of vastly different and competing state interests?


Always difficult, this task has become even more complex in recent years, as some states have acquired nuclear weapons status outside the existing regime treaties, and others—e.g., the United States, Iran, and North Korea—appear increasingly uncertain about whether current multilateral institutions can adequately protect their security. The old mechanisms for controlling nuclear dangers are inadequate, but new or strengthened approaches are not solidly in place. Nor is there agreement about the form of those new or strengthened approaches. Rather, the differences among states are often more salient than their common interests concerning nuclear issues; the international discussion is abrasive and frequently counterproductive.

This paper takes stock of this seeming impasse in multilateral efforts to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. It briefly describes the key policy dilemmas at play, but goes on to argue that the underlying challenges are essentially political, reflecting profound differences in state interests and power. We attempt to understand and characterize those political differences, how they shape different multilateral approaches, and what kinds of leadership imperatives they create.

The Global Observatory

For More Effective Sanctions, Time to Examine Question of Termination
The termination process is not often examined when creating sanctions, but it is key to their effectiveness.

Key Global Events to Watch in April
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.

2014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.

The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.

Recent Events

April 05, 2014
IPI Opens Middle East Regional Office
International Peace Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen inaugurated IPI’s new Middle East Regional Office with a recognition of the area’s critical importance to the world and the rapid political changes underway in the countries of the region, and he asserted that IPI has an “important role” to play there.

April 03, 2014
In Horn of Africa, Links Between Disaster, Conflict, and Displacement
What are the links between climate change, conflict, and the displacement of people? A panel of experts discussed this nexus and its implications in the Horn of Africa at the International Peace Institute on April 3rd in an event cosponsored by the Nansen Initiative.

March 26, 2014
Derek Plumbly on Lebanese Resilience Amid Rising Challenges
Lebanon has exceeded expectations in dealing with the continuing fallout from the crisis in neighboring Syria, said Derek Plumbly, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, on March 26th. Speaking at the International Peace Institute, Mr. Plumbly praised the Lebanese people for “actually sustaining a measure of stability in their country.”

View More