The Effect of Alliances on Nuclear Proliferation
19 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2014
Date Written: December 31, 2013
This paper lays out a theory of how alliances condition the odds of nuclear proliferation by a great-power's protégé. A security guarantee extended by a great-power may deter proliferation by taking away the protégé's willingness or opportunity to acquire nuclear weapons. When the protégé is strong vis-à-vis its adversaries, its great-power sponsor will only be able to deter proliferation by using a "carrots approach" (i.e., reinforcing its commitment to the security of the protégé) to remove its willingness to acquire nuclear weapons. When a protégé is weak vis-à-vis its adversaries, its great-power sponsor may be able to deter proliferation by using a "sticks approach" (i.e., making its commitment to the security of the protégé conditional on the maintenance of its non-nuclear status) to remove its opportunity to nuclearize. Both these approaches are more likely to succeed in deterring the protégé's nuclear acquisition when its security goals are limited to its own survival or, being broader, risk entrapping the sponsor in a war over a goal it does not share with the protégé. Proliferation by a great-power protégé, therefore, is more likely when the sponsor is either not deeply committed to its survival or does not fear that the nuclearization of its protégé will heighten its own risk of entrapment. We show the plausibility of this theory by laying out short case studies of the Israeli, South Korean, Taiwanese, and West German nuclear programs and conclude with implications for U.S. counter-proliferation policy.
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