Nuclear Weapons Security Crises: What Does History Teach?   [open pdf - 3MB]

"The past 2 decades have seen an increase in nuclear dangers. Arsenals have been operationalized in India and Pakistan, and China seems to be augmenting its own. North Korea has crossed the nuclear threshold, and Iran seems to be on the way to do so itself. Four hitherto undisclosed--and illegal--nuclear programs were discovered: Iraq in 1991, Iran in 2002, Libya in 2003, and Syria in 2007. Pakistani and North Korean nuclear expertise and technology transfers were also uncovered. Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups showed an interest in gaining access to nuclear weapons and materials, and some attacked nuclear-related facilities in Pakistan. The security and control of nuclear weapons is thus more important than ever, as witnessed by the political success of two Nuclear Security Summits in Washington (2010) and Seoul (2012). Despite disagreement over budget priorities, the topic enjoys a rare level of bipartisanship in the United States. Much has been written about nuclear accidents and nuclear crises, but much less about the impact of political crises in nuclear-capable states. The goal that Henry Sokolski and I set in undertaking this project was to shed light on the following issue: How do nuclear-capable states behave in times of major political crises?"

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