International Nuclear Export Controls and Nonproliferation: The Collective Action Problem

October 11, 2021
Ian Stewart

Speaker: Dr. Ian Stewart

On October 4, 2021 CNS hosted a webinar at the Monterey Institute of International Studies at Monterey, CA featuring Dr. Ian Stewart, executive director at the CNS Washington DC office. He is a specialist on issues related to export controls, sanctions, and nonproliferation.

Dr. Stewart summarized the argument of his new book as follows:

  • First, he argued that the nonproliferation regime is flawed in design. I trace this to the decision to proceed with the atoms for peace initiative without an effective system of control. But the lack of agreement of ‘international control of atomic energy’ in the 1940s (and thus nuclear disarmament) is an underlying factor.
  • Second, he argued that absent an effective system of control, a nonproliferation ‘collective action problem’ emerged in which states made decisions to supply nuclear technology even when it was not in the global best interest.
  • Third, he noted the superpowers would eventually agree that nonproliferation is in their mutual interest, but by then it was too late to retrofit an effective system of control. Vested interests, mistrust, a lack of progress on disarmament and other factors hindered the development of controls. Many opportunities were lost.
  • Fourth, he argued that adoption of UNSCRs in the 2000s can be understood as a form of external regulation, which is one strategy to overcome a collective action problem.
  • Finally, he argued that conceptualizing nonproliferation as a collective problem provides insights into how we can counter proliferation in the future.

In supporting these arguments, Dr. Stewart drew on archive materials he gathered including those related to the early nuclear age, related to nuclear proliferation and controls in the 1970s, and material related to more recent episodes.

Find details on how to buy the book.

Comments Are Closed