Nonproliferation Review • 18.1 • March 2011

Volume 18 • Number 1


View this issue’s note from the Editor


View this issue’s contributor bios


Leonard Weiss • Page van der Linden • Lani Miyoshi Sanders, Sharon M. DeLand & Arian L. Pregenzer

SPECIAL ISSUE — Arms, Disarmament, and Influence: International Reactions to the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review

Introduction: Reviewing the Nuclear Posture Review
Scott D. Sagan and Jane Vaynman

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The Obama administration has argued that its efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US defense policy and work toward “a world free of nuclear weapons” will encourage other governments to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime and support global nuclear disarmament. Does the evidence support this assertion? This essay describes the changes in US nuclear weapons and disarmament policies initiated by the Obama administration and outlines four potential pathways through which the United States might influence other governments’ policies: by reducing nuclear threat perceptions, by changing global beliefs about what constitutes “responsible” nuclear behavior, by impacting domestic debates about disarmament in foreign capitals, and by creating new diplomatic negotiation dynamics.

Instrumental Influences: Russia and the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review
Pavel Podvig

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The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) conducted by the United States has become an important element of the US-Russian relationship, for the policies set during the review process directly affect Russian officials’ perceptions of their security environment and provide a framework for the domestic debate on security issues. From Moscow’s point of view, the most important outcome of the NPR process was the resumption of the bilateral arms control negotiations and the US willingness to work with Russia to resolve the dispute about missile defense. These developments helped strengthen the domestic institutions in Russia that support a cooperative US-Russian agenda, securing Russia’s cooperation with the United States on a range of nonproliferation issues. Additionally, the renewed US commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and reduced reliance on nuclear weapons has apparently had an effect on the new Russian military doctrine, which somewhat reduces the role of nuclear weapons in Russian national security policy.

Worrying about Washington: China’s Views on the US Nuclear Posture
Thomas Fingar

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Chinese commentators assessing the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) acknowledged a number of ways in which they felt it was “better” than the 2001 NPR but still found much to criticize and many reasons for concern regarding the review’s implications for China and for strategic stability. They welcomed the reduction of US nuclear inventories and reliance on nuclear weapons, the commitments to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and to not conduct nuclear tests, the declaration that the United States would continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, and a number of other points. Commentators generally devoted more attention to issues that were seen to have negative implications for China’s deterrent (e.g., continued development of missile defense capabilities and advanced conventional weapons). Their assessments of the NPR were initially colored by the downturn in Sino-US relations in the months prior to the review’s release but became more positive as the overall bilateral relationship improved.

“More Posture than Review”: Indian Reactions to the US Nuclear Posture Review
S. Paul Kapur

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By deemphasizing the role of nuclear weapons in US security policy, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) could lead India to slow or halt the growth of its nuclear weapons capabilities and to adopt a less assertive nuclear doctrine; however, the NPR is unlikely to have this effect on India’s nuclear program. This is the case for two reasons. First, Indian leaders do not seek to emulate US nuclear behavior; they formulate policy based primarily on their assessment of the security threats facing India. Second, Indians do not think that the NPR augurs major changes in US nuclear policy. Thus, it will not alter the international strategic environment sufficiently to enable India to relax its nuclear posture. In fact, Indian strategists believe that the new US policy fails even to match India’s current degree of nuclear restraint. Therefore, according to Indian experts, the NPR will have little impact on India.

The Limits of Influence: US-Pakistani Nuclear Relations
Michael Krepon

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Even during periods of significant leverage, Washington has not had the power to stop and reverse Pakistan’s nuclear trends. Pakistan’s nuclear establishment has successfully deflected unwelcome US diplomatic initiatives and has been able to draw the line between necessary adaptation to, and rejection of, external pressures. Pakistan’s national security managers clearly perceive that Washington’s highest priorities in bilateral relations relate to the US military campaign in Afghanistan and efforts to combat terrorist groups with global reach. They presume that nuclear issues will continue to take a backseat to ongoing military campaigns in which Pakistan’s assistance is crucial for America’s success. This correlation of pressure and response might well change if Pakistan’s nuclear activities again become front-page news. Absent this, US-Pakistani relations do not lend themselves to effective, near-term suasion by Washington on nuclear issues, whether via the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review or other means. Pakistani leaders remain sensitive to US initiatives because Washington sets the international tone on nuclear issues. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s concerns over Indian nuclear capabilities and intentions trump Washington’s powers of persuasion.

Flexible Responses: NATO Reactions to the US Nuclear Posture Review
Harald Müller

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The 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) received more attention in European NATO member states than did its predecessor, the 2001 NPR, thanks in large part to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague speech and to the context of work on NATO’s new strategic concept. The pivotal issue for most NATO states was how to handle the US sub-strategic nuclear weapons that remain in Europe. NATO member states perceived the issue differently, depending on the security interests and preferences of the country; each state read into the NPR what matched its preferences best, from an encouragement to pursue nuclear disarmament to a rather conservative preservation of the existing deterrence system. The reactions of five NATO states—France, Estonia, Poland, Germany, and Norway—illustrate this. There is widespread consent that the US sub-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe are militarily obsolete, but some countries ascribe to them a certain political-symbolic function, be it as the “glue of the alliance” or as disarmament showstoppers. Ultimately, the NPR did not end the existing cleavages on the issue of US nuclear weapons based in Europe, but rather postponed resolving them. The current way out for NATO is to move the issue to negotiations with Russia—if Russia is game.

Extended Deterrence and Disarmament: Japan and the New US Nuclear Posture
Ralph A. Cossa and Brad Glosserman

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Members of the Japanese government and the Japanese security elite welcomed the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Report, praising its emphasis on the twin goals of pursuing disarmament and protecting international peace and stability. Unlike many non-nuclear weapon states, Japan does not condition its support for nonproliferation upon nuclear weapon states’ progress on denuclearization. Despite general enthusiasm for the review in Japan, concerns remain. The NPR emphasizes the threat posed by nuclear weapons in the hands of non-state actors; from Japan’s vantage point, state actors—North Korea, China, and Russia—are just as worrisome. While disarmament advocates in Japan had hoped the NPR would endorse a no-first-use doctrine or “sole purpose” declaration, defense officials and strategists were relieved it did not go that far, fearing that to do so would undermine US extended deterrence and leave Japan vulnerable to attack by North Korean biological or chemical weapons. US policy toward China shadows many Japanese concerns about security policy in general and nuclear policy in particular. In the absence of more clarity on the Sino-US relationship, Japanese concerns can be expected to increase. Nonetheless, the Japanese government has responded positively to the release of the NPR, in large part due to unprecedented levels of coordination and consultation between Tokyo and Washington during the drafting process. Tokyo now seeks continued close consultation on nuclear strategy and policy to develop a better understanding of the concept of extended deterrence and what Tokyo can do to support this shared goal.

Finding a Balance Between Assurances and Abolition: South Korean Views of the Nuclear Posture Review
Scott Snyder

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This article analyzes South Korean views of the April 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and explores the review’s impact on South Korean domestic political debates on policy toward North Korea and the credibility and value of the US-South Korean alliance. Despite specific concerns raised by individual specialists in South Korea, the contents of the NPR have not sparked significant public debate there and have enjoyed acceptance by the current government in Seoul—perhaps unsurprising, given the strength of the US-South Korean alliance. The article also explores the impact of the NPR on US-South Korean nonproliferation cooperation in the context of the upcoming negotiations between Washington and Seoul on a nuclear cooperation agreement and in the context of South Korea’s decision to host the Nuclear Security Summit in 2012, a meeting that among other benefits will provide the two countries a unique opportunity to strengthen their collaboration on nuclear security issues and global nonproliferation policy.

Mindful of the Middle East: Egypt’s Reaction to the New US Nuclear Posture Review
Nabil Fahmy

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This article explores the official Egyptian reaction to the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) through three lenses: Egypt’s national security prism; its ideological stance on nuclear weapons; and the compatibility of the 2010 NPR’s goals with the position on nuclear weapons of Egypt’s like-minded cohort states, including members of the League of Arab States, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the New Agenda Coalition. Egypt is one of the strongest US allies in the Middle East, a region considered a hotbed of potential nuclear weapons development and activity. As such, Cairo’s opinion on the direction of recent US nuclear weapons policy could provide valuable insight into the feasibility of the US goals of preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism and the compatibility of this policy with the Middle East’s greater goals of eventual total nuclear disarmament and the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Egyptian officials have reiterated their commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East and their support for a world free from the threat of nuclear arms. The Egyptian assessment of the NPR will be contingent on the implementation of the review’s lofty goals on a rigorous and progressive pace. This article evaluates the NPR’s provisions from three angles with particular emphasis on Egypt’s national security prism, which involves a complex regional perspective.

The Position of an Emerging Global Power: Brazilian Responses to the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review
Irma Argüello

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After Barack Obama’s April 2009 Prague speech raised expectations, Brazilian experts and government officials received the release of the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) with positive but rather skeptical feelings. The differences between the 2010 and 2001 NPRs were assessed in Brazil as constructive, and the new negative security assurances were lauded as being less threatening to non-nuclear weapon states, as was the US commitment to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Although the Brazilian government insists that it will not sign the Additional Protocol (AP) until the nuclear weapon states take much deeper, though unspecified, steps toward complete nuclear disarmament, it did not block the final statement at the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons “encouraging” all states to conclude and bring into force APs and to support multinational management of the fuel cycle. Brazilian officials, however, remain doubtful about the long-term US commitment to nuclear disarmament and notice that the lack of significant progress from nuclear weapon states toward eliminating their arsenals makes it onerous for other states to enact measures to stabilize the nonproliferation regime.

Acceptance and Anxiety: Turkey (Mostly) Embraces Obama’s Nuclear Posture
Mustafa Kibaroglu

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US nuclear weapons have been an important part of Turkey’s security strategy since their first deployment on Turkish soil in the early 1960s. Turkey’s NATO membership and its close relationship with the United States have been perceived to be integral to maintaining its security. The release of the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), with its focus on disarmament and reduced reliance on nuclear weapons, has a number of potential consequences for Turkey. This article provides background on the history of Turkish-US nuclear weapons policy in light of issues ranging from Middle Eastern politics to the development of NATO’s new Strategic Concept. It then describes how actors in the government, military, and academia in Turkey have reacted to the NPR, why they reacted as they did, and how the Obama administration’s initiatives may be received in Turkey in the future. This article concludes that both military and civilian actors in Turkey have reacted favorably to the NPR and are pleased by its emphasis on nuclear nonproliferation and the maintenance of extended deterrence; however, there is less agreement in Turkey about the emphasis placed by the NPR on the danger of nuclear terrorism.

A Nuclear Nonproliferation Test: Obama’s Nuclear Policy and the 2010 NPT Review Conference
Harald Müller

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The most important short-term success of President Barack Obama’s nuclear weapons policy has been to halt the erosion of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Obama’s policies helped extract a minimum positive result from the 2010 NPT Review Conference, a favorable outcome compared to the chaos that his predecessor’s representatives had created at the 2005 conference. However, the result is only a compromise of the least common denominator between the nuclear weapon states and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The nuclear weapon states refused to agree to any specific actions or deadlines for disarmament, while the NAM states rejected any strengthening of the nonproliferation toolbox. The 2010 conference’s final document is thus an exercise in minimalism, with the notable exception of the section addressing the Middle East. As measured by delegates’ statements, the Obama policy was welcomed as a positive development. This factor enabled key players, such as Egypt and Brazil, to strive for compromise, and others, such as Russia and China, not to block it. This outcome owes more to the “Prague spirit” and the New START than to the Nuclear Posture Review. By compromising on the Middle East, the Obama administration showed the necessary flexibility to motivate the key NAM actor, Egypt, to deliver the agreement of that bloc, foiling the intentions of Iran to prevent a consensus.

Conclusion: Lessons Learned from the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review
Scott D. Sagan and Jane Vaynman

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The case studies in this special issue demonstrate that the Obama administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and related nuclear policy initiatives encouraged a number of other nuclear weapon states to likewise reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their national security doctrines and helped pave the way with non-nuclear weapon states for a successful 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This article reviews the contributing authors’ case study findings regarding key foreign governments that applauded the 2010 NPR and were receptive to President Barack Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons as well as governments that remained skeptical about US disarmament and arms control initiatives. We conclude with an analysis of the lessons that should be learned from the 2010 NPR process: the need for consistent implementation of changes in nuclear weapons doctrine, improved coordination and consultation with allies and other states, and further global education about the likelihood and consequences of nuclear terrorism.


Undergraduate Nonproliferation Education in the United States: ANonproliferation Review Survey of Teaching at Leading US Colleges and Universities
Richard Sabatini, Deborah Berman, Lisa Sanders Luscombe & Leonard S. Spector

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During 2009 and early 2010, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies conducted a survey of teaching on nonproliferation and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at the leading twenty-five US national universities, twenty-five public universities, and twenty-three (all private) liberal arts colleges and compared the results to those from a similar CNS survey published in 2002. The new survey found that schools in all three categories had greatly increased the number of both “general” courses (which include a unit of a week or longer on nonproliferation or WMD) and “specialized” courses (which focus on nonproliferation or WMD for 75 percent or more of course content). The number of departments teaching both types of courses had also expanded significantly. Nonetheless, despite repeated international WMD crises since 2002, the CNS survey found that more than one-third of America’s top college and university undergraduate programs did not include a single specialized course concentrating on this subject.

The Oracles of Proliferation: How Experts Maintain a Biased Historical Reading that Limits Policy Innovation
Benoît Pelopidas

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By examining via a case study the political authority of US proliferation experts since the 1960s, this article contributes to nuclear weapons proliferation studies and to the growing literature on the role of expertise in democracies. First, it argues that policy choices are determined by an understanding of history and that approaching nuclear history as a history of nuclear weapons proliferation is a presumption shared by both US experts and policy makers. Second, it shows that this understanding of history, relying on the metaphorical use of the term proliferation (which was imported from biology), strongly distorts the facts. Third, the article shows that nuclear experts are plagued by a conservative bias as a result of this use of the proliferation metaphor. Instead of challenging the faulty proliferation narrative, most experts have backed it without question. Fourth, the legitimacy that experts lend to this view of history has important political effects: it provides an authoritative assessment of past policies and limits the possibility of political innovation. Policy initiatives tend to be restricted to changes in speed or intensity. The article suggests three changes that might restore room for informed political innovation in nuclear weapons policies.


Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons, by Matthew Kroenig
Reviewed by J. Peter Scoblic

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Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons provides a valuable “supply-side” explanation of when and why states decide to provide sensitive nuclear weapons technology to others. Observing that states which are better able to project conventional military power have the most to lose from the spread of nuclear weapons because proliferation constrains their freedom of action, Matthew Kroenig finds that states with power-projection capabilities are less likely to provide sensitive nuclear assistance; that states are more likely to provide such assistance to countries with which they share a common enemy; and that they are less likely to do so if they are vulnerable to superpower pressure.


Statements of fact and opinion expressed in The Nonproliferation Review are the responsibility of the authors alone and do not imply the endorsement of the editors, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, or the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
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Copyright © 2011 by Monterey Institute of International Studies