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Motivations of Proliferation

Why do states pursue nuclear weapons? The choice to mobilize tremendous political, economic, technological, and human resources is no small one that is rarely entered into lightly. It is a choice of tremendous risk of high costs for only potential benefits and the possibility of more costs incurred. In 1984, Stephen Meyer set out to sort through the various incentives and disincentives identified in the vast literature on nuclear proliferation. We feel that while mostly complete, Meyer's framework does not capture all motives for establishing and pursuing nuclear weapon programs. Using case studies of North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, and Ukraine, we examine the proliferation motivations and determine what, if any, gaps exist or motivations are no longer applicable. This work has the potential to impact assessments of future potential and proliferating states and non-state entities, as well as policies promoting proliferation resistance.


  1. S. O'Neil and K. Stout, "Motivations of Proliferation," Class Project See Document


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