Recently, President Barack Obama urged the international
community to work towards nuclear disarmament. The United States,
he declared, would take the lead to a nuclear-free world by
reducing its nuclear arsenal. Such a move would signal a stronger
U.S. commitment to the non-proliferation regime, which calls for
the nuclear powers to eventually relinquish their arsenals. His
initiative also echoes calls by distinguished policy-makers,
including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George
Schultz, urging the United States to relinquish its nuclear
weapons. When presenting these bold objectives, the President
underscored the need for "persistence and patience" to reach
worldwide nuclear abolition.
Although the President has laid out a clear objective for this
country, how other countries might react in terms of their nuclear
weapons policy remains less clear. Indeed, the effect of deep U.S.
reductions on nuclear proliferation and deterrence will likely
determine whether or not the President's expressed aspiration for
worldwide abolition is possible. This project examines the effect
of deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal on the behavior of
allies and potential adversaries. To help NNSA understand the
changing nuclear proliferation landscape, the project will address
the following questions:
- How might deep nuclear stockpile reductions affect the future
of nuclear weapons proliferation?
- How will moving towards abolition affect the ability of the
United States to extend deterrence to allies, especially to those
allies without nuclear weapons but with the potential to acquire an
arsenal of their own?
- How do countries other than the United States view the utility
of nuclear weapons? As the United States reduces its arsenal, will
other countries view nuclear weapons as more or less attractive?
What can the United States do to reduce the perceived utility of
The relationship between deep reductions in nuclear arsenals and
nuclear proliferation is not well understood. This subtask will
provide a framework to understand how the U.S. move towards nuclear
abolition might influence the proliferation behavior of allies and
potential adversaries. The effort's initial activities will examine
the potential reactions of U.S. allies to deep reductions. In Parts
1 and 2, the project will assess the ability of the United States
to extended deterrence to allies and the conditions under which
potential allies would perceive these efforts as credible. If
allies respond to U.S. reduction by acquiring nuclear weapons, then
they could become a significant obstacle on the road to worldwide
abolition. The project will then assess the reaction of states
outside of the American nuclear umbrella to deep reductions,
including the reaction of potential U.S. adversaries. Part 3
examines international views on the utility of nuclear weapons and
discusses various U.S. options to reduce the perceived utility of
This effort should interest the Department of Energy's National
Nuclear Security Administration in their non-proliferation mission
for four reasons. First, the project aims to provide a set of
indicators about the nuclear-proliferation behavior of allies and
potential adversaries in a world where the U.S. moves towards a
sharply lower nuclear arsenal than the one deployed today. Second,
the project will examine how deep reductions affect the ability of
the U.S. to extended deterrence. Third, the project will help NNSA
understand how countries outside the U.S. nuclear umbrella perceive
the utility of nuclear weapons, the central driver of nuclear
proliferation. Finally, the project will suggest some steps the
United States might take to reduce the perceived utility of nuclear
weapons as way to curb nuclear proliferation.
Part 1: Can the U.S. Extended Deterrence to Allies after
Alliance commitments remain one rationale for U.S. nuclear
weapons. This task asks whether or not old concepts of deterrence
are still relevant to U.S. national security policy. During the
Cold War, U.S. policy-makers believed they needed to threaten the
first-use of nuclear weapons to deter a Soviet invasion of NATO due
to perceived conventional weakness in Central Europe. What remains
unclear about today is whether the United States must make nuclear
threats to deter conventional or nuclear attacks on allies. In
particular, we will examine whether or not credible U.S.
extended-deterrence commitments require nuclear threats in a world
with multiple nuclear powers, a realistic possibility that prudent
planners must consider. This task will require the project to
review the literature on the future of warfare as well as debates
about U.S. grand strategy. We will supplement our research by
interviewing policy-makers and scholars in the United States.
Part 2: How Will Allies Perceive Deep Reductions in the
U.S. Nuclear Arsenal?
This task will explore the possible effects of steep reduction
in the U.S. nuclear arsenal on its friends and allies. To
accomplish this task, we will review the literature on the causes
of nuclear proliferation, assess the ability of the U.S. to
credibly extended deterrence without nuclear weapons through an
analysis of the required capabilities to protect American allies,
and interview relevant policy-makers in allied countries. To date,
there are few comparative assessments about how U.S. allies think
about the desirability of the American nuclear umbrella and what
kind of protection it actually buys them.
Part 3: What are International Perceptions about the
Utility of Nuclear Weapons?
In this task, the project will explore the perceived utility of
nuclear weapons by states outside the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The
project will examine how non-U.S. allies view the advantages and
disadvantages of nuclear weapons. This task will employ two methods
of data collection. First, we will examine the strategic writings
of current or aspiring nuclear powers to discern different
rationales for nuclear acquisition. Second, we will interview
relevant policy-makers in different countries to determine the
perceived strategic value of nuclear weapons, especially how they
perceive these weapons as instruments of deterrence. To date, there
is little work comparing international views about the requirements
of deterrence. We will also try to discern how much the desire for
international prestige and domestic political consideration
determine the value of nuclear weapons. Finally, this task will
examine potential U.S. strategies to reduce the utility of nuclear
weapons. We will assess the costs and the benefits of existing
proposals about how the United States could immediately begin to
lower the perceived value of nuclear weapons, including reductions
in its own arsenal and the extension of security guarantees.
- J.J. Castillo,
"Deliberate Escalation: Deterrence Strategies of Regional Nuclear Powers,"
The Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, September 2-5, 2010.
- J.J. Castillo and C. Layne,
"Strategic Challenges Facing Regional Nuclear Weapon Powers: Initial Arguments from the Case of Pakistan,"
Proceedings of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, New Orleans, LA, March 2010.
Russia and U.S. Sign Nuclear Arms Reduction Pact