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2/8/18: Matt Fuhrmann

February 08, 2018 to February 15, 2018


707 IAB

Event Type: 

On February 8, Matt Fuhrmann will be joining us to present a paper entitled, "The Logic of Latent Nuclear Deterrence." The abstract appears below and the paper is attached.

Abstract: Nuclear deterrence is central to international relations theory and practice. Most people assume that countries must possess nuclear weapons in order to reap deterrence benefits from their nuclear programs. This article shows, however, that latent nuclear powers – nonnuclear states that possess the capacity to make weapons – can deter aggression, despite their lack of assembled warheads. Latent nuclear deterrence works because states that possess the technology needed to produce bombs can threaten to initiate or accelerate nuclear weapons programs if they are attacked. A fixed effects regression analysis that includes 170 countries from 1946 to 2010, using data compiled by the author on the global spread of sensitive nuclear technology, provides evidence consistent with three of the theory’s testable predictions. First, switching from non-latency to latency reduces the probability of being targeted in a violent military dispute in a given year by 3.32 percentage points. Second, having nuclear latency does not deter less serious, nonviolent disputes. Third, the development of non-sensitive nuclear technology that does not provide states with latent nuclear capacity is not associated with a lower likelihood of being attacked. A qualitative analysis of Iran’s nuclear activities from 2002 to 2015 illustrate these statistical findings. This evidence has lessons for the debate about nuclear disarmament: most scholars and policymakers are skeptical that the prospect of nuclear rearmament in a disarmed world could deter serious international disputes, but the case for latent nuclear deterrence is stronger than critics would lead us to believe.


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