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Security assurances and nuclear nonproliferation

Countries foregoing Nuclear weapons, eds. Jeffrey W. Knopf, ed. Security Assurances and Nuclear Nonproliferation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, In stark contrast to the policies of President George W. The Obama administration presumes that a strategy of making the perceived benefits of complying with the NPT outweigh the costs of foregoing nuclear weapons will motivate cooperation.

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Whether or not the relationship between negative security assurances and nonproliferation posited in the Nuclear Posture Review is correct and, if so, under what circumstances is an open question. In light of these changes in U. Knopf brings together an impressive group of scholars to address the question of whether or not security assurances have any utility as a nonproliferation tool p. The volume is a valuable resource for the study of security assurances, but it is also a useful introduction to the politics of nonproliferation more generally.

The case studies are culled from a broad sample of states with quite different relationships to nuclear technology, including Libya, Iran, Japan, South and North Korea, Sweden, and Ukraine. The study opens with an essay on the concept of security assurances in which Knopf offers thirteen hypothesis about the relationship between security assurances and proliferation.

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He then further distinguishes between different types of security assurances, the most salient of which is the distinction between positive and negative nonproliferation-related assurances. Positive assurances are promises to come to the aid of an ally in the event of enemy aggression. They usually take the form of a credible commitment to retaliate with nuclear weapons in response to nuclear aggression against a non-nuclear ally. Negative assurances are promises not to overtly threaten or target another state, and in particular not to overtly threaten non-nuclear weapon states with nuclear weapons.

The list of hypotheses that Knopf generates relates factors that could have an impact on the effectiveness of security assurances to the dependant variable of nonproliferation success the reversal, abandonment, or renunciation of a nuclear weapons program or failure starting a program or building an arsenal p.

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He then generates eight additional hypotheses from rational deterrence theory and four from the literature on the causes of proliferation. Rather than review each of these hypotheses in turn, it is perhaps best to skip straight to a summary of the findings. John Wirtz provides a compelling synthesis in a concluding essay, which in spite of the tentative and contingent nature of the conclusions is one of the highlights of the volume.