Securing guarantees : how nuclear proliferation can strengthen great power commitments
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The number of states with nuclear weapons has grown at a much slower rate than many predicted during the early years of the Cold War. Yet the reasons for this slow rate of proliferation are not well understood. What is maintaining the (predominantly non-nuclear) status quo? Other work takes external threats and the credibility of security guarantees as given, but I show how nuclear proliferation can shape and be shaped by both. This approach allows me to show how the decisions of proliferators, their allies, and their adversaries are intertwined. This leads to a previously unexplored effect of proliferation: in addition to the defensive and deterrent capability of nuclear weapons, nuclear possession can also cause great powers to tighten their alliance commitments. Great powers therefore have incentives to dissuade nuclear pursuit through threats of sanctions when they are capable of imposing them and through heightened security guarantees when they cannot.