Why Do States Seek Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear weapons are the most powerful and destructive weapons held in the aresenals of any modern states. Since the creation of the nuclear bomb, many have feared that a nuclear war could lead to the end of life on earth as we currently know it. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the central organisation working towards maintaining nuclear peace and preventing the further spread of nuclear arms (Graham 2004, 285). The NPT’s main focus is preventing further nuclear proliferation (Ford 2007, 403).
The reasons why states have sought nuclear weapons since the Second World War (WW2) are explored below. In particular, this analysis focuses on state survival, national prestige, and ‘great power’ status theories, which are the most prominent theories used in explaining nuclear proliferation. Additionally, the issues related to non-proliferation and reductions to current nuclear weapon stockpiles are discussed.
Nuclear proliferation refers to the spread of nuclear weapons and the technology used to produce such weapons, and to the process by which a state develops and/or comes into possession of nuclear weapons (US Department of Defence 2005). The first nuclear fight for survival ended in 1945 when the United States (US) used two nuclear bombs against Japan to bomb the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Carroll 2007). However, after WW2 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) accelerated its nuclear development program, due to fears that the US and their Allies would attack them (Holloway 1995, 271-273). This highlights states working towards gaining nuclear arms in the interest of their survival, and this initiated the Cold War. The concept of ‘survival’ within an anarchic world is a strong argument in understanding a state’s desire to seek nuclear arms.