This seminar is part of the ongoing Nuclear Crossroads Initiative. Following the lecture there will be a question and answer session.
What do states gain by keeping open the option to produce nuclear weapons? The conventional wisdom is that that countries as different as Iran and Japan reap deterrence benefits. This seminar advances an alternative explanation. Countries use nuclear technology not to deter but rather as a means of compelling concessions from the United States. When it comes to cutting a deal, however, there is an optimal amount of nuclear technology. With too little, the threat to proliferate is not credible. But if the country moves too close to the bomb, it becomes increasingly difficult to make a convincing nonproliferation promise. A nuclear program thereby enters a bargaining sweet spot when it first acquires the ability to produce fissile material, as the country can most readily issue credible threats and assurances. The seminar illustrates the effect of this Goldilocks zone on diplomacy with the United States by examining nuclear bluffs, buildups, and bargains by Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Iran, North Korea, and Japan. The conclusion links these findings on proliferation dynamics to the future of U.S. nuclear policy and extended deterrence.
Tristan Volpe is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow and an Associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on the use of nuclear technology as a bargaining chip in world politics. Prior to working at Carnegie, he was a Lawrence Scholar at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Tristan received a Ph.D. in political science from the George Washington University and a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
The Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) sponsored this seminar entitled "Threating Proliferation: The Goldilocks Principle of Cutting Nuclear Deals" on Sept. 22, 2015, at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The seminar was presented by Tristan Volpe, a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow and an Associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.