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Nuclear Weapons and Democracy
1.00-2.30 pm ET
In anticipation of the 2022 Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
This event will offer an opportunity to hear and discuss the findings of a research study conducted by the Nuclear Knowledges academic programme of Sciences Po Paris, headed by Dr Benoît Pélopidas. These findings are made public in a book just published and entitled Repenser les choix nucléaires (“Rethinking Nuclear Choices”, Presses de Sciences Po, Paris, Jan. 2022). This book is based on primary sources from France, the UK and the US, interviews worldwide as well as new public opinion surveys of the European public.
This book sheds new light on nuclear weapons-related choices and shows that the justifications for nuclear weapons policies have historically not been consistent with the arsenals that were actually built. Consequently, it offers a new framework to think about nuclear weapons choices in terms of vulnerabilities. Among the findings of the research, worth mentioning are:
The absence of a wave of "horizontal proliferation" in the 30 years after the Cold War that some experts had announced: indicators of proliferation have been historically low since 1990.
The vast majority of states never had any nuclear weapons activities. Even among those who tried, renunciation is more frequent that complete proliferation, and this cannot be explained by lack of capabilities, extended nuclear deterrence as an alternative, or effective counter-proliferation.
Nuclear-weapon states (NWS) played a key role in allowing the proliferation of nuclear weapons: no NWS has become nuclear without the help of at least one P5 member. Paradoxically, focusing on horizontal proliferation helped making nuclear arsenals perpetual.
The role of luck in the avoidance of unwanted nuclear explosions in the past has been under-researched by experts, when, at the same time, those experts produced the illusion of credibility of nuclear deterrence policies (based on a case study of France).
Absence of "consensus" on French and UK nuclear deterrence policies based on novel surveys from 2018 and 2019 showing not support but perceived lack of legitimacy.
Dr Benoît Pélopidas, founding Director of the “Nuclear Knowledges” programme at Sciences Po (CERI) in Paris
Dr Patricia Lewis, Director of Research, International Security Programme, Chatham House, London