“Former” Nuclear and Small Power Relations
August 12, 2010
The invention and widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons has forever altered the international landscape and world leaders’ approach to conflict. Today, prominent political leaders attempt to create an ideal environment that allows the diverse international community to co-exist in one system without the constant threat of major conflict. However, while some leaders attempt disarmament, they may not comprehend the consequences of either disarmament or further proliferation. This leads to the question of: What effect would the elimination of nuclear weapons from the international system have on the probability of war between a smaller powers and a former nuclear powers? With China becoming a rising power in the world today and the European Union struggling to find a clear direction, the question of nuclear proliferation becomes even more of a world priority. The arguments on both sides have significant merit, but the nuclear question burns brightly with the fast-changing international power landscape. Scholars such as Sagan, Mearsheimer, and Waltz largely deal with relationships between large states. The discussion focuses on relationships like that of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, but there is another facet of this conversation. The potential for deterioration of peaceful relations between small powers and former nuclear powers, assuming absence of nuclear weapons, provides a powerful opportunity to explore the importance of nuclear peace.
This paper begins by reviewing the three relevant theories in the nuclear argument from non-proliferation to selective proliferation to laissez-faire proliferation. A critique and summary with considerable scrutiny of the evidence will determine the validity against the historical record. Second, will be a discussion of the theory on small state and former nuclear power relationships and the implications of these predictions. An introduction of the hypotheses and discussion on their relevance in the discussion will provide a transition in the review and testing of these predictions. Third on the agenda is the examination of evidence through a rigorous case study that either produces support or refutes the predictions regarding small and former nuclear power relations. Finally, following the case study results, the phase of drawing conclusions will provide real world implications and discuss the limitations the methodology used in this paper. The current nuclear landscape stands on two distinct arguments in three separate schools. First, Scott D. Sagan champions the non-proliferation argument. Second, J.J. Mearsheimer and Kenneth R. Waltz lead the nuclear peace argument. Two schools of thought dominate the nuclear peace argument. Mearsheimer leads the selective proliferation coalition. Meanwhile, Waltz is the de facto leader of the laissez-faire proliferation coalition. The landscape stands as a continuum with non-proliferation on the left, selective proliferation somewhere in the middle, and laissez-faire proliferation on the right. A well-documented set of literature exists with the three main theories dominating the landscape of the nuclear weapons debate. However, the likelihood of small powers playing games with large states who would lack nuclear weapons has not been completely explored and may have a place in determining the future of the international system. With the first school of thought, Scott Sagan is the lead defender of the non-proliferation movement. Sagan genuinely disagrees with the security argument for nuclear weapons stating, “Nuclear weapons…are more than tools of national security (Sagan 1997).” Betts (1977) echoes this sentiment arguing, “Security incentives, however, are quite susceptible to moderation by outside powers.” Furthermore, Robert Jervis (2001) concedes that the United States held a “large...