Tag Archives: Nuclear

Machiavelli in the Ivory Tower Ep 6: The Proliferation Implications of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

In this episode of Machiavelli in the Ivory Tower, hosts Sarah and Hanna speak with Nicholas Miller, associate professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. Their conversation focuses on the proliferation implications of Russia’s war against Ukraine one year on. With Professor Miller, they examine the evolving discourse around proliferation cascades over time and assess whether concerns about the emergence of such a cascade following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been exaggerated. In so doing, they discuss insights Professor Miller has derived from his work relating to the factors that drive or inhibit proliferation, the degree to which some appear to matter more than others, and the relationship between arms control and nonproliferation regimes. Toward the end of their discussion, they touch upon the concept of “nuclear learning” and speculate about the kinds of lessons policymakers globally might draw from the current crisis. At the conclusion of the conversation, Professor Miller offers his view on the interactions between the scholarly and policy communities, what they can gain from interacting with one another, and techniques and approaches to make these interactions more productive.

Discussion topics:

  • Implications of the war in Ukraine for nonproliferation
  • Should we be concerned about further proliferation in the Middle East?
  • Is the discourse around proliferation “cascades” different now than in the past?
  • Factors that slow proliferation
  • The link between arms control and proliferation
  • Could the demise of arms control empower advocates for nuclear weapons?
  • Concerns about Russia enabling nuclear proliferation
  • Lessons learned
  • Recommendations for bridging the gap between scholars and policymakers

The episode is also available on Spotify:

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-06-one-year-on-the-proliferation-implications/id1607559445?i=1000600717078

Machiavelli in the Ivory Tower Episode 5: North Korea’s Nuclear Hinge Points

In this episode of Machiavelli in the Ivory Tower, hosts Sarah and Hanna speak with Dr. Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and current Distinguished Professor of Practice at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). Their conversation centers on Dr. Hecker’s forthcoming book, Hinge Points: An Inside Look at North Korea’s Nuclear Program (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2023). Dr. Hecker offers insights into the DPRK’s dual-track strategy of diplomacy and nuclear development and highlights missed opportunities when Washington might have been able to channel Pyongyang toward the elimination of nuclear weapons and did not. He shares insights gleaned from his many visits to North Korea and reflects on both the future of US policy toward the DPRK and the importance of facilitating engagement between scientists and diplomats.

Topics discussed include:

  • The DPRK’s dual-track strategy of diplomacy and nuclear development
  • Hinge points: missed opportunities in US policy towards the DPRK
  • Reflecting on the most consequential hinge points
  • Reasons for US policy failures
  • In-person engagement with proliferation-averse actors
  • Why a singular focus on DPRK denuclearization has been problematic
  • What next for US policy on the DPRK?
  • What scientific and policy communities can learn from each other

Episode 5 is also available on Spotify

Nuclear or Not

At a time when nuclear issues are both topical and highly debated in our daily news, Middlebury was fortunate enough to host two days of lectures and discussions by three experts in the field—who also happen to be our colleagues from Monterey Institute of International Studies. On March 21, Bill Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, who together co-edited the 2010 book Forecasting Nuclear Proliferation in the 21st Century, spoke to a crowded room in Robert A. Jones ’59 House. Potter, the director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at Monterey Institute, and Mukhatzhanova, his research associate, discussed 12 nations that might develop nuclear weaponry over the coming decade.

Iran topped their list of Middle East countries that could “go nuclear” along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. Serbia and Ukraine are potential builders of nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe, as well as the Pacific Rim’s Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. South Africa is also a candidate.

Despite the long list, Potter did not paint the overly gloomy picture posed by “most political figures, scholars, and media pundits who, regardless of their political orientation, are too quick to depict the future of nuclear proliferation as exceptionally bleak,” he said. Potter and Mukhatzhanova have found no basis that an arms race exists among the nations they considered, and they both agreed that “if one nation should decide to disavow its nonproliferation commitments, there is little reason to expect an epidemic.”

Following the talk, the pair conducted a “career conversation” with a group of undergraduates interested in internship opportunities with CNS and the new Master of Arts in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies at Monterey Institute.

Learn more from Avner Cohen about his recent book and his experiences while researching nuclear weapons in Israel.

The next afternoon, a similarly engaged crowd listened intently to Avner Cohen, a senior fellow at the Washington office of CNS and author of the recent book, The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb. Cohen spoke particularly of Israel’s position on its possession of the nuclear bomb, which is known as amimut—a Hebrew word used to describe an intended policy of ambiguity. “For decades, Israel has adopted a stance of opacity or opaqueness regarding the bomb,” said Cohen. “We all know it’s there, but no one talks about it.” Until now.

Cohen has been at the forefront of opening the dialogue about Israel and its nuclear capabilities. “My book is an effort to understand how this denial, this amimut came to be,” explained Cohen. “Not only from a political perspective, but also from a cultural and psychological standpoint.” It is a daring and thoughtful approach, one that begins in the late ’60s and follows with commentary on the outdatedness of Israel’s current stance. “The time has come to explore whether this policy of opacity makes sense. It is overdue for change,” Cohen said emphatically. “As nuclear issues become a more worldwide issue, Israel needs to bring the conversation out of the basement,” he said, referring to the highly censored and somewhat clandestine approach to any open discourse on nuclear arms.

After his talk, when asked by an audience member if Israel is more secure because of its nuclear weapons, Cohen paused thoughtfully before answering. “Perhaps, at this specific point in time,” he said finally, then added, “But time’s are changing.”