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William C. Potter



Dr. William Potter is Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies and Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS).† He also directs the MIIS Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.† He is the author of Nuclear Profiles of the Soviet Successor States (1993), Soviet Decisionmaking for Chernobyl: An Analysis of System Performance and Policy Change (1990), and Nuclear Power and Nonproliferation: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (1982), co-author of Chinese and Russian Perspectives on Achieving Nuclear Zero (2009), The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism (2005), and Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Options for Control (2000), the editor of Verification and SALT: The Challenge of Strategic Deception (1980), Verification and Arms Control (1985), and International Nuclear Trade and Nonproliferation (1990), the co-editor of Engaging China and Russia on Nuclear Disarmament (2009) and The Global Politics of Combating Nuclear Terrorism: A Supply Side Approach (2010), Dangerous Weapons, Desperate States (1999), Dismantling the Cold War: U.S. and NIS Perspectives on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (1997), Soviet Decisionmaking for National Security (1984), The Nuclear Suppliers and Nonproliferation (1985), Continuity and Change in Soviet-East European Relations (1989), and International Missile Bazaar: The New Suppliers' Network (1994).† Dr. Potter has contributed chapters and articles to over one hundred scholarly books and journals.† He has served as a consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the RAND Corporation, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.† He has been a member of several committees of the National Academy of Sciences and currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences Nonproliferation Panel.† His present research focuses on nuclear terrorism and forecasting proliferation developments.† He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy, and served for five years on the UN Secretary-Generalís Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and the Board of Trustees of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research.† He currently serves on the International Advisory Board of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia (Moscow).† He was an advisor to the delegation of Kyrgyzstan to the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and to the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2009 sessions of the NPT Preparatory Committee, as well as to the 2000 and 2005 NPT Review Conferences.



By Date



April 26, 2015

"Fresh Ideas for the Future: Symposium on the NPT"

Event Report

By Martin B. Malin, Executive Director, Project on Managing the Atom and William C. Potter

The abstracts in this booklet summarise the research presented at an academic symposium convened on the sidelines of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. As we write this, journalists and seasoned experts in the nuclear policy field have been speculating about the particularly difficult challenges facing the Review Conference this year. To address those challenges, we would urge all concerned to consider the ideas and analyses presented at this symposium. Experts would be hard-pressed to find a better collection of fresh ideas and approaches for assessing and strengthening the NPT.




Forecasting Nuclear Proliferation in the 21st Century: The Role of Theory, Volume 1


By William C. Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova

This volume provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date collection of theoretical perspectives regarding the sources of and propensity for nuclear proliferation. The authors probe the broader questions of why states pursue or abstain from nuclear weapons, as well as finer methodological issues involving concept definition and development, hypothesis testing, and generalization of findings.



Summer 2008

"Divining Nuclear Intentions: A Review Essay"

Journal Article, International Security, issue 1, volume 33

By William C. Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova

Although projections of nuclear proliferation abound, they rarely are founded on empirical research or guided by theory. Even fewer studies are informed by a comparative perspective. The two books under review—The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions, and Foreign Policy, by Jacques Hymans, and Nuclear Logics: Alternative Paths in East Asia and the Middle East, by Etel Solingen, are welcome exceptions to this general state of affairs, and represent the cutting edge of nonproliferation research. Both works challenge conventional conceptions of the sources of nuclear weapons decisions and offer new insights into why past predictions of rapid proliferation failed to materialize and why current prognoses about rampant proliferation are similarly flawed. While sharing a number of common features, including a focus on subsystemic determinants of national behavior, the books differ in their methodology, level of analysis, receptivity to multicausal explanations, and assumptions about decisionmaker rationality and the revolutionary nature of the decision. Where one author emphasizes the importance of the individual leader’s national identity conception in determining a state’s nuclear path, the other explains nuclear decisions primarily with regard to the political-economic orientation of the ruling coalition. Notwithstanding a tendency to overinterpret evidence, the books represent the best of contemporary social science research and provide compelling interpretations of nuclear proliferation dynamics of great relevance to scholars and policymakers alike.



April, 1997

Dismantling the Cold War: U.S. and NIS Perspectives on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program


By John M. Shields and William C. Potter

The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union prompted international concern over the safety and security of the Soviet arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. In legislation sponsored by Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar, the U. S. Congress approved a program to assist Soviet weapons dismantlement. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program has since authorized more than $1.5 billion for a wide array of weapons destruction, demilitarization, nuclear security, and nonproliferation activities in the Newly Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union.

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President†Mikhail Gorbachev.