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"Ringing in Proliferation: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Network"

"Ringing in Proliferation: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Network"

Journal Article, International Security, volume 30, issue 2, pages 153-187

Fall 2005

Author: Alexander Montgomery, Former Research Fellow, Managing the Atom Project/International Security Program, 2003–2005

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Quarterly Journal: International Security; Science, Technology, and Public Policy



The nuclear nonproliferation regime has come under attack from proliferation determinists, who argue that resolute proliferants connected by decentralized networks can be stopped only through the use of aggressive export controls or regime change. Proliferation pragmatists counter that nuclear aspirants are neither as resolved nor as advanced as determinists claim. A technical review of recent proliferators’ progress reveals that Iran, North Korea, and Libya (before it renounced its nuclear program) have been unable to significantly cut development times; the evidence that these regimes are dead set on proliferating and cannot be persuaded to give up their nuclear programs is not compelling. Because these states lack tacit knowledge, the most effective way to dissolve the hub-and-spoke or star-shaped structures of their nuclear and ballistic missile networks is to target the hubs—that is, second-tier proliferators such as Pakistan that have assisted these states with their nuclear and missile programs. Past strategies aimed at dissuading proliferants have been most successful when they combine diplomatic, social, and economic benefits with credible threats and clear red lines. The United States should therefore use these strategies instead of regime change to target current and potential hub states to halt further proliferation.


For more information about this publication please contact the IS Editorial Assistant at 617-495-1914.

For Academic Citation:

Montgomery, Alexander H. "Ringing in Proliferation: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Network." International Security 30, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 153-187.

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