Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 17th, 2020

Theories of Capability and Security as Bases of Nuclear Going


Theories of Capability and Security as  Bases of Nuclear Going

In contemporary world the mad nuclear arms race is high on the political agenda of most neo-cons, super-patriots, religious fanatics and arms dealers. Throughout the nuclear era, the conventional wisdom has been that one state’s nuclear acquisition has driven its adversaries to follow suit but it is not always the case and instead, the primary security factor driving nuclear weapons proliferation today is the disparity in conventional military power. This is likely to continue in the future, with profound consequences for which states do and don’t seek nuclear weapons. As proliferation begets proliferation, the analysis of reasons why states have sought nuclear weapons remained a central theme of the whole aspect.
 Capability profile of a state
In general nuclear weapons are not easy to develop, nor are the materials that are required cheap and commonly available. Under this umbrella are brought the technological and economic capabilities to develop nuclear weapons. In this regard the most challenging and costly is the production of fissile materials. Transforming the nuclear materials into reliable and deliverable weapon is another challenge that requires highly advanced technologies, expertise, and the same applies to developing the delivery systems for the weapons, and perhaps, this is why states prefer ballistic missiles. It is also argued that the technological and financial capabilities required for developing nuclear weapons are an effective barrier specially to less developed countries without an advanced scientific and technological infrastructure and without the financial strength to afford the investments needed to start a nuclear weapon programme.
Earlier in the first decade of nuclear weapons existence, it was generally assumed that any state would like to have nuclear weapons, simply because these weapons were the most advanced and powerful military tools available. The idea was also supported by Stephen Meyer in mid-1980s and according to him the only determining factor becomes technology. However, the factor failed to get a status of “principle”. It has no solid answer to the question - when a state has the means available to build nuclear weapons, why should it refrain specially when it is rather easy to convert civilian nuclear energy technology programmes into military ones . But a more heavy-weight logic against the factor was that many countries have become technologically and economically able to develop nuclear weapons, but never did so. In a nutshell, it may be assumed that the capabilities factor is still important in determining motivations to pursue or forgo nuclear weapons, even though it may not be a decisive factor on its own. In circumstances, the availability of capabilities to develop nuclear weapons may compel the leadership of a state to start a nuclear weapons programme. On the other hand, a lack of technological and/or economical means may force state leaders with a wish for nuclear weapons to abstain from starting a nuclear weapons programme-although this is still a choice with its own motivations, because it could always be a possibility to start acquiring the capabilities needed, even when this requires tough choices on how to spend limited state budgets. In recent past the importance and relevance of capability factor has been faded forcefully since Pakistan and North Korea-both relatively poor countries acquired nuclear weapons in 1998 and 2006 respectively.
Security as all time motivation
Since the beginning of research on dynamics of nuclear power, it has been and continues to be a dominant theory on motivations for states to pursue nuclear weapons.  In the context there is a strong pro-nuclear power weapon attitude while considering the ultimate survival, because this powerful tool will provide the best security guarantee against any external aggression. The only condition for having a successful nuclear deterrent is that the nuclear weapons arsenal should be so capacious that it cannot be totally destroyed by a surprise attack. In fact all states wish for nuclear weapons to be able to ensure their survival within the current international anarchy system. Although most realist thinkers agree that developing nuclear weapons is not easy, cheap or without risk, yet at the same time they acknowledge that only states with actual, pressing security problems will actively pursue nuclear weapons. Here is also to mention the other side of the coin in which sometimes acquiring nuclear weapons may be a bigger threat to a state’s security because a weapon programme may cause more distrust and tension among adversaries than would be the case without a nuclear weapon programme. An adversary state may feel so threatened by the nuclear weapon programme that it will launch a military attack to prevent its adversary from acquiring them. In the worst case the adversary state may react by developing nuclear weapons itself, thus creating a nuclear arms race and causing even more insecurity and instability in the region. In the situation, the realists argue, states often refrain from starting a nuclear weapon programme.
However, in contrast to the facts given in favour of realist theory, many examples can be found of states in intense conflict situations that never started a nuclear weapon programme. This variant was most popular during the “Cold War” days which emphasises the importance of security alliances and even up to now many analysts favour the alliance explanation to account for nuclear nonproliferation. In this variant states may also choose another option: seeking for an alliance with a nuclear weapon state that is willing to promise nuclear retaliation in case of the non-nuclear ally will be attacked. This kind of security guarantee, often called a “nuclear umbrella” or “positive security assurance”. It makes a nation’s nuclear weapon programme less necessary and the costs, difficulties, and risks associated with it can be avoided.
Status in today’s world
In addition, there is a concept of Neo-realist theory, developed since the 1970s, combines the importance of security guarantees with the dimension of the international system: whether the system is unipolar,  bipolar, or multipolar will influence the value of security guarantees. In a bipolar world like the Cold War era, security guarantees by one of the two superpowers will generally solve any security concern of other states. In a multipolar world which arose after the end of the Cold War, the stabilizing role of security guarantees by superpowers is loosened because these superpowers themselves have become less powerful. In a multipolar world states tend to start their own nuclear programmes more easily. However, specially since the 1990s the concept of “opacity,” “latency” or “ambiguity” has become more popular in nuclear proliferation studies. In this concept nations develop nuclear weapons without testing them or at least develop the means to be able to build nuclear weapons in a very short timeframe. This is called threshold capacity”-it takes little time to pass the threshold of nuclear weapon possession.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of P.G.Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G. Centre, Saharsa-852201. Bihar, India. Email- rajkumarsinghpg@yahoo.com

Go Top