Not a Double-Edged Sword: Why U.S. Economic Sanctions Encourage the Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons, but Can't Prevent Their Acquisition
42 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2013
Date Written: October 1, 2012
Despite the U.S. Government’s use of economic sanctions as one of its primary counter-proliferation tools, few studies have actually examined their overarching impact on nuclear weapons proliferation. Drawing on the sanctions and nuclear proliferation literatures, I hypothesize that U.S. economic sanctions make their targets more likely to begin pursuing nuclear weapons because of the security concerns they invoke. Yet, being sanctioned by the United States can also undermine their targets’ ability to successfully acquire nuclear weapons. I test whether economic sanctions thus cut both ways in causing their targets to pursue nuclear weapons but preventing their targets from acquiring them via a large-n analysis of 154 countries from 1945-2000. The results indicate that while U.S. economic sanctions dramatically increase their targets’ likelihoods of starting nuclear weapons programs, they are ineffective at preventing their targets from acquiring nuclear weapons. The concluding sections explore the potential reasons for these findings and their policy implications.
Keywords: Economic Sanctions, Nuclear Weapons, Nonproliferation, United States, Foreign Policy
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