Home Institution

Emory University

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy


The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was created in 1967 in response to the growing threat of nuclear weapon detonation.1 Today, it has been signed and ratified by 190 countries who pledge to pursue efforts towards non-proliferation, peaceful nuclear energy, and nuclear disarmament. Five states remain outside of the treaty, four of which are nuclear weapon states: Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea. The nuclear weapon states in the NPT have been established as Britain, France, the U.S., Russia, and China.

The NPT has been created and maintained through the existence of power dynamics between nuclear and non-nuclear states. The potential to use nuclear weapons in warfare, a fearful conception that induced this treaty, has since become unrealistic.2 Yet nuclear weapons continue to remain a source of political and diplomatic power for the five nuclear weapon states whose authority has been validated through the treaty. The perception of nuclear weapons as a manifestation of state power has enabled their persistence in a world of evolving approaches to conflict that render their use as an offensive and defensive strategy to be superseded by advanced forms of warfare.

This paper looks at the NPT in the context of the evolving global security dynamic, and analyzes how the importance of nuclear weapons has shifted from a defense strategy to a powerful symbol of political authority. Reports and publications from the ICRC and the Geneva Call support arguments of recent developments and challenges in defending against modern forms of conflict. The work of nuclear deterrence theorists such as Waltz, Brodie, and Glaser will contribute to elucidating the diminishing effect of nuclear weapons on deterrence and the impracticality of nuclear weapons in warfare. An analysis of historical events and proceedings will demonstrate the changing role of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon states in a globalized world dependent on interstate cooperation.


Defense and Security Studies | Diplomatic History | International and Area Studies | International Relations | Military History | Other International and Area Studies | Peace and Conflict Studies | Political History | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


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