Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Patrick Stewart

in Weak Links

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199751501
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895366 | DOI:
Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

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This chapter explores the link between weak states and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, examining the threat of WMD proliferation, outlining various avenues by which both state and nonstate actors might attempt to acquire WMD, and exploring ways that state weakness could facilitate each proliferation pathway. It focuses primarily on nuclear weapons, but also discusses chemical and biological weapons. It argues that weak states do have certain vulnerabilities that proliferators might attempt to exploit, including high levels of corruption, poor security, and weak law enforcement capabilities. Two fragile states in particular—North Korea and Pakistan—clearly pose a serious proliferation threat. Globally, however, state fragility does not uniformly correlate with proliferation potential. In fact the most problematic group of countries may be relatively strong “states to watch” that have or seek nuclear weapons capabilities. States in this category—unlike the weakest states—have the resources and capacity to develop WMD, which in some cases could pose a direct threat to the United States. They also are characterized by certain governance gaps that may make them deliberate or inadvertent sources of WMD materials for nonstate actors.

Keywords: weapons of mass destruction; state weakness; corruption; law enforcement; North Korea; Pakistan

Chapter.  13348 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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