by Josef Joffe
July 17, 2014
Will America’s allies seek nuclear weapons if U.S. security guarantees wane? Nations reach for the Bomb because they want deterrents against others who have it or who may seek it. Other things being equal, America’s withdrawal phase will not trigger new nukes – but “other things” rarely stay equal in the life of nations. If Russia and China double down on their expansionism, if the U.S. continues to add irresolution to withdrawal, or if stylized conflicts in East Asia and Eastern Europe escalate into the real thing, this sanguine bet will change. Retraction may have little effect on proliferation, but it will have big effects on America’s world position and on stability in the crisis theaters at Russia’s and China’s peripheries. If the international political vacuum caused by U.S. withdrawal persists, even the most peace-minded allies might get off the anti-nuclear wagon, and recalculate the costs and benefits of abstentionism.