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WaPo – Why nuclear superiority matters for compellence

Matthew Kroenig, Miriam Krieger and Hans Noel – Washington Post: “As diplomats work on a comprehensive nuclear deal to keep Iran from the bomb, Russia’s nuclear saber rattles in ways not seen since the 1980s, and North Korea, China, India and Pakistan expand and modernize their nuclear arsenals, the role of nuclear weapons is returning to the center of both foreign policy and scholarly debates.  Some of the most basic questions both groups would like to answer include: Do nuclear weapons matter? More specifically, can countries use nuclear weapons to deter and compel adversaries short of launching a nuclear attack? And, finally, does nuclear superiority, an advantage in the size and sophistication of a nuclear arsenal relative to that of an opponent, provide a coercive edge? The answer to these questions will help inform our understanding of several vital questions: how easy it will be to persuade Tehran to forego a nuclear weapons capability; to what lengths the international community should go to put verifiable limits on Iran’s nuclear program; how concerned Washington should be about an increased emphasis on nuclear weapons in potential adversaries’ posture and doctrine; and whether the United States should remain committed to maintaining a robust nuclear arsenal.”

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