The Economics of American Nonproliferation Policy

The Pardee School Project on the Political Economy of Security Fall 2018 Speaker Series hosts Jayita Sarkar, from the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University for a discussion entitled "The Economics of American Nonproliferation Policy."

Presentation Abstract: Conventional wisdom attributes U.S. commitment to prevent the global spread of nuclear weapons as a consequence of American national security interests. Yet, a closer look at U.S. nonproliferation policy reveals a compelling economic logic. Without incorporating economic factors and their convergence with the Cold War American national security state, the understanding of U.S. nonproliferation policy remains incomplete. This study examines how the overlap of economic and security factors played out in U.S. nuclear assistance to allies, friends and sometimes, near adversaries, thus creating techno-economic dependence on the United States.

Beginning with President Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ proposal and its consequences, U.S. policymakers generated this complex web of techno-economic dependence for reactor models, fuel, spare parts, expertise and knowhow, which in turn served the purpose of nonproliferation. American monopoly as a nuclear supplier from the 1950s onward became a deliberate tool for nonproliferation abundantly applied by policymakers in Washington. By the 1970s, as American postwar economic preeminence shattered with the ‘Nixon shock’— the end of dollar convertibility to gold of the Bretton Woods system— and the 1973 oil price shock, U.S. market share in terms of global nuclear reactor sales had also declined, while those of West European suppliers like France and West Germany had increased. With American monopoly as the world’s nuclear supplier over, the web of techno-economic dependence on the United States needed readjustment in order retain U.S. leverage. In the Nixon/Ford era, this took the form of developing the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) after India’s 1974 nuclear explosion, which was guided as much by Washington’s economic goals to reclaim its market share and protect U.S. nuclear industry against West European competition as by security risks from nuclear proliferation.

12:00 pm on Friday, October 19, 2018
2:00 pm on Friday, October 19, 2018
154 Bay State Road, Eilts Room