A brief history of nuclear proliferation

Nukes are a pain — dangerous and expensive to build and maintain. As a result, nations have acquired nukes almost exclusively to deter a rival. The rival is nearly always physically adjacent, more powerful, and already nuclear. Look at the timeline.

America gets nukes (1945).
Russia deters America (1949).
Britain deters Russia (1952).
France twirls Gaullist moustache (1960).
China deters Russia (1964).
Israel deters Syria & Egypt (1967).
India deters China (1974).
Pakistan deters India (1998).
North Korea deters America (2003).
Iran deters Pakistan, Israel, USA (TBD).

France is arguably the only nation to have developed nuclear weapons for no logical strategic reason. In all other cases, you may be sorry they acquired them, but you cannot deny the strategic logic.

For example, Iran is currently surrounded by US satellites and allies: Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey. The conventional forces in those three nations far surpass Iran’s. Logically, that would be the scariest geopolitical threat to Iran. So logically, this is the primary reason Iran would seek nuclear weapons.

This strongly argues that conventional disarmament would help limit nuclear proliferation. For example, if the Kashmir borders were settled and India reduced its conventional forces, Pakistan would face no strategic threats, and thus be more likely to eliminate its nuclear arsenal. But India would do this only if China did it first. China would do this if Russia did. Russia would do it if America did.

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