Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz

Committee Member

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Peter Schulman


Since 1945, nuclear weapons have impacted world politics and the world has sought to control their spread. This has resulted in the nonproliferation regime and its centerpiece: the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Understanding nonproliferation compliance is important to determining whether the NPT is contributing to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. If the NPT is having no influence on state behavior, then the international community can decide if its efforts should be redirected from treaties to other nonproliferation efforts.

There are several competing theories on why states do or do not comply with treaties. One of the most common thoughts is that states act in their own best interest at the moment. However, domestic politics and the influence of internal factors have gained recognition and popularity. Dr. Beth Simmons is one of the leading scholars in this area.

Simmons has done extensive qualitative and quantitative research resulting in the proposition that in the case of human rights treaties mobilization of domestic groups, agenda setting, and litigation influence treaty compliance. Simmons argues that the neorealist focus on state interests within treaty compliance is not satisfactory.

While the Simmons' theory developed from human rights treaties, it may be applicable to nonproliferation. Both issue areas deal with security: individual for human rights and national for nonproliferation. Furthermore, the human rights treaties used by Simmons and the NPT share similar timelines in world history, are widely ratified, and utilize oversight bodies. And yet they all lack direct enforcement capabilities. Like the human rights issues, nuclear weapons issues sometimes cause an emotional reaction. Finally, while it goes against accepted international norms to violate human rights and proliferate, infractions still occur in both issue areas. Perhaps, the most common reason for the violations is for the security of the ruling regime.

Does the domestic politics theory on compliance with human rights treaties assist in explaining NPT compliance? Given the success of the theory in the area of human rights and the similarities of human rights treaties to the NPT, it will be meaningful to evaluate the domestic politics theory of treaty compliance and use the theory in the area of nonproliferation to gain a greater understanding of treaty compliance more generally and to test whether the issue area matters.

This dissertation seeks to assess whether Simmons's domestic politics theory of compliance (i.e. mobilization of domestic groups, agenda setting, and litigation) is a useful prism for viewing the high politics issues area of national security, specifically on nuclear weapons, by exploring six Nonproliferation Treaty member states situations of compliance, noncompliance, and potential compliance concern. Ultimately, it shows that the theory is not very useful in explaining compliance (or noncompliance) because the mechanisms are not present when analyzing the NPT. Mobilization is somewhat present in two cases but not directly tied to the NPT and nonproliferation. This means that the theory should be modified to account for its shortcomings with treaties concerning high politics issues.