Date of Award

Winter 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Steve Yetiv

Committee Member

Peter Schulman


Existing literature examines nuclear proliferation from a regional or a national perspective but nuclear issues are inherently transnational. The literature also often focuses on single-state policies for deterrence purposes. Following tailored (single-state) policies, however, is too narrow because these policies are bilateral and based on national interest; they do not include global concerns. In response to the literature, this dissertation proposes to examine states grouped according to their state characteristics in terms of threat existence, democracy level in the nuclear field, and membership in nuclear organizations and compliance with major nuclear treaties. The focus here is to ask: "Does regional security complex theory explain nuclear behavior?" To some extent it does. Regional security complex theory groups states in relation to their geopolitical context. This grouping method is essential for the model that I call nuclear nonproliferation security complexes. Different than the former theory, I argue that nuclear issues are inherently transnational, not regional, and states' nuclear behavior is shaped by the aforementioned state characteristics.

This model places states into seven different groups in terms of their characteristics. A triple Venn diagram helps to picture this conceptualization. The first three groups—called material, liberal, and norms-based security complexes—are the core parts of the Venn diagram. Security complexes four through six lie on the intersections between one, two, and three, with the seventh lying at the center. The state characteristics of Iran, Israel, Turkey and the United States are examined in order to understand how the model functions. This dissertation finds that despite having common Middle Eastern security concerns, Iran, Israel and Turkey follow different nuclear policies and their relationship with the United States is a fundamental factor in their nuclear decision-making. In conclusion, I suggest that the United States should differentiate its national interest, which is more to follow nuclear nonproliferation policies, from the global interest, which is to follow nuclear disarmament policies. From this perspective, the United States should find equal ground for both policies to work in conjunction with each other. This could lead to a more comprehensive nuclear approach that incorporates and engages with all actors.


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