The Health of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime: Returning to a Multidimensional Evaluation


How do we assess the health of international regimes? Many analysts have insisted recently that the nuclear nonproliferation regime is in urgent need of repair or that it should even be discarded because of its supposed ineffectiveness. However, it is essential that statements about the regime being in crisis be scrutinized for veracity and utility. While the spread of nuclear weapons poses an undeniable and serious threat to international security, a mistaken crisis mentality with respect to the regime could lead to rash attempts to alter it in unnecessary or ineffective ways or, at worst, to discard it completely. This paper returns to a theoretical framework that differentiates regimes, across both issue areas and time, to provide a more specified evaluation of regime health. By disaggregating the nuclear nonproliferation regime and assessing the individual and interactive health of multiple dimensions, a number of dimension-specific, regime-strengthening policy recommendations emerge.

The Nonproliferation Review 16(2): 173–196