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Reducing the Role of Nuclear Weapons in Military Alliances

Cover Reducing the Role of Nuclear Weapons in Military Alliances
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm :
June, 2024

This paper examines the role of nuclear weapons in military alliances, focusing on the perspectives of the so-called umbrella states—that is, allied states that do not have their own nuclear weapons but are part of the ‘extended nuclear deterrence arrangements’ of a nuclear-armed patron. After analysing allied security thinking and highlighting the underlying assumptions about nuclear deterrence, the paper subjects some of those assumptions to critical scrutiny. Taking into account regional military balances and escalation risks related to nuclear deterrence, it challenges the perceived security benefits of forward-deployed non-strategic weapons, continued support for allied nuclear doctrines based on readiness for the first use of nuclear weapons, and the assumed inevitability of nuclear second strike that underlies the practices of nuclear assurance. The goal is to open discussion on the development of a more measured approach to deterrence that would allow for minimizing the role of nuclear weapons in military alliances.


I. Introduction

II. The role of nuclear weapons in allied security policy

III. Allied assumptions about nuclear deterrence

IV. Conclusions


Dr Tytti Erästö is a Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme.