National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


Document Type



Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, Vol. I, pp 153-162.


Copyright 2016 by the author.


Why do states engage in nuclear proliferation? Nuclear proliferation is a major security issue affecting the international arena. Existing studies debate both the strength and direction of determinants of nuclear proliferation and the effect of domestic and international circumstances on proliferation. A clear understanding of why states choose to pursue nuclear arms is critical to promoting and maintaining international security. By analyzing what factors may make a state less prone to proliferation, the international community may incentivize disarmament. My research question considers membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a potential correlate of nuclear proliferation. Are countries that are members of the UNSC more likely to engage in nuclear proliferation compared to countries that are not elected to the UNSC? Current scholarly research suggests many factors for proliferation. Existing literature cites three types of determinants: technological determinants, external determinants, and domestic determinants (Singh & Way, 2004, p. 862). States that are more technologically advanced are more likely to develop nuclear weapons due to a universal appeal of nuclear arms and the reduced costs of acquiring nuclear weapons compared to less advanced states (Singh & Way, 2004, p. 862; Jo & Gartzke, 2007, p. 167). External determinants, such as perceived security threats, cause a state to develop nuclear weapons in order to balance against a rival state’s nuclear capabilities or a conventional threat. An alliance with a major power, on the other hand, diminishes the probability of proliferation (Bleek & Lorber, 2013, p. 1; Jo & Gartzke, 2007, p. 185; Singh & Way, 2004, p. 863). Some argue that in relation to the democratic peace theory, the pacifying effects of democracy and interdependence among democratic states reduce the ambition to pursue nuclear weapons. Quantitative tests have found that economic integration deters nuclear proliferation, because states do not wish to threaten economic partners (Singh & Way, 2004, p. 864). Scholars have also tested the effects of signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on nuclear proliferation, though they have reached different conclusions. Jo and Gartzke found that while states that have ratified the NPT ratification are less likely to initiate nuclear programs, NPT ratification has not deterred proliferation at the system level (Jo & Gartzke, 2007, p. 167). However, Bleek and Lorber found that NPT ratification is significantly and negatively linked to all stages of proliferation (Bleek & Lorber, 2013, p. 12). To continue the discussion of how different factors affect nuclear proliferation, I study how being a member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) affects a state’s status on nuclear proliferation. I also control for NPT ratification and enduring rivalry. The first section of this paper states my hypotheses and the rationale behind my predictions. The next section explains the construction of the dataset and coding for the variables. I then analyze the data using ordered logistic regression and discuss my findings. The last section contains a brief overview of considerations for future research.