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The Correlates of Nuclear Proliferation: A Quantitative Test

Author(s): Sonali Singh and Christopher R. Way

Source: The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 48, No. 6 (Dec., 2004), pp. 859-885
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
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Conflict Resolution.
The Correlatesof Nuclear Proliferation

Departmentof Government

Fearsof roguestates,withdrawalof coldwar-erasecurityguarantees, a fallingtechnological

andavailabilityto terrorist ensurethatnuclearweaponsproliferation
organizations remainsa centralsecu-
rityissueandthatdevelopinganadequatetheoryof proliferation rankshighon theagenda.A dataset on
nuclearproliferation thatidentifiesthreedifferentstageson thepathto theweaponization
is constructed of
nuclearweaponstechnology. Hazardmodelsandmultinomial logitareusedtotesttheoriesof nuclearprolif-
eration.Resultssuggestthatnuclearweaponsproliferation is stronglyassociatedwiththelevelof economic
development, theexternalthreatenvironment, lackof great-power securityguarantees,anda low levelof
in theworldeconomy.

Keywords: Nuclear weapons proliferation; security; economic development; great-power security

guarantees; hazardmodels

Since the adventof the atomic age, nuclearweapons proliferationhas been one of the
majorsecurityissues facing the world. After the end of the cold war, concerns about
proliferationhave grown ratherthansubsided:the withdrawalof superpowersecurity
guaranteeshas created incentives for smaller powers to acquire nuclear weapons, a
handfulof "rogue"stateshave soughtnucleararms,Pakistanand Indiahavejoined the
ranks of overt nuclear powers, the technological threshold necessary to develop
atomic weapons is in reach of ever more nations, and the possibility of new nuclear
powers selling weapons to terroristorganizationshas focused concerns. Controversy
rages aroundthe worldover U.S. plans to build a nationalmissile defense (NMD) sys-
tem to fend off emerging nuclearthreats,and scholars debate whetherNMD will fan
the fires of proliferationor reduce the incentive for more states to acquire nuclear

AUTHORS' NOTE:Thanks to BenjaminGoldsmith, Quan Li, Alex Montgomery,Kathleen O'Neill,

KarthikaSasikumar,and MariaZaitsevafor helpful commentsand to Efe Cummings,Mitchell Fagen,Julia
Levy, ChristinaPawroczenko,andArgilio Rodriguezfor researchassistance.All dataandcomputerfiles are
available at
JOURNALOF CONFLICTRESOLUTION,Vol.48 No. 6, December 2004 859-885
? 2004 Sage Publications

weapons. Thus, more thana half centuryinto the nuclearweapons era, the problemof
proliferationis even more pressing than at the dawn of the atomic age.
This is troubling,given our lack of reliable knowledge about the determinantsof
nuclearproliferation.Although there is no shortage of academic theories to account
for the spreadof nuclearweapons, few agree on the validity or generalizabilityof the
variousalternatives.Policy makersand scholarsof internationalrelationssuffer from
an embarrassmentof riches in the diverse attempts to explain decisions to acquire
nucleararms, matchedby a correspondingpoverty of consensus about the empirical
supportenjoyed by various perspectives. Authors frequently find existing explana-
tions unable to account for the details of a case of particularinterestand then seek to
redressthe shortcomingby offering yet anotheralternative.Even as explanationspro-
liferate,we do not know which of these perspectivesprovidesthe best guide to under-
standingdecisions to "go nuclear"and for forecastingpotential futureproliferators.
We enterthe debateby suggesting thata quantitativetest of theoriesof nuclearpro-
liferationcan providea useful complementto the qualitative,comparativecase study
methodsthatpredominatein this researchagenda.'We highlightthreereasonsa quan-
titativetest is an appropriate,and indeed perhapsnecessary,supplementto the prolif-
erationliterature.First,by samplingon the dependentvariable,most qualitativestud-
ies ignore or underemphasizethe large numberof countries that have never pursued
nuclear weapons. Ignoring nonproliferatorsruns the risk of underestimatingthe
strengthof causal effects or, more rarely,erroneously accepting a relationshipthat
does not hold up in a wider sample (Collier and Mahoney, 1996; Dion 1998; Geddes
1990; King, Keohane,and Verba1994). Forexample, as Sagan(2000) points out, ana-
lysts can almost always identify an ex-ante securitythreatafterthe fact of a prolifera-
tion episode. Yetthey often fail to acknowledgethatsecuritythreatsare ubiquitousby
the ratherelastic standardsoften employed by realists. In this situation,sampling on
the dependent variable may create a bias toward overemphasizingthe explanatory
power of security threats.More prosaically,but equally important,sampling on the
dependent variable simply discards much valuable information useful in drawing
inferences about the correlates of proliferation.Quantitativeanalyses that include
observationscovering the full rangeof varianceon both the dependentand independ-
ent variablescan provide a useful complement to qualitativeapproachesthat delve
deeply into a limited numberof cases.
Second, theories of nuclearweapons proliferationoften offer, either explicitly or
implicitly,probabilistichypotheses, yet theories are frequentlytested as if they make
deterministicclaims. For example, the simplest realist claim-that the more severe
and immediatea securitythreat,the more likely a state is to pursuenucleararms-is
clearly based on a probabilisticlogic. Yet studies of nuclear proliferationoften find
realismwantingby identifyingone or a handfulof cases thatfail to conformto the real-
ist logic. Statisticalmodels based on a probabilisticlogic of inferenceoffer a betterfit
with theoreticallogic thanthe deterministiclogic associatedwith the Millian methods
underpinningcomparativecase studies (Lieberson 1992, 1994).
1. Quantitativelarge-nstudies of nuclearweapons proliferationhave been scarce, with few follow-
ing up on the early efforts of Kegley (1980) and Meyer (1984) to provide systematic studies.

Not only are hypotheses about nuclear weapons proliferationbest thought of as

probabilisticstatements,but it is also likely that there are multiple determinantsand
combinationsof factors responsible for decisions to pursue nuclear arms. Yet many
studies implicitly rely on monocausal logics of inference, comparing competing
explanationsas if looking for the "magicbullet"thatwill, by itself, accountfor all pro-
liferation decisions or setting up dueling explanations in a winner-take-allcontest.
When applyingthis univariatestandard,implicit in the Millian methods thatform the
basis of manycomparativecase studies(Lieberson 1992), it is not surprisingthatexist-
ing explanations are repeatedly found inadequatewhen they fail to account for all
observationsor all nuancesof particularcases. As an alternative,the multivariatelogic
of inference embodied in multivariatestatisticalapproachesseems more plausible.
We complement qualitativeanalyses by providing systematic statisticaltests of a
numberof prominentperspectiveson nuclearproliferationagainsta dataset thatcov-
ers 154 countriesbetween the years 1945 and 2000. We employ new dataon key deci-
sions along the pathto nuclearweapons.Conceptually,we arguefor viewing prolifera-
tion as a continuuminstead of a dichotomy, defining four stages of proliferation:no
noticeable interest in nuclear weapons, serious exploration of the weapons option,
launchof a weapons program,and acquisitionof nuclearweapons. With these datain
hand, we use survivalmodels and multinomiallogistic regressionsto test hypotheses
derivedfromthreebroadapproachesto nuclearweapons proliferation:(1) technologi-
cal determinants,emphasizing the role of economic development and the declining
costs of weapons; (2) externaldeterminants,emphasizingincentives providedby the
security environment; and (3) internal determinants, emphasizing a variety of
domestic factors rangingfrom regime type to economic policies.
To previewourmainfindings, we conclude thatcontraryto the impressiongiven by
much of the recent proliferationliterature,currentapproachescorrectly identify sev-
eral statistically significant and substantively importantcorrelates of proliferation.
The developmentthresholdargumentfavoredby technological deterministsprovides
considerableleverage:the likelihood of proliferationrises sharplywith growthat low
levels of developmentbut levels off and even declines at high levels after a threshold
has been passed. Security factorsplay a powerful, perhapscentral,role in explaining
proliferationdecisions. Participatingin enduringrivalriesor taking partin more fre-
quent militarizeddisputes strongly increase the chances a state will pursue nuclear
arms, but credible supportfrom a great-powerally dampens the temptation.Finally,
offering some supportfor more recentarguments,we find thatdomestic factors, such
as more externallyorientedeconomic policies, reducethe likelihood of proliferation,
although regime type appearsrelatively unimportant.Thus, if we move beyond the
search for a deterministic,univariateaccount of proliferationdecisions, our conclu-
sions aboutthe currentstateof knowledge areconsiderablyless pessimistic thanthose
of manyauthors:the conventionalwisdom takesus quitea ways towardunderstanding
nuclearweapons proliferation.
The second section of the studyoutlines threeperspectiveson the causes of nuclear
proliferationandreviews the relevantliterature.The dataon nuclearweapons prolifer-
ationandexplanatoryvariablesareintroducedin the thirdsection. We then analyze the

data using survival models and reportresults in the fourth section. The final section
discusses implicationsfor policy and futureresearch.


Given the vast destructivepower of nuclearweapons, it is not surprisingthatcon-

siderable scholarly attentionhas been focused on understandingstates' decisions to
pursue nuclear arms.2The rich literatureon proliferationhas not ignored this chal-
lenge: on the contrary,it offers a wide arrayof answers to these questions. We divide
this diverseliteratureinto threechief strandsby focusing on the source of the impetus
towardnuclearweapons: technological, external,or domestic determinants.


The essence of the technological deterministliteratureis its emphasis on technol-

ogy as the driving force behind weapons development. Once a country acquires the
latent capacity to develop nuclear weapons, it is only a matter of time until it is
expected to do so. According to this literature,a country's latentcapacity to acquire
nuclearweapons is determinedby economic prosperity,literacy levels, and scientific
development:as it becomes easier andcheaperfor a state to acquirenuclearweapons,
it becomes more and more likely thatit will do so. States may achieve the capabilityto
assemble nuclearweaponsby an explicit intentionaleffortor as an implicitby-product
of economic and industrialdevelopment(Meyer 1984, Schroeer 1984). Howeverthey
get there, once states cross the threshold that enables the development of nuclear
weapons, "the universalappeal of nuclear arms and the inability of individuals and
organizationsto resist technological change" will eventually impel states to acquire
these arms,regardlessof theiroriginalintent(Lavoy 1993, 194). Moreover,as techno-
logical advancesinexorablyreducethe costs of acquiringnuclearweapons, eventually
every state will find the costs of building nuclear weapons so low as to make the
This perspectivehas fuelled much pessimism aboutthe possibility of limiting pro-
liferation and proved influential with policy makers, but technological imperative
argumentssuffer from an obvious lack of empirical support,at least in their strong
form.Indeed,therearenumerousexamplesof statesthathave hadthe technicalcapac-
ity to build nucleararmsfor severaldecades but have neverattemptedto do so.3How-
ever,we arguethatit is an importantstartingpoint because no nationcan build nuclear
weapons without attaininga minimal economic/technological capacity.4Therefore,
2. This literatureon proliferationwas not as vast and varied 10 or 15 years ago. There was a fairly
broadconsensus thatthe proliferationpuzzle had an obvious answer:states thatface a strongsecuritythreat
will develop nuclear weapons. Explanationsfor proliferationand dissatisfaction with the commonsense
answerhave mushroomedover the past 15 years; Ogilvie-White (1996) provides a nice survey of the rich
arrayof answers.
3. Examples include Italy,Japan,Belgium, Canada,and Germany.
4. They may, of course, attemptto buy them insteadof developingthe technology themselves, a path
takenat varioustimes by both Libya and Australia.

we expect this literatureto play an importantrole in understandingthe proliferation

puzzle by emphasizingsomethingakinto a necessarybutinsufficientcondition for the
pursuitof nucleararms.


In contrast,what we call the externaldeterminantsliteratureemphasizes the will-

ingness ratherthanthe ability of statesto build nuclearweapons. Although authorsin
the realist traditionhave presenteda variety of arguments,the literatureemphasizes
two factors: the presence (or absence) of a security threatand a security guarantee
from a powerful alliance partner.
Realist explanationsemphasize the threat environment:the probabilityof a state
pursingnucleararmsincreaseswith the severityof externalsecuritythreats.States in a
self-help system will feel pressureto balanceagainstthe nuclearcapabilitiesof a rival
state by developing a similardeterrent(Waltz 1979). In addition,states may exercise
theirnuclearoption when confrontedwith a conventionalthreatfrom a powerful rival
as a way of achieving effective parity against a strongernation (Kapur2001; Potter
1982; Quester 1973, 1977). Thus, realismexplains nuclearproliferationas a response
to externalsecuritythreats,which are thoughtto be endemic to the internationalsys-
tem due to the pervasivelogic of the security dilemma.
However,despite the intuitive appeal of this argument,it cannot by itself explain
satisfactorily the proliferation puzzle. Even though most states that have sought
nuclearweapons have faced some sort of security threat,a large numberof countries
have not turnedto nuclear force for their defense, despite security threats (Ogilvie-
White 1996). Moreover,as Sagan (2000, 26) has emphasized,empiricalresearchsup-
portingthis argumentsuffers from potential selection bias: observing a proliferation
episode, researcherswork backwardto find the securitythreatthatcan rationalizethe
decision. Leavingaside qualmsaboutevidence, the choice for nuclearweapons is also
theoreticallyunderdetermined.Evengiven a clearthreat,acquiringnuclearweapons is
not the only, or necessarilythe best, strategyavailableto a statethatis seeking security.
A statehas at least threepotentialchoices in the face of a securitythreatby a powerful
adversary.It can striveto develop its own nuclearability, it can publicly refrainfrom
making any efforts to acquireits own deterrentso as to reassurepotentialrivals of its
benign intentionsin the hope of tamingthe securitydilemma,or it can forge an alliance
with a powerful ally. Because states have multiple options in responding to security
threats, such threatsshould be thought of as a probabilisticcause of proliferation.
Although securitythreatsalmost surely increase the probabilityof pursuitof nuclear
weapons, the "multiple-exit"problem familiar to internationalrelations scholars
means that they do not determinea state's choice.
Another strandof realist thoughtargues that a credible security guarantee from a
powerfulstatecan dull the desire for nuclearweapons, even for a statefacing a signifi-
cantthreat.In this view, the acquisitionof nuclearweaponsandthe forging of alliances
serve as substitutesin the quest for security (Betts 1993; Davis 1993; Thayer 1995).
The supremacy of a superpower ally serves to deter attacks on its nonnuclear
protdgdes,negating their need to pursue nuclear weapons. Building on this security

guaranteeargument,some have arguedthat bipolarityinhibits nuclearproliferation,

whereas multipolarity induces proliferation (Frankel 1993; Mearsheimer 1990).
Under bipolarity,states gravitateinto two well-structuredalliance systems anchored
by the two dominantpowers, which provide a securityumbrellafor the weaker states
in their respective coalitions, obviating their need for nuclear weapons. However, as
these securityguaranteesarewithdrawnor renderedless crediblein the post-cold war
system, statesare thoughtto face greaterincentivesto acquirenuclearweapons (Betts


A thirdstrandof the literatureshares the emphasis that the externaldeterminants

approachplaces on understandingthe motives behind state actions, but it shifts the
focus from externalto domesticdeterminantsof nuclearproliferation.Although ana-
lysts have described a range of potentialdomestic pro-proliferationforces, we focus
on four domestic factors that may have an influence on the choice to pursue nuclear
weapons: democracy, liberalizing governments,an autonomous domestic elite, and
Building on the democraticpeace literature,some have arguedthat the pacifying
effects of democracyand the complex interdependencebetween states will reducethe
numberof states that feel "fearfulor ambitiousenough" to pursue nuclear weapons
(Chafetz 1993). Chafetz (1993), for example, divides the world into "core" and
"periphery"states, emphasizingthatin the currentsystem, the core constitutesliberal
democracies with shared norms and values, which foster internationalcooperation,
tame the security dilemma, and dampendangersof a nucleararms race. In addition,
democraticstates on the peripherymay no longer seek nuclear weapons because an
increasingnumberof governmentswantto reapthe benefits of full integrationinto the
core economic-political system. Consequently,the spreadof democracy reduces the
likelihood that states will pursuenuclearweapons by enlarging a zone of peace.
In contrast,some have notedthatthe widespreadpopularsupportfor nuclearweap-
ons acquisition in India and Pakistansuggests that democraticgovernmentsmay be
temptedto panderto nationalistpopulationsin an effort to boost theirpopularityand
retainpower (Perkovich 1999). These temptationsmay be greatestduringperiods of
democratizationas competing elites face incentives to stir up nationalism(Mansfield
and Snyder1995; Snyder2000) andmay seek to score a popularnationalisttriumphby
joining the nuclearclub.
Turningfrom political regime type to economic policies switches the emphasis to
the economic componentof domestic liberalizationin reducingthe appealof nuclear
weapons. According to Solingen (1994, 1998), rulingcoalitions pursuingliberaleco-
nomic policies are more likely to join regional nuclearnonproliferationregimes than
inward-lookingnationalistand radical-confessionalgovernments;liberalizingcoali-
tions tradeaway the opportunityto makethe bomb for the opportunityto makemoney,
perceivinglittle benefit from maintainingan ambiguousstance. In a similarvein, Paul
(2000) argues that as the benefits of economic integrationand interdependencerise,
states will forgo highly sensitive activities, such as nuclear acquisition,which might

generate uncertainty,negative repercussions,and heightened internationaltensions.

As the cost of placing tradingand investmentties at risk increases, states will become
more cautious aboutpursing nuclearweapons.
Yet anotherdomestic-level argumenthighlights the degree of autonomy afforded
the domestic elite in choosing to pursuenucleararms.A statemay seek nuclearweap-
ons when the nationalelite, who may want to develop nuclearweapons for parochial
reasons, publicizes the state's insecurityor its poor internationalstandingto popular-
ize the idea thatnuclearweapons providemilitarysecurityandpolitical power (Lavoy
1993). Like otherbureaucraticpolitics arguments,this argumentemphasizes the abil-
ity of particularisticintereststo use securityconcerns and nationalisticrhetoricto pro-
mote the need for a nuclearprogramfor theirown strategic,parochialgain (Elworthy
1986; Sagan 2000). It is only a shortstep furtherto conclude thatelites will enjoy less
autonomy and that debate will be more transparent in democracies than in
nondemocracies.This generates anothervariantof regime-type arguments;this one
suggests that democratizationmay foster restraint by reducing the authority and
autonomy of elites who might otherwise pursue nuclear weapons for parochial
reasons (Barletta 1999).
Possession of nuclearweapons can also play an importantsymbolic role in a state's
self-image. Therefore,the decision to acquirenuclearweapons or to exercise restraint
offers a statean importantnormativesymbol of modernity(Sagan2000). Accordingto
this perspective,muchof a state'sbehavioris determinedby sharedbeliefs and norms
aboutconductthatis deemed appropriateand legitimatein internationalrelations.The
cold calculationsof leaders about nationalsecurity and parochialbureaucraticinter-
ests may be of less consequence than concerns with "nuclearsymbolism." Nuclear
weapons are often imagined as fulfilling functions similar to those of flags, airlines,
and Olympic teams:they formpartof what a numberof stateshave believed they must
possess to legitimize their statusas modernstates or to lay claim to a "great-power"
role in internationalpolitics (Sagan2000). Fromthis perspective,statessufferingfrom
a perceivedstatus inconsistency or those seeking validationas modernand powerful
states are strongcandidatesto pursuenucleararms.



At firstit may appearthatthe choice between pursuinga nuclearweapons program

andexercisingnuclearrestraintis a straightforwardbinarydecision, but furtherreflec-
tion quickly revealsgreaternuances.It can often be a long and winding roadfrom ini-
tial effortto explosion of a nucleardevice, andtherearemanydifferentstoppingpoints
on the pathwayto proliferation.Some statesend up with nuclearweapons, some states
have made (or are making)seriousefforts to build nuclearweapons but neveractually
acquirethem,andothersseriouslyconsiderbuildingnuclearweaponsyet stop shortof
actuallytakingfirm steps to do so. To be sensitive to these diverse stages and allow for
robustnesschecks across indicators,we devised multilevel indicatorsof nuclearpro-

liferation.Conceptually,ratherthan thinkingof nuclearweapons statusas a dichoto-

mous variable,we conceive of "degreesof nuclearness"arrayedalong a continuum,
rangingfromabsolutelyno effortor interest,at one end, to possession of a vast nuclear
weapons arsenal,at the other end. Operationally,we divide this continuuminto four
stages: acquisition of weapon capability, substantial efforts to develop weapons,
exploration of the possibility of developing/acquiringweapons, and no interest or
effortwhatsoever.(See the online appendixfor sourcesused in coding each country.)

First explosion/assemblyof weapons. This is the most reliable and accuratemea-

sure of nuclearproliferation.According to this indicator,every countrythat has ever
exploded a nuclear device or assembled a nuclear weapon is coded as a nuclear
proliferatorfrom the year of its first explosion or possession of a functional nuclear
weapon until the date that it abandonsits program.5However, not all countries that
pursue nuclear weapons have gone all the way to test or assemble nuclear devices.
Therefore,we have devised two additionalindicatorsof nuclearproliferation.

Pursuitof weapons. Forvariousreasons, not all states thatpursuenuclearweapons

end up acquiringthem. Accordingly, we count every country that has ever made an
active effort to pursue nuclearweapons as a nuclearproliferatorfrom the year of its
first effort.6Thus, all countrieswith nuclearweapons programs,withoutregardto the
size or stage of development,arecoded as nuclearproliferatorsuntil the date thatthey
abandontheir efforts.7To warrantinclusion in this category, states have to do more
thansimplyexplore the possibilityof a weapons program.They haveto takeadditional
furthersteps aimed at acquiringnuclearweapons, such as a political decision by cabi-
net-level officials,8 movement towardweaponization,or developmentof single-use,
dedicated technology. Thus, Sweden, for example, is excluded from this category
despite serious explorationof the nuclear option over a numberof years because it
failed eitherto take an explicit politicaldecision demonstratinga strongwillingness to
acquireweapons or to move beyond dual-use researchthat was necessary for atomic
power but also useful for a potentialweapons program(see sources for Sweden in the
online appendix).
5. In practice, the distinction between assembly and explosion is importantin four cases. South
Africa assembledworking nucleardevices but declined to test them. Pakistanis widely consideredto have
assembledready-to-usenucleardevices long before finally testing them in 1998, resultingin two alternative
codings: one for assembly and one for first tests. We follow a similar process of including two alternate
codings with India,which, accordingto severalsources, hadweapons readyfor quickassembly in 1988. We
also code Indiaas crossing this thresholdtwice: once with the test in 1974, after which we judge it to drop
backdown, andagain in 1988. Clearly,consequentialpolitical decisions aboutcrossing a significantthresh-
old andopeningup the countryto criticismwere entailedby both actions. Althoughthe rangeof variationis
narrow,thereis some disagreementaboutwhen precisely Israelgained full-fledged weapons capability.In
all cases, we assess sensitivity of our findings to the particularcoding employed.
6. The Soviet successor states that inherited nuclear arms and ultimately renounced them are
excluded from our analysis. They made no independentpolitical decision to pursuenuclearweapons and
thereforedo not qualify as proliferators.In the conclusion, we discuss the desirabilityof studyingtwo-way
transitions,which would include these states' decisions to renounce their inheritedarsenals.
7. Hence, this indicatorincludes countries that have ongoing nuclear programsbut that have not
tested weapons or preparednucleardevices for quick assembly.
8. We also count the decisions of senior militaryleaders in the case of a militarygovernment.

Explorationof weapons. Casting the net even broader,we can include countries
that seriously considered building nuclear weapons, even if they never took major
steps towardthatend. This final andmost comprehensiveindicatorof nuclearprolifer-
ation codes every countryas a nuclearproliferatorfromthe year thatit firstconsidered
building nuclear weapons, as demonstratedby political authorizationto explore the
option or by linking research to defense agencies that would oversee any potential
weapons development.Therefore,this indicatorincludes all statescoveredby the first
two indicatorsas well as all countries that considered developing nuclear weapons
without following throughwith theirplans and crossing the thresholdto level 2. Tak-
ing Sweden as an example once again, we include it because (1) atomic researchwas
conductedby a semipublic companyexplicitly linked to and reportingto the defense
ministry,and (2) decisions were explicitly made by cabinet-level officials to develop
dual-use technology with high potentialutility for any futureweapons program(see
sources for Sweden in the countryappendix).
Foreach country-year,every statein our sample is assigned to one of the four cate-
gories. States thatclearly and convincingly renounceweapons or stop seriously con-
sideringthemcan move back down, from the explorationlevel to the no-interestlevel,
for example. Thus, when Sweden ceases to seriously consider nuclear weapons, it
drops back down to the no-interestcategory.


We group proxy explanatoryvariables under the headings of the three types of

explanationssurveyedabove. Table I summarizesthe includedvariablesand theoreti-
cal expectations.9

Technological Determinants
To assess a country's ability to develop and construct nuclear weapons, we
employed several variablesthattappedthe level of economic and industrialdevelop-
ment. We focus on indicatorsof the general level of economic and industrialdevelop-
ment, eschewing those thatarelikely to be endogenous to an interestin nuclearweap-
ons (such as numberof nuclearscientists or metallurgists).'o

Gross domestic product per capita. Gross domestic product (GDP) provides a
rough and ready indicatorof the level of economic development.Whereasaggregate
economic size indicates total resources available, per capita GDP more accurately
9. We omit ratificationof the Nuclear NonproliferationTreaty(NPT) because of obvious and sub-
stantialendogeneity.Assessing the causal role of the NPT in affecting decisions towardnuclearweapons
poses a host of complex problemsthat we plan to treatseparatelyin a new study.
10. We also constructeda time series of knownuraniumdeposits, reasoningthatdomestic availability
of uraniumis likely to decreasethe difficultiesof mountinga weaponsprogram.However,in collecting these
data,it becameclear thaturaniumexplorationis endogenousto interestin nuclearweapons. Superficially,it
might appearthatdiscovery of domestic sources of uraniumspursthe startof a nuclearweapons program;
closer examinationof the cases reveals that an interestin nuclearweapons often spurs intensive uranium

TheoreticalExpectationsand Measures

ExplanatoryVariable of Effect Operationalizations

Technological determinism
Level of development Positive Gross domestic product(GDP) per capita; energy
consumptionper capita
Industrialcapacity Positive Index based on steel productionand electrical-
generatingcapacity; aggregateand per capita
electricity and steel production
Security threat Positive Participationin enduringrivalry;frequencyof
militarizedinterstatedispute (MID) involvement
Security guarantee Negative Alliance with great power
Democracy Negative Polity IV democracyscale
Democratization Uncertain Change in Polity IV democracyscale (3-, 5-, and
Global democracy Negative Percentageof democraciesamong states in system
Exposure to global economy Negative (Exportsand imports)/GDP
Economic liberalization Negative Change in traderatio (3-, 5-, and 10-yearperiods)
Dissatisfaction/symbolic Positive S score or Tau-bwith either global or regional
motivations hegemon

reflects level of economic development,which is most closely linked to the sophisti-

cated technical, engineering, and manufacturingknowledge necessary for the devel-
opment and construction of nuclear arms. Purchasing-powerparity GDP data are
takenfrom version 6.1 of the Penn WorldTables(PTW) (Heston, Summers,and Aten
2002)." To allow for the possibility thatthe relationshipbetween economic develop-
ment and the pursuitof nucleararmsis curvilinear(e.g., because of a thresholdeffect
whereby achieving moderatelevels of development allows countriesto act on latent
nuclearambitions,althoughadditionalincrementsof wealth are unlikely to increase
the temptation),we also include a squaredterm.

Industrial capacity index. To tap the level of industrialcapabilities useful for a

nuclear weapons program,we created a dichotomous variable based on electricity
generationand steel production.This variabletakes on a value of I if a country both
produces steel domestically and has installed electricity-generatingcapacity greater
than 5,000 MW and 0 otherwise.12
11. For countries not covered by the Penn World Tables (PWT), we turnedto Angus Maddison's
(2002) dataof purchasing-powerparitygross domestic product(GDP) covering 124 countriesfrom 1950 to
1998, convertinghis data from base year 1990 to 1996 for comparabilitywith the PWT data. For countries
still not covered, we drew on Gleditsch's (2002) expansion of the InternationalMonetaryFund's (IMF's)
GDP data.
12. To create the index, we used data on electricity-generatingcapacity from the United Nations
(EnergyStatistics Yearbook,variousyears;Statistical Yearbook,variousyears)andon steel productionfrom

Energy, electricity, and steel production and consumption. To supplement the

industrialcapacity index, we used data on both aggregateand per capita energy con-
sumption,electricity productionand generatingcapacity, and steel production.13


Enduringrivalry.Although perceptionsof security threatscan vary substantially,

participationin an enduringrivalrycan be safely takenas an indicatorof a significant
security threat,especially because the vast majorityof wars and militarizeddisputes
occur in the context of enduringrivalries(Diehl 1998). Drawing on Bennett's (1998)
coding for enduringrivalriesandtheirdates,we createa dichotomousvariableindicat-
ing whethera state was involved in one or more enduringrivalriesin a given year.

Frequencyof dispute involvement.As an alternatemeasure of the intensity of the

securitythreat,we calculatedthe 5-year moving averageof the numberof militarized
interstatesper year in which a state is involved, drawingon version 3.0 of the milita-
rized interstatedispute (MID) data set (Ghosn and Palmer 2003).

Securityguarantee.The allureof nuclearweapons as an avenueto securitymay be

attenuatedby a securityguaranteein the form of a defense pact from a nuclear-armed
greatpower.14Drawingon Singerand Small's (1982) standardlist of greatpowers, we
count the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia,the United Kingdom (from 1952),
France (from 1960), and China (from 1964) as nuclear-capable,great-powerallies.
Basing ourcoding on version 3.0 of the Correlatesof Waralliancedataset (Giblerand
Sarkees2002), we count only defense pactsas providinga significantsecurityguaran-
tee, deeming ententes and neutrality treaties insufficiently reassuring to elide the
temptationfor an insecure state to pursuenuclearweapons.15


Democracy and democratization.We use the Polity IV data (Jaggers and Gurr
1995) to create three differentvariablesrelated to argumentsabout regime type and
proliferation.One variablemeasures democracy for each country-year:we create a
derived measure of the level of democracy within each state by combining the two

the Correlatesof War project's Composite Index of Capabilities (Singer, Bremer, and Stuckey 1972),
extractedusing EUGene (Bennett and Stam 2000) and updatedthrough2000, using the United Nations's
Statistical Yearbook.
13. Energyconsumptiondata are from the Correlatesof Warproject'sComposite Indexof Capabili-
ties (Singer,Bremer,and Stuckey 1972), extractedusing EUGene (BennettandStam2000). Populationdata
coveringthe periodfrom 1945 to 2000 were gatheredfromthe PennWorldTable6.1 (Heston, Summers,and
Aten 2002), the Correlatesof Warproject,Maddison(2002), and the United Nations (Statistical Yearbook,
14. Although many authors,building on this logic, have emphasized bipolarity,because bipolarity
characterizesmost of our time period,we focus on the presence or absence of an explicit bilateralsecurity
guaranteeinsteadof systemic variablesto assess argumentsemphasizinggreat-powersecurityassurances.
15. Alliance data were extractedusing the EUGene softwareprogram(Bennett and Stam 2000).

separate11-pointscales for democracyand autocracyfrom Polity IV:demi = democi -

autoci. However,periodsof transitiontowarddemocracymay proveparticularlyvola-
tile, making new or unconsolidateddemocracies more aggressive and war prone. To
allow for this possibility, we create a democratizationvariable, demch, = democ, -
democt,_, thatmeasuresmovementtowarddemocracyover time spans of 3, 5, and 10
years.Finally,as an indicatorof the prevalenceof democraciesin the system, we create
a variablethat records the percentageof states each year that receive a score of 7 or
higher on the democracy measure.16

Economic interdependenceand liberalization.Among possible measuresof expo-

sure to the global economy-international capital mobility, volume of foreign direct
investment,tariff and nontarifftradebarriers,and so on-the traderatio is the most
straightforwardand is availablefor the largestnumberof countriesand years. Conse-
quently,we use exportsplus importsas a shareof GDP as a measureof exposure to the
internationaleconomy, drawingon data primarilyfrom the PWT (version 6.1).17 We
also createa measureof tradeliberalizationanalogousto our democratizationvariable
by calculatingthe change in traderatios over spans of 3, 5, and 10 years.

Status inconsistency/symbolic motivations. Operationalizingconcepts, such as

prestigedeficit, statusinconsistency,and symbolic motivations,for a dataset thatcov-
ers 154 countries poses nearly insurmountabledifficulties. Nonetheless, we suspect
thatany countrysufferinga prestigedeficit is likely to be dissatisfiedwith the interna-
tional statusquo establishedby the dominantpower in the system andthattheirdissat-
isfaction shouldbe observablein theirchosen policy portfolio.As a proxy for dissatis-
faction with the internationalstatus quo, we employ two variants of Bueno de
Mesquita's (1975, 1981) measure of similarity between alliance portfolios and an
alternateversion proposed by Signorino and Ritter (1999). The first compares each
countrywith the United States, takento be the global hegemon throughoutthe period
underconsideration.However, because grievances may more often be regional than
global for second- and third-tierpowers, we also assess a measurethatindicates simi-
larity of each state's portfolio with that of the leading regional power.'



We employ event history models, supplementedwith multinomiallogistic regres-

sions, to test claims about the correlatesof nuclearweapons proliferation.Event his-
16. To createthis indicatorandto determineeligibility for ourdataset in general,we drawon version
2002.1 of the Correlatesof Warstate system membershipdata (Correlatesof WarProject2003).
17. Forcountriesnot coveredby the PWTproject,we used datafromthe IMF,drawingon Gleditsch's
(2002) extension of the data using AMELIA interpolationsoftware.
18. Both versionsof the global and regionalindicatorsof the divergenceof preferencesare computed
by the EUGene software program(Bennettand Stam 2000).

tory models-also called survival,hazard,or durationmodels-offer several advan-

tages of particularrelevanceto our researchquestion and data.We need a method that
is both well suited to rareevents and able to model the effects of time (e.g., duration
dependence), providing estimates of the likelihood that a country begins an effort to
pursuenuclearweapons given thatit has not done so until thatpoint in time. Moreover,
because most countries never do pursue nuclear weapons, we need a method that
accounts for this "rightcensoring"and thus avoids the selection bias resulting from
excluding countries that never even seriously considered going nuclear.Finally, we
need a model allowing us to includeexplanatoryvariablesthatchange in value over the
observationperiod. Several types of event history models are ideal for these needs.
Event history models provideestimates of the probabilityof an event occurring-
in ourcase, a stategoing nuclearor startingdown thatpath-at a particulartime, given
thatit has not yet happened(Allison 1984; Box-SteffensmeierandJones 1997). In the
language of event history analysis, this probabilityis given by the hazardrate, which
tells us the "risk"that a country will go nuclear.Event history models can be either
parametric,requiringthe specificationof a particulardistributionalform (such as the
Weibull,exponential,or Gompertz)for the baseline hazardfunction,or semi-paramet-
ric, allowing one to avoid making such assumptionswhen there is no strong a priori
reasonto favorone distributionalform over another.To facilitatethe inclusion of both
time-invariantand time-varyingvariables,we estimate parametricdiscrete-timehaz-
ardmodels using a Weibulldistributionto characterizethe baseline hazardfunction.19
The hazardrate is then given by
h(tlxj) ptP-'lexp (0 + xjBx),

where h(t) is the hazardrate,t is time, and PO + are the estimatedcoefficients and
the whenp equals 1, the baseline
variables. P is a shapeparameter estimated data:
hazard is constant over if
time; p is less than 1, it decreases monotonically;and if p is
greater than 1, hazard increases with time at risk.
Because survivalmodels arenonlinear,interpretationof coefficients is not straight-
forward.Unlike those in standardordinaryleast squares(OLS) regressionmodels, the
beta coefficients do not representthe marginaleffect on the dependentvariableof a
one-unit change in the independentvariable.To ease interpretation,we estimate the
models in both standardandlog relative-hazardforms;in the lattercase, the coefficient
can be readas the numberby which we would multiply the odds of, for example, the
initiation of a nuclear weapons programfor a one-unit increase in the independent
variable. For example, a coefficient of 4 on the enduring rivalry dummy variable
would imply a 300% increasein the likelihood of startinga nuclearweapons program
(in other words, the chance is four times as great). In interpretingresults, we present
the standardcoefficients andtheirstandarderrorsin main tablesbutdiscuss these rela-
tive risksin the text to ease interpretationof the substantivemeaningof the findings.

19. Because parametricmodels derived from contending distributionsare nonnested, we used the
Akaike informationcriteria to assess the relative appropriatenessof models using exponential, Weibull,
Gompertz,log-logistic, and log-normaldistributions.


To investigatethe correlatesof nuclearweapons proliferation,we estimateda series

of models employing each of the three dependentvariablesin turn.20For the hazard
models, durationsconsist of stringsof country-years.When a countrycrosses over the
thresholdin question for a given model, it exits the risk pool and thus the analysis. A
countrycan, however,reenterthe riskpool if it makesa clear andconvincing renuncia-
tion of its previousnuclearambitions:at this point, it is againdeemed "atrisk"and can
choose to reignite its interestin nuclear weapons at any time. Sweden, for example,
exits the riskpool for exploringnuclearweapons once it startsdown thatpathbut later
reentersit aftercompletely stoppingserious considerationof the nuclearoption. Simi-
larly, South Africa actually acquiresnuclear weapons but laterreentersthe risk pool
after it destroys them along with all remnantsof its program.
Table 2 presentsthe estimates of the hazardmodels featuring,in turn,each of the
three outcomes of interest:exploring the option, pursuing weapons, and acquiring
weapons. Startingwith "level 1"proliferation-the decision to explore seriously the
nuclearoption2'-as the dependentvariable,model I reveals thatGDP per capita and
industrialcapacityhave strongand significanteffects on the hazardrate.22The pattern
of coefficients on GDP per capitasupportsthe nuclearthresholdinterpretationof the
technological determinismapproach:at low levels of GDP, furthereconomic growth
steadily increasesthe likelihood thata country will explore the nuclearoption; yet at
high levels of development,the effect levels off and, in fact, reversesbecause very high
levels of income are associated with a falling hazardrate.23This suggests that at low
levels, greaterdevelopmentrendersthe acquisitionof nuclearweapons more feasible,
allowing countries to act on their previously latent ambitions. At higher levels of
development,those thathave not alreadyinitiateda programareunlikelyto be swayed
by the small marginalreductionin opportunitycost arising from furthergrowth. The
coefficient on the industrialcapacity index indicates the importanceof achieving a
minimal level of industrialcapacity in enabling nuclear weapons development in
terms of relativerisk ratios.
The next grouping of potentialcorrelatesof proliferationfocuses on the external
securityenvironment.Participationin an ongoing enduringrivalryand the frequency
20. In survivalanalysis, identifyingentry into the risk pool is important.Entryshould be defined so
thatif two subjectshaveidenticaltime at riskvalues, the riskthey face would be identicalif they hadthe same
values on all of the explanatoryvariables.Given datalimitationsandthe adventof the nuclearera, we set risk
onset time zero as 1944 for all countriesthat were independentsovereign states at that time. For countries
thatgained their independenceat laterdates, we use their first year of existence, as identifiedby the Corre-
lates of WarProject(2003), as time zero.
21. We code 24 instancesof countriescrossing this first-levelthresholdat some time: Algeria, Argen-
tina, Australia,Brazil, China,France,Iran,Iraq,India,Israel,Libya, NorthKorea,Pakistan,Romania,Rus-
sia/USSR, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan (twice), United Kingdom, United
States, and Yugoslavia.See the online appendixfor sources: 12/.
22. The energy variablesarehighly collinearwith the GDP variables;using eitherenergy or GDP pro-
duces similarresults.
23. The thresholdoccurs at about$7,700 percapita income in 1996 U.S. dollars.All else being equal,
priorto thatlevel, additionalincrementsof income increasethe hazardrate,althoughby smallerand smaller
amountsas the inflection point is approached;afterthatlevel, additionalincrementsof income decrease the

The Correlatesof Nuclear WeaponsProliferation

Dependent Variable

IndependentVariable Explore Pursue Acquire

GDP per capita 0.00052.119 0.001.017 0.0002.378
(0.0003) (0.0004) (0.0003)
GDP squared -7.92e-08017 -2.36-08l
(2.19e-08) (3.1 le-08) (1.43e-08)
Industrialcapacity index 1.89.016 1.46046 3.19< .001
(0.78) (0.73) (0.91)
Enduringrivalry 1.57002 1.83024 2.13.076
(0.50) (0.81) (1.77)
Dispute involvement 0.17?l1o 0.38<.ool 0.23.070
(0.07) (0.09) (0.13)
Alliance -0.67.260 -0.83.194 -1.01.225
(0.59) (0.64) (0.83)
Democracy 0.02.525 0.070.084 0.092.123
(0.038) (0.038) (0.059)
Democratization -0.03 -0.080323 0.016895
(0.056) (0.081) (0.120)
Percentageof democracies -0.05204-0.186X)7 -0.094
(0.04) (0.069) (().101)
Economic openness -0.01.235 -0.0 1812 0.00029
(0.01) (0.012) (0.015)
Economic liberalization -0.037'30 0.35.l) -0.001.963
(0.017) (0.014) (0.018)'
Constant _-4.66< -6.34.016 -7.52.022
(1.32) (2.63) (3.29)

Ancillary parameter(p) 0.55 1.42 1.04

Standarderror(p) 0.113 0.48 0.36
Log likelihood -56.12 -28.57 -19.61
Numberof countries 149 149 149
Total observations 5,215 5,578 5,784

NOTE:Coefficients are estimates for parametricsurvivalmodels with a Weibulldistribution;robuststan-

darderrors,adjustedfor clusteringby country,are in parentheses.p values are superscriptedandare for two-
sidedtests.Coefficientsthataresignificantatbetterthanthe 10%levelarebold.GDP = grossdomesticproduct.

of militarizeddisputes over the past 5 years are statisticallysignificant at betterthan

the 1%level and are linked with higherhazardrates.In contrast,the coefficient on the
alliance variableis negative,as anticipated,althoughit falls shortof statisticalsignifi-
cance, offering little supportfor the claim that great-poweralliances provide threat-
ened states with a substitutefor nucleararms.

The thirdgroupingof explanatoryvariablestapsinternaldeterminants.The democ-

ratizationand economic liberalizationvariablesmeasurechange over a 5-year period;
in addition,variantsmeasuringchange over 1-, 3-, and 10-yearperiodswere employed
in othermodels. In addition,tau-bandS variables,proxyingfor satisfaction,relativeto
both the global hegemon (the United States) and the regionalleader,were investigated
in separatemodels.24Democracy or, more precisely, the degree of institutionalcon-
straintson executivepower,which is what the Polity IV dataaim to capture,has a posi-
tive coefficient, whereasdemocratizationis negative,althoughneitherapproachessta-
tistical significance. In contrast,the trade ratio variable and all variantsof the trade
liberalizationvariableare both negative. The liberalizationvariablecrosses conven-
tional thresholdsof significance. Finally, level of satisfactionwith either the regional
or global leader,as proxiedby policy affinity,has no discernibleeffect on propensityto
explore nuclearweapons.
Do the same patternshold not only for decisions to explore the nuclearoption but
also for the decision to launch a majoreffort to acquirethese weapons? The models
reportedin the column headed "Pursue"address this question.25By and large, the
answeris yes. Most of the same variablesattainstatisticalsignificance,coefficients do
not differ much in magnitude,and only one sign-on economic liberalization-flips.
Variablessuggested by the technological determinismapproachstill find significance
and are of even greatersubstantiveimportance.The coefficient on great-poweralli-
ance is still not statisticallysignificantby traditionalcriteria,butthe sign remainsneg-
ative, and the p value of. 19 is suggestive. Enduringrivalryand dispute involvement
areboth substantivelyandstatisticallysignificant.Finally,the coefficient on economic
openness-in terms of the traderatio-is once again negative and now features a p
value of . 11, althougheconomic liberalizationnow takes on a positive sign.
Turningto the final stage, we might expect the determinantsof actualdecisions to
constructor deploy nuclearweapons to differ somewhat from those that shape deci-
sions to explore the possibility.26The costs, in economic, security,and political terms,
of dallying with the possibility of acquiringnuclearweapons are quite differentfrom
those entailedby an explosion or assembly of weapons. Moreover,the reduced num-
ber of positive instancesmakesfinding significantresultsless likely.27Withthese con-
siderationsin mind, the final column of Table 2 presents the results of models that
24. The satisfaction variables were left out of models reportedin Table 2 because their inclusion
causes more than 1,000 observationsto be droppeddue to missing data.
25. We code 17 examplesof countriescrossing the level 2 thresholdto sustainedpursuitof a weapons
option: Algeria, Argentina,Brazil, China, France, India (twice), Iran,Iraq,Israel, North Korea,Pakistan,
Russia/USSR, South Africa, South Korea,United Kingdom, and United States.
26. The natureof the dataand researchquestion lends superficialappealto orderedlogit or bivariate
probitmodels. However,orderedlogit models are inappropriatebecause they do not allow the directionof
effect to varyacross levels; that is, they do allow for the possibility,for example, thatdemocracymay have
negative effects for explorationbut positive effects for weaponization. We do explore multinomiallogit
models in the next section.
27. We code 10 instances of crossing the nuclear threshold.The countries are as follows: United
States, Russia/SovietUnion, United Kingdom,France,China, Israel,South Africa, India(twice), and Paki-
stan. For Indiaand Pakistan,the models reporteduse dates of first ready-to-assembleweapons (1988 and
1990, respectively)insteadof the 1998 tests. Where using the test dates insteadof weapons-readinessdates
(or any other permutationfor other countries) creates a difference from reportedresults, we note this in

explore nuclearweapons acquisition. Sheer level of per capita income plays a some-
what smaller role here, which is not surprisingwhen one recalls the low levels of
income at which China, India, Pakistan, and the Soviet Union exploded their first
weapons.28However,althoughGDP per capitais somewhatless importantthan in the
precedingmodels,29the industrialcapacityindex looms large,with a very largecoeffi-
cient and a vanishingly smallp value.30Even in the face of this strongeffect, variables
tappingthe security environmentretaintheir power. Enduringrivalriesare powerful
spurs,notjust to explorationand developmentbut to testing and deploymentas well.
This is not surprisingwhen one recalls thatof the countries to acquirenuclearweap-
ons, all but two (South Africa and France) are coded as participatingin an enduring
rivalryat the time of acquisition.By alternatebut defensible coding rules, one could
make the case that both of these exceptions were involved in enduringrivalries.Fre-
quency of dispute involvementprovides a more nuancedindicatorbecause it actually
variesover time, even withinrivalries,andit provesboth statisticallyand substantively
significantonce again. Clearly,not just the existence of a rivalrybut also the ebb and
flow of the hostility level also play an importantrole in pushingstates over the nuclear
threshold.Moreovera country with an alliance has a hazardrate that is a fractionof
one without a great-powersecurity guarantee,although it falls short of significance.
Finally,the batteryof internaldeterminantsvariablesfalls below significance in these
models. The democracyvariable,however,does approachsignificance in these mod-
els andwith a positivecoefficient.3'Even controllingfor level of income andeconomic
development, countries that score high on the democracy scale are more likely to
acquirenuclearweapons. Finally, economic openness loses its significance.32
Although many of the variablesattainstatisticalsignificance, how significant are
they substantively in shaping the likelihood that a country explores and acquires
nuclearweaponscapability?Drawingon relativeriskratios,Table3 interpretsthe sub-
stantive role played by each variable for decisions to explore and acquire nuclear
weapons. The entriesrepresentthe percentagechange in the baseline hazardratefor a
given change in the explanatoryvariable.For example, a countrywith a great-power
militaryalliance has a hazardrate for exploring the nuclearoption that is 49% lower
thana similarcountrywithoutan alliance,as well as a riskof acquiringweapons thatis

28. In 1996 U.S. dollars, the averageGDP per capita at which countriesexploded/deployednuclear
weapons is $5,275. India,China, Pakistan,and (to a lesser degree) the Soviet Union were all considerably
below that average. No country has ever gone nuclear when its GDP per capita was above the $11,000
29. If the 1998 test dates are used as alternatecodings for Indiaand Pakistan,thenGDP percapitaand
its squareare significant at betterthan the 5% level.
30. Everycountryto acquirenuclearweapons,withthe exceptionof Pakistan,was abovethe threshold
embodied in the index.
31. When the explosion dates are used as an alternatecoding for Pakistanand India,the coefficient on
democratizationfalls below statisticalsignificance.
32. We also ranmodels asking a slightly differentanddistinctbutrelatedquestion:given thata coun-
try has exploredthe nuclearoption, what determineswhetherit exercises thatoption?This greatly reduces
the numberof durationsfor study.In our view, this makes it less useful and tractablethanthe approachfol-
lowed here but yields some interestingresults. Although development and security still play a role, most
notableis thattradeliberalizationremainssignificant,whereasdemocracycontinues to have no discernible
effect. The multinomiallogit models reportedbelow allow us to deal with the kinds of issues raisedby this
multiple-stepquestion, thus complementingthe hazardmodels.

SubstantiveEffects of the ExplanatoryVariables
on the Likelihood of ExploringNuclear Weapons

Percentage Changefrom
Baseline Hazard Rate

Variable Explore Acquire

Great-powermilitaryalliance -49 -64

Participationin ongoing enduringrivalry +382 +743
Increasein frequencyof MIDs (two more/year) +38 +52
Industrialcapacity threshold +563 +2,340
Increasein tradeopenness -72 -2
Increasein per capita GDP-$500 at very low level +26 +12
Increasein per capita GDP-$500 at high level -20 -17
Satisfaction +40 -82
Increasein democracy +25 +94

NOTE:MID = militarizedinterstatedispute;GDP = gross domestic product.

54% lower.3 Even more striking, participationin an enduring rivalryincreases the

hazardrate nearly fourfold (382%) compared to a country not so engaged, and the
effect for the actual acquisitionof weapons is even greater(at 743%). Frequencyof
militarizeddisputeinvolvementalso producesa powerfuleffect: increasingthe 5-year
moving averageof the numberof disputesper yearby two yields a 52% increasein the
likelihoodthata countrywill go nuclear.Takentogether,these threeexamples indicate
that the security environmenthas not just a statisticallysignificant but, more impor-
tant,a substantivelysignificanteffect on decisions to explore nuclearweapons acqui-
sition, as realists have long emphasized. Yet, the next four items remind us that eco-
nomic factors also play a substantial role. Moreover, the process of economic
liberalizationis associatedwith a reducedlikelihood of exploring nuclearweapons: a
country that has expanded its openness by 20 points over the past half decade has a
72% lower hazard rate, although a level of economic openness 20 points higher
reducesthe predictedhazardof acquiringweapons by only 2%.The level of economic
developmentplays an even largerrole, although these effects are nonlinearover the
level of GDP per capita. Two examples, chosen to reflect differentends of the spec-
trumwhere relatively small changes in per capita GDP yield relatively large effects,
illustratethe relationship.At very low levels of GDP, increasing per capita national
income by $500 producesa fairly dramaticrise in the hazardrate for exploration,by
26% (and 12% for acquisition).34However, once a country is already very wealthy,
furtherincrementsof income only reduce the hazard;the same increase now yields a

33. Inotherwords,the likelihoodthatit explores nuclearweapons is about51 %thatof a similarcoun-

try without an alliance.
34. This example correspondsroughly to the change in India's per capita GDP from 1958 to about

20% drop in the hazardfor exploration(and 17%for acquisition).35Crossing a mini-

mum industrialthreshold greatly increases the likelihood of exploring the nuclear
option (an increase of 563%) and has a simply massive effect on the likelihood of
actually acquiringweapons.


To supplement hazard/survival methods, we reestimated the models, using

multinomiallogistic regressions.Hazardmodels are very good at dealing with prob-
lems of temporaldependence and durationdependence, but they do not allow us to
assess the contingentnatureof successive steps along the proliferationpath:given that
a countryexplores nuclearweapons, how fardo they go? Although they are imperfect
for our purposes,multinomiallogit models are valuablewhen the dependentvariable
has several possible outcomes36and when explanatoryvariables may not affect the
likelihood of each outcome in the same fashion. Moreover,with multinomiallogits, a
countrydoes not simply exit the analysis when it crosses a thresholdas it does in the
hazardmodels; instead, we can allow it to move up and down different levels across
Table 4 presents the results using multinomial regression models. Multinomial
logit models estimatethe likelihood thatthe independentvariabletakes on one of sev-
eral possible discreteoutcomes (in our case, four), given the values of the explanatory
variables,with the coefficients representingeffects relative to a reference category.
Accordingly,we now have threeseparatecoefficients for each variable,one represent-
ing the marginaleffect of thatvariableto the likelihood of each of the threeoutcomes
(relativeto no interestin nuclearweapons at all, the referencecategory)." In general,
the results accord well with those of the hazardmodels, and many of the variables
attainvery high levels of significance across all three levels. As in the hazardmodels,
the economic developmentvariableshave strongandconsistenteffects across all three
thresholds, and these effects are both substantively and statistically significant.
Among the securityvariables,participationin an enduringrivalryand frequentdispute
involvementhave strongeffects across all threelevels, whereasalliance with a nuclear
armedpowerhas negativeeffects on levels 1 and3 buta muchweakereffect at level 2.
Thus far, the results strongly parallelthose of the hazardmodels; however,things
change somewhatwhen we turnto internaldeterminants.Democracies are again sig-
nificantlymore likely to acquirenuclearweapons, althoughthey appearless likely to

35. This examplecorrespondsroughlyto the changein Sweden's percapitaGDP from 1968to 1972.
36. Orderedlogit is not appropriateherebecauseof the possibility thatvariableshave differenteffects
acrossdifferentlevels of proliferation.Multinomiallogit is a flexible tool thatallows us to assess separately
the influenceof an explanatoryvariableon boththe explorationof nuclearweaponsand the subsequentsteps
up the proliferationladder.
37. Interpretationof results from multinomiallogit models is not straightforwardbecause of their
multiple-equationnature.To understandthe full directeffect of a variableon, for example, the second out-
come, one has to take into accountits effect both on the conditionallikelihood of thatoutcome and on other
categories.Most of the time, the directionwill be the same as indicatedby the coefficient, butoccasional sur-
prises are possible. Here we are interestedmainly in significance levels and compatibilityof findings with
the hazardmodels.

Pathwaysto Proliferation:MultinomialLogit Models

IndependentVariable I (Explore) 2 (Pursue) 3 (Acquire)

GDP per capita 0.0003< .oo 0.0005< 0.0004<00
(0.00005) (0.0001) (0.0001)
GDP squared -1.55e-08< .00 -4.36e-08< 00' -1.00e-08<.00
(2.73e-09) (7.86e-09) (1.80e-09)
Industrialcapacity index 2.88< .001 2.41< .001 22.59< .001
(0.270) (0.280) (0.664)
Enduringrivalry 0.43.017 0.67 1.61
(0.179) (0.221) (0.240)
Dispute involvement 0.31.002 0.77< . 01 0.86< .00'
(0.099) (0.105) (0.119)
Alliance -1.24< .00 -0.22.205 -1.25< .00
(0.19) (0.18) (0.18)
Democracy 0.020.073 -0.027 055 0.029018
(0.011) (0.014) (0.012)
Democratization -0.005.790 0.003.937
(0.020) (0.032) -0.023.334
Percentageof democracies -0.122< (xl 0.017.390 0.036066
(0.017) (0.019) (0.019)
Economic openness -0.028< -0.012?x? -0.027<
(0.003) (0.003) (0.003)
Economic liberalization 0.002 -0.007.299 0.003
(0.009) (0.007) (0.007)
Constant -1.47.)6 -6.95<. -28.31< .00
(0.538) (0.745) (0.339)
NOTE:Log pseudo-likelihood= -1874; pseudo-R2= 0.39; total observations= 6,125. The referencecate-
gory is no steps to pursuenuclearweapons.Coefficients areestimatesfor multinomiallogit regressionmod-
els, with robuststandarderrorsin parentheses.p values are superscriptedandarefor two-sided tests. Coeffi-
cients that are significant at betterthan the 10%level are in bold. GDP = gross domestic product.

pursuethem seriously (level 2). Economic openness now has a statisticallysignificant

negative effect across all three levels of proliferation.Neither democratizationnor
economic liberalizationhas any discernibleeffect in the multinomiallogit models; in
contrast,the hazardmodels suggest thateconomic liberalizationdampenedthe risk of
going to level 1. Finally,both satisfactionwith the system leaderandthe percentageof
democraciesamong all states in the system have differenteffects across differentlev-
els. The percentageof democraciesis associatedwith a reducedlikelihood of crossing
to level 1 but an increased likelihood of reaching level 3.38 Overall, however, the

38. In models includingsatisfactionwith the regionalleader,the S score has a positive but insignifi-
cant coefficient for levels I and 2; but a strongly negativecoefficient for level 3.

multinomial logit models produce results quite similar to the survival models,
althoughoffering greatersupportfor variablesassociated with internaldeterminants
perspectives,enhancingour confidence in the findings.


These results suggest that, contraryto what some scholars have argued, existing
argumentsabout the determinantsof nuclear weapons proliferationdo a reasonable
job of accountingfor the data. One furtherway of seeing this is to examine instances
when the models miss by a fairly wide margin:thatis, which countriesdid not explore
the nuclearoption, althoughthe models suggest they shouldhave, and which countries
did explore the option, even though the model produces relatively low predicted
To this end, Table 5 lists the countriesthathad a high predictedhazardfor several
years,yet never(to the best of ourknowledge) seriouslyexploredthe nuclearoption.It
is reassuringthatthe list correspondswith the countriesthatanalystsoften identify as
puzzling nonproliferators.Saudi Arabia'spresencemay surprisesome, but its combi-
nationof a high threatenvironment,substantialwealth, and minimallysufficient eco-
nomic and scientific infrastructuremake it a likely suspect.39 Still, our coding of secu-
rity guarantees is based on formal alliances and thus probably overstates the
temptationfacing Saudi Arabia.Althoughit enjoys no formalalliance with the United
States,the fact thatSaudiArabiahas (at least untilrecently)a de facto securityguaran-
tee was amplydemonstratedin 1990 and 1991. In a similarvein, Syria's inclusion may
surprisesome due to its low level of economic development,but our analyses suggest
that its frequentdispute involvement, participationin an enduringrivalry,relatively
low economic interdependence,and (barely)adequatelevel of economic development
made it a strongcandidatefor nuclearweapons proliferation.40 Japanand Germany's
presencecomes as no surprise:they are widely seen as powerful,economically devel-
oped states facing strong security threatsthatonly foreswore nuclearweapons under
duress and with the reassuranceof a highly credible American security guarantee.4'
Although lacking the same level of industrial/scientificdevelopment,Italy and Spain
are similar cases; moreover, rumors of interest in nuclear weapons have swirled
aroundboth countries at times.42Egypt's challenging securityenvironmentprovides
strongincentivescounterbalancedby relativelylow levels of economic development.
Bulgariais more of a surprise,but its statusas a relativelydeveloped economy on the
front lines of the cold war gave it a combinationof strong incentives and sufficient
39. Contraryto widely held images, Saudi Arabia produces steel domestically (since 1976, and in
fairly large quantities since 1984), has a large and modern electrical-generatingcapacity (well over the
10,000 MW thresholdsince 1983), and has a well-educateduppertier of researchers.
40. Indeed, Syria is also a "nearmiss" in our coding of proliferators.Despite some suggestive evi-
dence, we ultimatelydecided thatthereis not enough firminterestin serious or sustainedexplorationof the
nuclearoption to code Syria as a level 1 proliferator.
41. Among othereconomically advancedWesterncountriesnot on this list, Finlandprovidesthe big-
gest outlier but is not a surprisingmiss for fairly obvious reasons.
42. However,the evidence was too slim or the level of interesttoo ephemeralto warrantcoding as level
1 proliferators.

Dogs That Didn't Bark?CountriesThat Did Not Seriously
Explore the Nuclear Option ... but Should Have

Country Yearsof MaximumPredictedHazard

Saudi Arabia Mid-1980s to mid-1990s

West Germany Mid- 1950s to early 1960s
Japan Mid-1950s to 1960s
Turkey Late 1960s to 2000
Bulgaria 1950s
Spain 1960s to early 1970s
Greece 1960s and 1980s
Italy 1950s to early 1960s
Syria Various

ability thatled to a strong predictedhazard,despite the Soviet alliance.43 Turkeyand

Greece are obvious, if not frequentlymentioned,possibilities.
If we turnthe question aroundto ask who sought nuclear weapons but should not
have, the list is quite short, simply because our model attributesa relativelyhigh haz-
ard to nearlyevery state thatpursuednucleararms. Libya, Brazil, Algeria, and Paki-
stanhadrelativelylow predictedhazardsat the time they began seriouslyexploringthe
nuclear option. Of these, Algeria and Libya provide perhaps the biggest surprise
because both featurerelativelyinfrequent(thoughnot inconsequential)MID involve-
ment with a moderateto low level of economic development, renderingthem some-
what unlikely proliferators."Pakistanis primarilya surprisebecause of the remark-
ably low level of economic development at which it began exploring the nuclear
option, and to this day, it stands out as the least developed country to pursue and
acquirenucleararms.45Brazil provides anotherminorsurprise;althoughits relation-
ship with Argentinaoften renderedits securityenvironmentless thanbenign, it has not
faced a high-intensity threat environment compared to most other proliferators.
Argentina,by contrast,does not appearas an outlierbecause of its moreperiloussecu-
rity situation(tensions with Chile as well as Brazil, not to mention the United King-
dom) and higher level of economic development. Interestingly,the "Australiansur-
prise" (Walsh 1997) is not much of a surprise to our model, which predicts a
comparativelyhigh hazardfor Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, precisely when it
secretly pursuedthe atomic option.

43. Ties to the Soviet Union were not sufficientto rendera countryimmunefrom the nucleartempta-
tion, as Romania'sflirtationwith indigenous nucleararms in the 1980s indicates.
44. However,it is worth noting that both also share a numberof unresolvedborderdisputes.
45. China's per capita GDP, in 1996 U.S. dollars at purchasing-powerparity exchange rates, was
lower, but it had a large domestic steel industryand a much more extensive electricity industrythan did


Special attentionto the robustnessof the estimatesof the coefficients and theirvari-
ances is warrantedbecause of the relatively small numberof proliferatorsand due to
disagreementsaboutcoding of the dependentvariablesfor severalcountries.To assess
the influenceof particularcountries,we rana series of models sequentially,deleting in
turneach case thatfeaturesa positive outcome on the dependentvariable.This proce-
durerevealedno stronglyinfluentialcases, althougha few slight sensitivities areworth
noting. Deleting Chinaand/orIndiastrengthensthe importanceof economic develop-
ment variables, whose estimated effects are clearly attenuatedby the (successful)
efforts of two of the world's poorer countries to develop nuclear weapons. Finally,
omitting India and/or Pakistan elides the effect of the enduring rivalry variable
Our second robustness check was to experiment with alternate coding of the
dependentvariablesfor countries where there is some disagreementamong sources
aboutthe timing of key events anddecisions. Althoughfor most countries,thereis sur-
prisingconvergencefromcredible sources on factualaccountsand assessments, some
codings are based on more divergent and difficult-to-reconcilesources and evalua-
tions, forcing us to make ajudgmentcall. North Koreaprovidesan extremecase, with
both its decisions to explore nuclearoptions anddates of firstserious efforts at a weap-
ons programshrouded in secrecy and controversy.Iran provides another example;
althoughthereis broadagreementwithina 5- or 10-yearrange,choosing a precise year
for programinitiationis more controversial.In these cases, we createdalternatever-
sions of the dependentvariables,using years across the temporalrangeof estimates in
turn.Runningdozens of models based on these variantsrevealsthatthe resultsare not
sensitive to codings thatdiffer by up to 10 years for the contentious cases.


Fears of rogue states, withdrawalof cold war-era security guarantees, a falling

technological threshold,and concerns thatnew nuclearpowers will provide weapons
to terroristsall ensure that nuclear weapons proliferationremains a central security
issue and thatdeveloping an adequateunderstandingof the correlatesof proliferation
ranks high on the agenda of internationalrelations scholars. Yet, although scholars
have offered an abundanceof explanationsfor proliferationdecisions, little consensus
exists on the adequacy of various theories or whether we even possess a theory of
nuclearproliferation(Ogilvie-White 1996). We arguethatthis unsatisfactorystate of
affairsderives at least partlyfrom a mismatchbetween theoreticalarguments,which
tend to make probabilisticclaims and envision multiplecausal variables,and the pre-
dominantempirical methodology in the area, which tends toward case studies that
implicitly apply deterministicstandardsbased on an (often implicit) univariatelogic
of inferenceand samples on the dependentvariable.Seeking to complement existing
research,we constructeda new data set on nuclear weapons proliferationand used
hazardmodels to test theoriesof nuclearproliferation.The dataanalysis suggests that

existing theoriesdeserve more creditthanthey are frequentlygiven: nuclearweapons

proliferationis reasonablywell accountedfor by the level of economic development
and the externalthreatenvironment.
Although the inevitable uncertaintyentailed in coding cases of nuclear weapons
proliferationmakes us cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions, the findings
clearly suggest several implicationsfor policy and futureresearch.Startingwith pol-
icy, one of our more surprisingfindings offers some, albeit limited, supportfor the
emphasis placed on economic interdependenceand (less so) liberalizationin recent
work on proliferation(Paul 2000; Solingen 1994, 1998). This empiricallink between
involvementin the world economy and nuclearabstinenceseems to bolsterthe case of
those arguingfor a strategyaimed at tying down potentially troublesome states in a
mutuallybeneficialweb of economic interdependence.Yetthe causal linkageremains
somewhat opaque and unpersuasive:the direct economic costs and foregone eco-
nomic opportunitiesof pursuingor even acquiringnuclearweapons do not seem pro-
hibitive, as the relativelymild and short-livedsanctionslevied againstIndiaand Paki-
stan demonstrate.Adding nonproliferationto the list of putativebenefits of economic
integrationis prematurewithoutfirmertheoreticalandempiricalknowledge aboutthe
causal mechanismthat producesthis relationship.Parsingout this linkage both theo-
reticallyandempiricallythus poses an importanttask for futureresearchand points to
the possibility of synergies between qualitativeand quantitativemethodsin exploring
this relationship.
Our findings about the centrality of perceived threats in proliferationdecisions
have implicationsfor debates about the proposed U.S. national missile defense pro-
gram (NMD). Whether NMD fans or dampens the fires of proliferationdepends
largelyon how otherstatesperceiveit. If a U.S. missile defense is viewed as an implicit
securityguaranteeby countriesunderits umbrella,then it should functionlike an alli-
ance, substitutingfor home-grown security measures and reducing the incentive to
acquirenucleararmsas a deterrent.However,if some statesview NMD as threatening
because it neutralizestheirown nucleardeterrentsor allows the United Statesto inter-
vene whereverit chooses with virtualimpunity,then it may spurthem to acquirelarger
nucleararsenals,rushto acquirenuclearweaponsbefore a defense can be deployed, or
develop alternativedelivery systems. As Paul (2000) has persuasivelyargued,when it
comes to nuclearweapons, the security dilemma seems to operate with a vengeance
because attemptsby rivalsto bolsternucleararsenalsor builddefense areoften viewed
with great alarm and met with forceful responses. The question of the influence of
NMD on proliferationmay thus be one of net effect: states under its umbrellaface
reducedincentivesto acquiretheirown deterrents,whereasstates outside its reachare
likely to feel their security reduced and face heightened incentives to bolster or
assemble nucleararsenals.
These findings also offer considerable support for the commonsense theory of
nuclearproliferation,in which statesgo nuclear"whenthey face a significantmilitary
threatto theirsecuritythatcannotbe met throughothermeans"(Sagan 2000). In fact,
thereareno cases of the determinedpursuitof nuclearweapons by countriesnot expe-
riencing a subjectively threateningsecurity environment.Given this fact, one has to
question the wisdom of policies aimed at countering proliferation that may well

increasethe subjectiveinsecurityof incipient proliferators.To be sure, one would not

want to rewardproliferationby lavishing resources on countriesthat pursue nuclear
weapons, yet nothingin our analysis suggests thatpolicies thatproducea higher level
of securitythreatcan be anythingbutcounterproductiveto the aim of discouragingthe
pursuitof nuclear weapons. Policies aimed at a graduatedreductionof threatwould
seem to be more productive.A straightforwardreading of our results suggests that
actions aimed at the following would reduce a country's temptationto pursuenuclear
arms:reducethe threatposed by its externalenvironment,accelerateeconomic growth
so thatit moves well beyond the thresholdof temptationand onto the decreasing haz-
ardportionof the relationshipbetween developmentandrisksof proliferation,encour-
age integrationinto the world economy, and encourage a defensive alliance with a
great power. Arguably,currentAmerican policies towardproliferatorshave exactly
the opposite effects. In the context of our model, they would probably result in an
Although we have filled one lacuna in the proliferationliteratureby providing a
contemporaryquantitativetest, we have not exploredinteractioneffects between vari-
ables or various causal combinations of variables. As always in the social sciences,
manyargumentsin the proliferationliteratureareimplicitlyor potentiallyconditional.
One can easily imagine thatthe effects of an enduringrivalrymight be dampenedby
the presence of a great-poweralliance, that the effects of economic interdependence
might rest conditional on regime type, or that democratization spurs aggressive
nationalism (and thus potential proliferation) only in the context of an enduring
rivalry.In a similar vein, we have ignored the decision of states to give up nuclear
weapons (Ukraine, for example, is not included in our analysis) or to abandon pro-
grams short of weaponization.However, any comprehensivetheory of proliferation
must account for decisions both to pursue weapons and to abandonthem (Goldstein
1993). Two-way transitionmodels can help investigatethis additionalnuance of the
proliferationpuzzle. Thus, althoughwe have brokennew groundin bringingstate-of-
the-artstatisticalmethodsand new datato bearon proliferationresearch,we havejust
opened the toolbox: exploring interactions,conditional relationships,and two-way
transitionmodels areadditionaltools thatmustbe broughtout of the box in the future.


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