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Nonproliferation and National Security, United States

Nonproliferation and National Security, United States

The United States government has long had an interest in nonproliferation as a means of ensuring national security. The logic governing this interest is straightforward: as long as weapons continue to proliferate among foreign and hostile powers, U.S. national security remains under threat. At the same time, weapons buildups in other nations arguably necessitate a corresponding buildup in the United States. This can have a number of undesirable effects, ranging from increased spending to a heightened chance of a confrontation such as the one that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.

U.S. interest in nuclear nonproliferation dates to the 1950s, when the United States ceased to be the sole atomic power, and the Soviet challenge greatly increased the chances of global nuclear war. In 1968, the United States, Soviet Union, and United Kingdom made explicit their desire for limits on proliferation through the Nuclear-Non Proliferation Treaty. This was one of several key turning points in the Cold War, as the United States and Soviet Union for the first time began to establish specific limits on nuclear arsenals and the buildup of weapons. These treaties and talks, which began in the late 1960s and continued in various forms for two decades, served to change the character of the Cold War, greatly reducing the threat of open superpower confrontation and limiting the battle to relatively low-level conflicts.

Since 1992, after the end of the Cold War, the United States has devoted considerable effort to overseeing the destruction of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union, and to preventing the proliferation of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons among other nations such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. To this end, President William J. Clinton in September, 1998, created the position of Assistant Secretary of Energy for Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security. Two years later, the newly created National Nuclear Security Administration, a unit of the Energy Department, took over these responsibilities. Additionally, the State Department has its Bureau of Arms Control, established in 1999, while the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) oversees the DCI Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control.



Gallucci, Robert L. "Non-Proliferation and National Security." Arms Control Today 24, no. 3 (April 1994): 13.

Pincus, Walter. "U.S. Agrees to Funds for Russian Scientists." Washington Post. (September 20, 1998): A26.


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. <> (April 5, 2003).

National Nuclear Security Administration. <> (April 5, 2003).

Nuclear Non-Proliferation, 19451990. George Washington University. <˜nsarchiv/nsa/publications/nnp/nuclear.html">˜nsarchiv/nsa/publications/nnp/nuclear.html> (April 5, 2003).


Arms Control, United States Bureau
Cold War (19721989): The Collapse of the Soviet Union
Cuban Missile Crisis
DCI (Director of the Central Intelligence Agency)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Iraq War: Prelude to War (The International Debate Over the Use and Effectiveness of Weapons Inspections.)
NNSA (United States National Nuclear Security Administration)
North Korean Nuclear Weapons Programs
Nuclear Weapons
START I Treaty

Strategic Defense Initiative and National Missile Defense
Weapons of Mass Destruction

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