Scientific Intelligence, Nuclear Assistance, and Bargaining

Abstract: Members of the nonproliferation regime give technical assistance to countries contemplating nuclear weapons. This is puzzling: it facilitates the behavior donors wish to stop, and other forms of concessions do not have this drawback. Why do it? I develop a model of uncertainty, bargaining, and nuclear proliferation. In it, assistance hastens acquisition time but also generates a signal about the recipient’s domestic nuclear proficiency. This allows donors to better calibrate other concessions to the recipient. In equilibrium, donors sometimes find the information worth sacrificing bargaining leverage. However, despite providing information, assistance can cause proliferation if donors believe the recipient is competent but observe a misleading signal indicating incompetence. This paper works toward understanding how scientific intelligence affects international negotiations, an under-explored subject matter for political scientists.

Published in Conflict Management and Peace Science

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