The Hegemon's Tool Kit: US Leadership and the Politics of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime | Rebecca Gibbons

Tuesday, April 18, 2023
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

William J. Perry Conference Room

  • Rebecca Gibbons

Seminar Recording

About the Event: At a moment when the nuclear nonproliferation regime is under duress, Rebecca Davis Gibbons provides a trenchant analysis of the international system that has, for more than fifty years, controlled the spread of these catastrophic weapons. The Hegemon's Tool Kit details how that regime works and how, disastrously, it might falter.   In the early nuclear age, experts anticipated that all technologically-capable states would build these powerful devices. That did not happen. Widespread development of nuclear arms did not occur, in large part, because a global nuclear nonproliferation regime was created. By the late-1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union had drafted the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and across decades the regime has expanded, with more agreements and more nations participating. As a result, in 2022, only nine states possess nuclear weapons.   Why do most states in the international system adhere to the nuclear nonproliferation regime? The answer lies, Gibbons asserts, in decades of painstaking efforts undertaken by the US government. As the most powerful state during the nuclear age, the United States had many tools with which to persuade other states to join or otherwise support nonproliferation agreements.  The waning of US global influence, Gibbons shows in The Hegemon's Tool Kit, is a key threat to the nonproliferation regime. So, too, is the deepening global divide over progress on nuclear disarmament. To date, the Chinese government is not taking significant steps to support the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and as a result, the regime may face a harmful leadership gap.

About the Speaker: Rebecca Davis Gibbons is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Southern Maine. She previously served as a fellow and associate of the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs after receiving her PhD from Georgetown University in 2016. Her research focuses on the nuclear nonproliferation regime, arms control, disarmament, norms, public opinion, and global order. Her academic writing has been published in journals including Journal of Politics, Contemporary Security Policy, Journal of Global Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, Washington Quarterly, and Nonproliferation Review. Her public affairs commentary has been featured in Arms Control Today, The Hill, U.S. News & World Report, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, War on the Rocks, and the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage. Before becoming an academic, Dr. Gibbons taught elementary school among the Bikini community in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and served as a national security policy analyst at SAIC providing research and analytic support on arms control and nonproliferation issues to Headquarters Air Force Strategic Stability and Countering WMD Division (AF/A10-S). Her book The Hegemon’s Tool Kit: US Leadership and the Politics of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime was published by Cornell University Press in 2022.

 All CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone.