Regime Security Theory: Why Do States With No Clear Strategic Security Concerns Obtain Nuclear Weapons?
Current realist explanations of why states decide to develop nuclear weapons cannot account for the behavior of states that lack a clear strategic threat. An alternative explanation is necessary to explain such behavior. I argue that domestic regimes in states with no clear strategic threat may develop nuclear weapons in order to ensure their survival. Such regimes are internationally isolated, under pressure from major powers in the international system and possess some preexisting nuclear capacity. Under these conditions, increasing domestic instability causes regimes to pursue a course of nuclear development. Nuclear weapons allow a regime to change the preferences of the great powers that would otherwise prefer to see the regime overthrown. If the regime possesses nuclear weapons, because of the costs and risks associated with those weapons, the great power will favor maintenance of the status quo and may even prop up a regime it intensely dislikes.