Presentation Title
Rival Hierarchies and the Origins of Nuclear Technology Sharing
Dartmouth College
Start Date
Start Time
End Time
Gibson 296


Nicholas L. Miller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. Miller’s research focuses primarily on the causes and consequences of nuclear weapons proliferation. His book, Stopping the Bomb: The Sources and Effectiveness of U.S. Nonproliferation Policy, is forthcoming with Cornell University Press in 2018. His research has also been published in a variety of scholarly journals, including the American Political Science ReviewInternational Organization, and International Security. Miller received his PhD in Political Science from MIT, where he remains a research affiliate of the Security Studies Program. From 2014 to 2017, he was an Assistant Professor at Brown University.


Jeff D. Colgan and Nicholas L.  Miller

In the 1950s, the United States and Soviet Union abandoned secrecy and began sharing nuclear technology internationally. Soon thereafter, the two superpowers worked together to create the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to place safeguards on nuclear assistance, and eventually added other non-proliferation measures. What explains these decisions? Conventional explanations offer an incomplete account of these choices. We argue that an international hierarchy framework offers a fuller explanation for the superpowers’ behavior and identify three distinct mechanisms through which rival hierarchies can influence the internal workings of one another: competitive shaming, outbidding, and inter-hierarchy cooperation. We then probe the plausibility of our argument by investigating multiple observable implications in our case study of nuclear politics. We show that Soviet competitive shaming of the United States was a major motivation for the U.S. Atoms for Peace program, which sought to strengthen the loyalty of client states or attract new ones. In response, the Soviet Union attempted to outbid the United States with its own technology-sharing program. Ultimately, Moscow and Washington cooperated on the IAEA to limit the risks that nuclear sharing posed to their own dominant positions vis-à-vis subordinate states.

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