Presentation Title
The Changing Face of Nuclear Proliferation
College of William and Mary
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Gibson Hall 296


A rich literature has identified a number of important drivers of nuclear proliferation. Most of this work, however, treats the determinants of proliferation as constant over the entire nuclear age—the factors leading to proliferation are assumed to be the same in 2010 as they were in 1945. But there are reasons to suspect that the drivers of proliferation have changed over this time: nuclear technology is easier to come by, the global strategic environment has shifted, and the nuclear nonproliferation regime has come into being. To examine how the drivers of nuclear proliferation have changed over time, I adapt a cross-validation technique frequently used in the machine learning literature. I create a rolling window of training data with which statistical models of proliferation are built, and I then test the predictive power of these models against data from other time periods. The result of this analysis is a temporal map of how the determinants of proliferation have changed over time. My findings suggest that the underlying dynamics of nuclear proliferation have indeed changed over time, with important implications both for the literature on nuclear proliferation and for policymakers interested in limiting the future spread of nuclear weapons.


Jeff Kaplow is an Assistant Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary. His research examines the drivers of international and civil conflict, the causes and consequences of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the role of international security institutions in constraining state behavior. His work applies qualitative and quantitative predictive analytic techniques to issues in international security. Kaplow was a Fellow with the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation. In previous work, he analyzed foreign nuclear programs for the U.S. government. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, San Diego, an M.P.P. in international security policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School, and a B.A. in political science from Yale University.