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The UK, threshold status and responsible nuclear sovereignty

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The example of the UK is used to explore two linked ideas relevant to the current international politics of nuclear weapons: that of the threshold state, whereby a state moves from possession to non-possession of weapons rather than in the opposite direction; and that of responsible nuclear sovereignty, adapting the notion of responsible sovereignty to the nuclear context. The UK regards itself as an exemplar of responsible nuclear sovereignty and is closest to the disarmament threshold, being driven closer by military and economic stresses. Nuclear disarmament will require all nuclear-armed states to approach and cross this threshold, a journey assisted albeit ambiguously by the shared practice and norms of responsible nuclear sovereignty. Yet the nine nuclear-armed states' relations to the threshold differ markedly, raising more questions about the feasibility of the popular model of coordinated disarmament. Although coordination remains desirable, the UK seems more likely to abandon its nuclear force by deciding that ‘enough is enough’ than through the conclusion of a grand multilateral initiative.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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