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Bruno TERTRAIS

In Defense of Deterrence: the Relevance, Morality and Cost-Effectiveness of Nuclear Weapons

Proliferation Papers, n° 39, automne 2011

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Since 1945, nuclear deterrence has frequently been the target of continuous criticism on strategic, legal and moral grounds. In the past five years, however, the renewed debate on nuclear disarmament has been accompanied by an increase in such criticism. The alleged limited value of nuclear weapons vis-à-vis proliferation and terrorism, and the existence of alternatives such as high-precision conventional means and missile defense, have strengthened some of these arguments against nuclear deterrence. This Proliferation Paper attempts to offer a proper defense of nuclear deterrence, by reaffirming its validity as a war-prevention mechanism and by responding to the main criticisms that it faces. Finally, it reasserts the fact that maintaining and nurturing nuclear deterrence should remain a primary objective of Western governments.

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