Reactive Latency: An Analysis of the Diffusion of Nuclear Latency Between Neighboring States

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The threat of a nuclear weapons cascade in the Middle East has perennially plagued US policymakers in their interactions with the region. Accordingly, Herculean efforts have been made to mitigate this threat, and its prevention has been studied extensively. However, Saudi Arabia’s recent interest in pursuing indigenous enrichment capabilities begs a new question: should policymakers be concerned about Iran’s latent status pushing its MENA neighbors to pursue similar capabilities? The threat of reactive latency between neighbors thus demands analysis. Such work is made possible by recent scholarship in the nuclear latency space that aims specifically to support quantitative analysis. In the following article, I contribute to a growing latency- focused literature through an analysis of whether states that have latent neighbors are more likely to become latent themselves. Through three phases of statistical modeling, I analyze the relationships between having a laboratory-scale, pilot-scale, or commercial- scale latent neighbor or neighbors and whether a state itself becomes latent. I find that having a neighbor that has achieved commercial-scale latent capabilities has a positive and nearly statistically significant relationship with whether a state itself becomes latent. This finding could indicate that states may explore nuclear options in response to more modest external proliferation stimuli than is currently believed. Additionally, in many of my models, I find a positive and statistically significant relationship between a state having a nuclear-armed neighbor or neighbors and a state itself becoming latent. This lends further support to the idea that the external proliferation stimuli that beget exploration of and investment in latency may be lower than we had previously thought.





McKinney, Katherine E. (2019). Reactive Latency: An Analysis of the Diffusion of Nuclear Latency Between Neighboring States. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.