Investigating the role of nuclear weapons in US alliance politics

Faculty: Dr Lauren Sukin, Department of International Relations
Phelan US Centre Research Assistant: Annabelle Gouttebroze, Department of Government

Annabelle Gouttebroze


Annabelle Gouttebroze

Department of Government

This research assistantship has developed my skills in research, especially in archival research and in constructing surveys.

This year, I worked with Dr Lauren Sukin on her book project which explores how credible nuclear security guarantees can backfire. The research focuses on how credible commitments from the United States can increase popular support for nuclear proliferation, due to fears of being dragged into conflict or ‘trigger-happiness’ from the US. This analysis challenges conventional wisdom: that credible nuclear commitments limit nuclear proliferation.

Throughout the project, I have been involved in various tasks, including literature reviews, archival research, and conducting international surveys.

Firstly, I constructed literature reviews for Turkish attitudes towards the United States. This involved archival research, looking at news reports, and examining academic papers. I compiled this research into condensed lists, noting key information and sources. Overall, I found that nuclear weapons are seen as part of a national pride in Turkey and, more specifically, President Erdoğan appears to support the nuclear proliferation of countries, inorder to rectify the global imbalance in power, due to nuclear weapons. These findings were further confirmed when looking at Turkish attitudes towards Iran’s nuclear program. Turkey has more recently fostered anti-American sentiments and thus views Iran as taking a dignified stance against a global hegemonic power. These attitudes are compounded by Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with Israel and the perceived American presence in Israel.

After considering this, I moved on to look at literature for Greece. Similarly, I looked at archives, news reports, and academic papers. However, whilst much of the Turkish literature focused on Iran, much Greek literature focused on attitudes towards nuclear weapons in Turkey, especially due to the conflict in Cyprus. Using a more historical approach, I also found that Greece harboured many anti-Western, and specifically anti-US, sentiments due to their support of the dictator in the 1980s. This has resulted in a mistrust of the US, which continues today. Thus, there is the possibility that Greece would consider proliferation, in the case that Turkey gained nuclear weapons, and due to the general suspicion of the US.

Thirdly, I worked with Dr Sukin on her surveys. I translated her survey on public opinion towards the US and nuclear weapons from English to French. This involved offering comments on how a sentence could be translated in different ways and providing the different options for particular translations. Dr Sukin and I also discussed some of the French attitudes towards conflict related to the US, such as the Iraq war, and how this might fit into the survey. Further, once the surveys were complete, I participated in survey testing, which involved going through the surveys and paying close attention to the details in the wording of questions and highlighting any formatting issues.

My final contribution in the research project has been conducting research into British attitudes towards US nuclear relations, where I have focused particularly between 1940s-1970s. Interestingly, this showed that US-British relations have been relatively tense at times, on the subject of nuclear weapons. Using archival documents, such as memos from Prime Ministers and letters between the British and US Governments, I found that Britain was extremely reluctant to be reliant on the US, and that this was exacerbated after America’s involvement in the Korean War. Britain felt that they would have to give in to the demands ofthe US for support in the Korean War and also feared that the US would consider using the atomic bomb in order to win the war. These sentiments, along with national pride and its relative proximity to the Soviet Union, led to Britain’s development of nuclear weapons, and particularly thermo-nuclear weapons in the 1950s.

My research therefore indicates that many states view the US as ‘trigger-happy’ or are wary of America’s use of violence. There are also notions of state pride which encourage states to separate themselves from reliance on American powers and this perceived separation can be achieved through nuclear proliferation.

Overall, this research fits into Dr Sukin’s book project, by offering literature which can be used in each country’s chapter. This will offer a background to her survey data, and therefore combine qualitative analyses to propose a convincing argument for how credible nuclear commitments can lead to support for proliferation. This research suggests an alternative to conventional narratives which suppose that credible nuclear commitments will lessen a country’s likelihood of proliferation. Overall, it turns our conventional notions of nuclear proliferation on its head and provides new ways about thinking of international nuclear relations.

This research assistantship has developed my skills in research, especially in archival research and in constructing surveys. It has encouraged me to pursue a career in academia, and especially in international politics. I would like to thank the US Phelan Centre and its donors, all of whom made this experience possible. It has been a truly incredible way to gain first-hand experience into political research and I have learnt so much. I am especially grateful to Dr Lauren Sukin who, not only offered such an interesting and varied project, but has supported me in applying to Masters programs and offered advice for PhDs and funding. The support I have received from everyone at the US Centre has been amazing and I would recommend this assistantship to anyone interested in academic research.



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