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The myth of nuclear deterrence -- fact sheet

New fact sheet -- adapated and expanded from our Myth of Deterrence pamphlet. This fact sheet has two additional points not included in the pamphlet. Feel free to download, print and distribute.

The concept of “deterrence” is that the possession of nuclear weapons by one country would “deter” another nuclear weapons country — or even non-nuclear weapons country — from attacking. This has led to countries justifying their production of nuclear weapons as a national security measure while claiming they would only be used if already attacked by another nuclear country.

On closer examination, this thinking quickly becomes convoluted and illogical. And in reality there are more realpolitik reasons for having nuclear weapons — to offset conventional imbalance, prevent regime change, retain a seat on the UN Security Council, and so forth.

Nevertheless, deterrence is the cornerstone of defense policy and spending among all the major super powers. An estimated $100 billion is spent globally each year on nuclear weapons. This amount could solve most, if not all, the problems — including climate change, famine, poverty and disease — that cause transboundary conflicts in the first place. The very existence of nuclear weapons results in their perpetual justification. Download fact sheet.