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Explaining Nuclear Forbearance: A Case Study on Sweden

Why did Sweden choose, in the late 1960s, to abandon its long-standing nuclear weapons plans? Today, the end of the Cold War and the declassification of large parts of the relevant documentary record, especially concerning the technical preparations for nuclear weapons production, have created the prerequisites for a more penetrating analysis of this important historical issue. The purpose of this presentation is to summarize the research on Sweden’s plans to acquire nuclear weapons based on primary sources. This overarching analysis is then tested against International Relations theories which have sought to explain factors of proliferation and non-proliferation.

Date & Time

Thursday
Nov. 1, 2012
3:30pm – 5:00pm ET

Location

4th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Overview

Why did Sweden choose, in the late 1960s, to abandon its long-standing nuclear weapons plans? A number of historical investigations have analyzed some aspects of this issue, particularly as it related to the public political debate in Sweden and the formulation of the Swedish defense doctrine in the postwar years. Some studies have attempted to explicate, from a more overarching perspective, why Sweden opted not to develop nuclear weapons capability, but these efforts have generally been hampered by heavy dependence on secondary source materials consisting of published English-language works. Taken together, these studies provide a far-from-complete picture of Sweden’s historical nuclear weapons plans. The main reason for this lack of a comprehensive picture has been the paucity of primary sources. Today, however, the end of the Cold War and the declassification of large parts of the relevant documentary record, especially concerning the technical preparations for nuclear weapons production, have created the prerequisites for a more penetrating analysis of this important historical issue. The purpose of this presentation is to summarize the research on Sweden’s plans to acquire nuclear weapons based on primary sources. This overarching analysis is then tested against International Relations theories which have sought to explain factors of proliferation and non-proliferation.

Thomas Jonter is a professor of International Relations in the Departmenbt of Economic History at Stockholm University. His research focuses on nuclear non-proliferation and energy security. He is also chair of the ESARDA (European Safeguards and Research Development Association) working group for Training and Knowledge Management. Currently, he is heading a research project of Swedish Disarmament policy during the Cold War.

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Speaker

Thomas Jonter

Thomas Jonter

Director of the Stockholm University Graduate School of International Studies
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Hosted By

Nuclear Proliferation International History Project

The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project is a global network of individuals and institutions engaged in the study of international nuclear history through archival documents, oral history interviews, and other empirical sources. At the Wilson Center, it is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program strives to make public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, to facilitate scholarship based on those records, and to use these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

Global Europe Program

The Global Europe Program addresses vital issues affecting the European continent, U.S.-European relations, and Europe’s ties with the rest of the world. It does this through scholars-in-residence, seminars, policy study groups, media commentary, international conferences and publications. Activities cover a wide range of topics, from the role of NATO, the European Union and the OSCE to European energy security, trade disputes, challenges to democracy, and counter-terrorism. The program investigates European approaches to policy issues of importance to the United States, including globalization, digital transformation, climate, migration, global governance, and relations with Russia and Eurasia, China and the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.  Read more

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