Rethinking N+1

Albert Wohlstetter's 1961 "N+1" article reminds us that potential proliferators are not few but many, as most states have been empowered by economic and technical developments to build quickly high-leverage weaponry with impressive strategic reach

Issue: Spring 1998

In April 1961, one of the seminal think-pieces on proliferation appeared. This was Albert Wohlstetter's famous Foreign Affairs article analyzing the so-called "N + 1" problem. This formulation was Wohlstetter's way of characterizing the next incremental addition to the existing number of nuclear weapons states. In an elegant analysis focused mainly on the nuclear problem in Europe, he argued that the U.S. nuclear umbrella was the answer to the security needs of NATO's potential next nuclear states. He argued further that disarmament would only fuel Soviet ambitions, but that export controls and modest arms control measures had a role to play in limiting nuclear diffusion.

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