How do states behave when they acquire nuclear weapons? In my book, Nuclear Reactions: How Nuclear-Armed States Behave, I offer a novel theory and historical evidence drawn from multi-archival and interview research to answer this question. I argue that nuclear weapons are useful for more than just deterrence. Instead, they are leveraged by states to pursue a wide range of goals in international politics, and the nations that acquire them significantly change their foreign policies as a result. I examine how these effects vary and what those variations have meant, in the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. Countries aren't generically "emboldened"—they change their foreign policies in different ways based on their political priorities.

The book is part of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs series. Thanks to a generous grant from the University of Minnesota, the book is available open access and can be downloaded for free here.

Advance praise

"Mark Bell is a rising star in the field of international security. His first book offers a novel theory of how nuclear weapons impact foreign policy, along with richly detailed historical case studies. It is an important contribution to the study of nuclear proliferation and nuclear strategy." Hal Brands, Johns Hopkins University

"Nuclear Reactions significantly advances our understanding of nuclear weapons by showing that nuclear weapons enable states to pursue a wide range of behaviors, which are largely explained by their geopolitical positions. Bell's important book carefully analyzes key historical cases that provide strong support for his theory of nuclear opportunism." Charles L. Glaser, George Washington University

"Bell broadens our imagination and deepens our understanding about the effects of nuclear weapons acquisition. His case studies compellingly demonstrate the different kinds of behavior (and misbehavior) that different nuclear states have experienced once they get the bomb." Scott D. Sagan, Stanford University

"Mark Bell argues that the United States, Britain, and South Africa placed nuclear weapons in service of their preexisting strategic goals. The book also makes clear that nuclear weapons are no silver bullets that allow states free rein in international politics. The argument joins a highly contested field debating the actual consequences of nuclear weapons' acquisition." Etel Solingen, University of California, Irvine