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BIPR | Balance of Power Redux: Nuclear Alliances and the Logic of Extended Deterrence
Balance of Power Redux: Nuclear Alliances and the Logic of Extended Deterrence

April 19, 2021 - 18:30

Eliza Gheorghe, Bilkent University, Turkey

Event Recap

The event began with an introduction of Dr. Gheorghe by Professor Harper, highlighting her innovative contributions to the fields of grand strategy and nuclear alliances. For her seminar today, Gheorghe focused on the question of how nuclear alliances function. She first explained that up to this point we have only considered nuclear alliance to be unbalanced alliances, such as NATO or the Warsaw Pact. But the nature of nuclear alliances she argued, is not fully explained by traditional neorealist, regime type, or liberal-institutionalist models. Rather, she proposed that it is key to look at the intra-alliance balance of power to explain how nuclear alliances offer security to their participants.

Balance of power in the context of Gheorghe's discussion referred to the distribution of capabilities among members of the nuclear alliance. She defended the use of the term by noting that member states in the alliance will think in terms of relative power. Professor Harper supported this claim by explaining how Europeans sometimes resented the unequal balance of power with the United States in nuclear alliances, which is only possible if we accept that there are power differentials in an alliance. If we accept this assumption about the unequal distribution of power within the alliance, then there are three structures: (1) imperial alliances, (2) hegemonic alliances, (3) balanced alliances.

Imperial alliances occur when the leading power (dominator) is overwhelmingly more powerful than all other member states (dependents) combined. This form of alliance was seen in NATO from 1945-1954, with the United States dominating Western Europe and Canada, and in the pre-Warsaw pact period from 1945-1956, with the USSR dominating Eastern Europe. The end strategy of a nuclear straitjacket was similar in both cases, as were the coercive and dismissive behaviors by the leading power towards its dependents. Both the United States and the USSR tried to thwart the development of nuclear weapons by other members of their respective alliances, suppressed or averted defections, and routinely dismissed requests for nuclear sharing, consultation, and rotational command.

Gheorghe noted that a shift to a hegemonic structure took place in the mid-1950s that would last until the end of the Cold War in 1989 for both alliances. In this case, the leading power (hegemon) remained much more powerful than any other single member, but that gap was narrowed when considering the combined capabilities of all junior partners. This led to more intra-alliance tensions as junior partners increasingly were able to assert themselves, as evidenced by France leaving the NATO military command in 1966 and Albania's departure from the Warsaw pact in 1968. Both hegemons continued to engage in heavy coercion and dismissal behaviors, endeavouring to prevent allies from getting nuclear weapons, and subordinating those that did by making them operationally reliant on the hegemon. No multilateral force emerged from either alliance and requests for nuclear sharing beyond stationing on state territory and rotational command were swept under the table. Two behaviors the superpowers did have to adopt in this period were consultation and accommodations. The NPG for NATO and the Military Council for the Warsaw pact provided forums for junior partners to try to convince patrons to cede greater responsibilities to them. Effectively, leading states tied their security to that of their junior partners (i.e., via forward deployments and joint warfighting). Gheorghe pointed out that the most surprising discovery to come out of her research on this phase was that the behavior of the USSR suggested that the Soviets believed they would be using their nuclear warheads in cooperation with their junior partners in joint Warsaw Pact fighting.

Full Audio:

Balance of Power Redux: Nuclear Alliances and the Logic of Extended Deterrence
American Foreign Policy Series

hosted by Professor John L. Harper

Eliza Gheorghe
Bilkent University, Turkey

Eliza Gheorghe is Assistant Professor in the International Relations Department at Bilkent University.

She earned a doctorate in International Relations from the University of Oxford (Honors, 2014) and an MA in Security Studies from Georgetown University on a Fulbright scholarship (Honors, 2010). In 2013-2014, she was a George L. Abernethy predoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Europe, where she worked under the supervision of Professor John Harper. Gheorghe has held research fellowships at the Institute for Peace Science and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, Yale University, Harvard Kennedy School, Cornell University, and Université Paris 1 Panthéon – Sorbonne. Her research was also funded by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Fundação Getúlio Vargas, the University of Vienna, and the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies.

Gheorghe is the recipient of the International Fellowship for Outstanding Researchers (2019-2022) from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) for her project The Globalization of the Atom: Nuclear Trade and the Spread of Atomic Weapons. She is one of the winners of the Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the Turkish Academy of Science. Her research focuses on nuclear proliferation and the evolution of the nuclear market; questions of grand strategy and nuclear alliances; nuclear dominoes; and illicit trade and trafficking networks.

Her work has been published in International Security, International History Review, European Review of History, Cold War History, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and by Palgrave Macmillan, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

Gheorghe currently teaches International Relations, International Security, and Nuclear Proliferation and International Politics at Bilkent University.
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