SNNO - Strategic Narrative of Nuclear Order

Scientific Coordination

Benoît Pelopidas (supervisor) and Kjølv Egeland


SNNO investigates the emergence, projection, and contestation of the strategic narrative of nuclear order in Europe. This narrative emerged in the 1960s as the ideological foundation of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, displacing alternative visions of nuclear politics such as comprehensive disarmament and a supranational European nuclear community. Navigating between the alleged extremes of immediate abolition and unrestrained proliferation, policy elites in Europe and North America converged on the goal of freezing nuclear politics in its current form. For the narrators of nuclear order – influential policymakers and defence intellectuals – the primary task of any diplomatic process should be to avert disruptive changes and secure stability through managerial control. To that end, the narrators of nuclear order promoted the ideas that nuclear weapons are indispensable for the maintenance of peace, that extended nuclear deterrence provides a bulwark against proliferation, and that nuclear risks are controllable. This narrative has since been solidified through official government communication and incorporation into high-school textbooks, policy discourse, print and broadcast media, and other cultural products. The strategic narrative of nuclear order has been most powerfully projected by members and supporters of NATO. The continuation of the policies of extended nuclear deterrence, ‘nuclear sharing’, and step-by-step arms control has come to be defined as irreplaceable elements of the alliance’s material and ontological security. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the narrative of nuclear order has collided with attempts at developing an image of Europe as a human-security oriented normative power. Moreover, the prevailing narrative is currently under pressure both by norm entrepreneurs and technological developments that challenge the sustainability of deterrence.


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