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The Politics and Strategy of Weapons of Mass Destruction


Admission requirements



Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has placed the threat of nuclear weapons high on the international agenda. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the use of nuclear weapons has been considered a realistic scenario again. Together with chemical weapons, biological weapons and radiological weapons, nuclear weapons form a distinct category known as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s). Since the use of chemical weapons in the First World War (1914-1918), WMDs have been an issue of concern in international politics. This elective seminar focuses on the emergence of WMDs and the political and strategic implications of their existence. Why and how were WMDs developed? How did WMDs influence international politics and warfare? What legal and moral issues are raised by WMDs in comparison to conventional weapons? These are just a few of the questions raised in the course. We also investigate initiatives to abolish WMDs through arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation initiatives. To what extent have these efforts been successful and what are the main problems associated with controlling WMDs? Students who follow this course get an overview of the role of WMDs in international politics and will get acquainted with academic and policy discussions on the topic.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students are able to:

  • describe the historical development of WMDs (including country case studies);

  • explain why WMDs form a separate category of weapons;

  • apply the main theories and concepts associated with the existence and role of WMDs in international politics;

  • demonstrate understanding of the political, legal, ethical, financial, and strategic aspects of WMDs;

  • describe and evaluate the effectiveness of the main arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation initiatives

  • be able to participate in academic and policy discussion on WMDs

Mode of instruction

Seminar, one session per week. Attendance is obligatory.

Assessment method

Written and oral assessments.

Reading list

The course syllabus will be made available via Brightspace before the start of the course.


Students need to register for courses in MyStudymap. It is not possible to take a course without a valid registration. Please consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.


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