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Weapons of Mass Destruction - Forces and Counterforces



While biological weapons have been around for centuries, chemical weapons have played an important role in matters of war and peace since World War I and nuclear weapons since World War II. When and how have these Weapons of Mass Destruction been developed, and how have they been incorporated into the military arsenals? For nuclear weapons we will look at efforts during World War II and afterwards (India, Pakistan and others).

How did efforts to abolish them – or their use – arise and how successful have these efforts been to arrive at disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation? In this context the major treaties and institutions will be analyzed. What efforts have been made to create a firewall between the peaceful use of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, and between the chemical industry and chemical weapons? How do verification and monitoring work? What are the results?

What is the outlook today? Is the new Ban Treaty a major step forward in nuclear disarmament? Which states are a concern from a non-proliferation perspective? How real are the dangers that non-state actors will manage to make WMD?

Course objectives

  • To be able to describe major milestones in the development of Weapons of Mass Destruction, generally and in specific country situations.

  • Demonstrate understanding of the dangers of WMD proliferation.

  • Have insight in the interaction of scientific and political communities.

  • Have a grip on how national interests have determined the role of states in the development of WMD and the design of non-proliferation tools.

  • Be able to participate in future policy debates on WMD, orally and in writing

Mode of instruction


Course load

Total course load for the course 5 EC/ 140 hours

Assessment method

A paper to be written clearly and concisely


Wednesdays 15:00-17:00h, from 5/2/2020-25/3/2020
Fridays 11:00-13:00h, from, from 7/2/2020-27/3/2020


Students can find the course syllabus and additional course materials on Blackboard. Students are advised to enroll on Blackboard before the start of the course.

Reading list

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

Admission requirements



Students need to register for courses in uSis. 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.