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Nuclear Weapons in International Security


Admission requirements

Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course.
This course only offers a place to a maximum number of 38 students.


Due to their immense destructive power, nuclear weapons have radically reshaped the international system and specifically the behavior of the great powers. The risks of deliberate or inadvertent escalation grew together with the constant need for credibility. Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons became a constant concern. Extended nuclear deterrence promises to allies were instrumental for the direction of U.S. grand strategy and the formation of NATO in Europe. Yet nuclear weapons are not an issue confined to the Cold War, as the implicit and explicit Russian threats after the invasion of Ukraine showed. Worryingly, the current era of great power competition and confrontation is taking place in a situation with more nuclear-armed states than before, and with again growing numbers of nuclear warheads. The relations between the United States, Russia, China, France, the UK, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, and other states without nuclear weapons continue to be complicated and shaped by their nuclear arsenals. Moreover, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence are further undermining strategic stability, and questions exist about the potential impact of advanced conventional weapons.

Course objectives

After taking this course, students will better understand:

  • The logic of nuclear strategy and deterrence, and the consequences for strategic stability;

  • The drivers of proliferation and non-proliferation, as well as arms control;

  • How nuclear weapons have historically shaped the foreign policies of and relations between states;

  • How the current trends towards nuclear multipolarity interact with emerging disruptive technologies to undermine international security.


On the right side of programme front page of the studyguide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace

Mode of instruction

This course consists of 7 seminars. Classes will be dedicated to (guest) lectures and group discussion. Students are required to participate actively in class discussion. Attendance is mandatory.

Assessment method

Assessment for this course is based on two assignments


  • 25% of final grade

  • Resit not possible

  • Grade needs to be compensated

Final exam

  • 75% of final grade

  • 5.5 is required to pass the course

  • Resit is possible

  • Resit will take the same form

The calculated grade of the assignments must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course. Students are also permitted to resit the 70% assignment if they have a calculated overall grade lower than 5.50.

Transitional Arrangement
Passed partial grades obtained in year 2022-2023 are no longer valid during year 2023-2024

Reading list

The literature will consist of academic articles and policy documents, links to which will be provided in the syllabus.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Registration for this course is possible from t.b.a..

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.


Paul van Hooft