The Security Implications of Nuclear Non-Proliferation in Central Asia: An Iranian View

Document Type : Original Article


University of Tehran, Department of Political Science


After the USSR dissolution in 1991, the declaration of Central Asia as a nuclear free zone was viewed as a crucial step on the way to solving the greater issues of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear security and nuclear disarmament in the world. The two great powers which had a history of direct and indirect involvement in this region played a significant role in the creation of the zone. Russia along with the U.S. have been sources of financial and economic assistance to the regional states and used the political leverage of economic incentives to persuade the five regional states to join the treaty to establish the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). The state parties are committed not to deploy, build, receive, and test nuclear weapons on their territories. The main objective of this study is to investigate the significance of the CANWFZ for the inter-state relations and the overall regional stability and security. The key questions posed here are: 1- Does the CANWFZ enhances its member states’ national security and regional security? 2- How do major powers view Central Asia’s nuclear non-proliferation? The political decision of the Central Asia’s leaders not to “go nuclear” was based not on domestic debate but on “top-down” consultation and persuasion of the two superpowers of the Cold War era. These findings are consistent with the assertion that the success of any arms control and nuclear non-proliferation initiative at the regional level is a function of the global actors’ cooperation.


Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL). (2018) Additional Protocols. Available at: (accessed 12 March 2018).
Baumgart, C. and H. Müller. (2004-5, Winter) “A Nuclear Weapon–Free Zone in the Middle East: A Pie in the Sky?” Washington Quarterly 28, 1: 45-58.
Center for Non-Proliferation Studies. (2013, January 28) “Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status of Mongolia,” Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes. Available at: fz_mongolia.pdf (accessed 12 March 2018).
Central Intelligence Agency. (2018) The CIA World Factbook, 2018-2019. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.
Cooley, A. (2014) Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cooley, A. and J. Heathershaw. (2017) Dictators Without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 
Ellsberg, D. (2017) The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. London: Bloomsbury.
Enkhsaikhan, J. (2000) “Mongolia's Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status: Concept and Practice,” Asian Survey 40, 2: 344.
Evseeva, T., et al. (2012) "Estimation of Radioactive Contamination of Soils from the "Balapan" and the "Experimental Field" Technical Areas of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site," Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 109: 52-59.
Falk, R. (1990) “Nuclear Weapons and the End of Democracy,” in F. Cancian and J. Gibson, eds. Making War, Making Peace: The Social Foundations of Violent Conflict. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
General Assembly of the United Nations, President of the 73rd Session. (2018, September 26) International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.Available at: 2018/09/26/international-day-for-the-total-elimination-of-nuclear-weapons (accessed 27 September 2018).
Goldblat, J. (2002) Arms Control: A New Guide to Negotiations and Agreements. Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA). (2009, March 24) Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia:  IAEA Welcomes Entry into Force of Treaty Joining Five States in Region.Available at: (accessed 10 March 2018).
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (2018) “Status and Trends in Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management,” IAEA Nuclear Energy Series No. NW-T-1.14. Vienna: IAEA. Available at: .pdf (accessed 5 March 2018).
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (2017) Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Tlatelolco Treaty). Available at: nts/treaties/treaty-prohibition-nuclear-weapons-latin-america-tlatelolco-treaty (accessed 5 March 2018).
International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). (2018) “Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia,” in The Military Balance 2018. London: the IISS.
Kortunov, S. (1995) “Nonproliferation and Counterproliferation: A Russian Perspective,” in W. Lewis and S. Johnson, eds. Weapons of Mass Destruction: New Perspectives on Counterproliferation. Washington DC: Center for Nonproliferation Research, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University Press.
Kristensen, H. and R. Norris. (2018) Status of World Nuclear Forces.Available at: us-world-nuclear-forces(accessed 2 March 2018).
Medvedev, Z. (1980) Nuclear Disaster in the Urals.New York:W. W. Norton & Company.
Norris, R. and Kristensen, H. (2011, January) "US Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe, 2011," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67, 1: 64-73.
Oxford Analytica. (2017, September) Kazakhstan's Examples in Promoting Nuclear Non-Proliferation. Available at: media/1960/kazakhstan-nuclear-non-proliferation.pdf (accessed  2 March 2018).
Rühle, M. (2009)"NATO and Extended Deterrence in a Multinuclear World," Comparative Strategy 28, 1: 10-16.
Sagan, S. and K. Waltz. (1995) The Spread of Nuclear Weapons. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
SIPRI. (2018) “World Nuclear Forces,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2018: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tirpak, J. (1995, August). "Project Sapphire," Air Force Magazine 78, 8. (18 April 2018).
Tuya, N. (2012, August 31) "Mongolia’s Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status: Recognition vs. Institutionalization," Working Papers by CEAP Visiting Fellows. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution. Available at: (accessed 3 March 2018).
United Nations. (n.d.) International Day Against Nuclear Tests 29 August. Available at: (accessed 21 April 2018).
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision. Available at: https://esa.un. org/unpd/wpp/DataQuery(accessed 2 March 2018).
United Nations Development Program (UNDP). (2018) Human Development Indices and Indicators 2018 Statistical Update. New York: the UNDP. Available at: default/files/2018_human_development_statistical_update.pdf (accessed 16 May 2018).
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2005) "Audiovisual Documents of the International Antinuclear Movement “Nevada-Semipalatinsk”," Memory of the World. Available at: tion-and-information/memory-of-the-world/register/full-list-of-reg istered-heritage/registered-heritage-page-1/audiovisual-documents -of-the-international-antinuclear-movement-nevada-semipalatinsk (accessed 23 April 2018).
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). (1975, 11 December) Comprehensive Study of the Question of Nuclear-Weapons-FreeZones in all its Aspects, General Assembly Resolution (3472 B). Available at: /GEN/NR0/001/85/IMG/NR000185.pdf?OpenElement (accessed 3 March 2018).
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). (2001, January 12) Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly on Mongolia's International Security and Nuclear-Weapon-Free Status, 55th Session, Agenda Item 73, A/RES/55/33: 30.Available at: search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/55/33(accessed 1 March 2018).
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). (2017, December 11) Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 4 December 2017, Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East, 72ndSession, Agenda Item 95. Available at: (accessed 1 March 2018).
United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA). (2018a) Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Text of the Treaty. Available at: ear/npt/text (accessed 10 March 2018).
———. (2018b) Status of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Available at: clear/npt(accessed 10 March 2018).
———. (2018c) Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones.  Available at: https://www. (accessed 10 March 2018).
———. (2017) Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Available at: (12 February 2018).
United Nations Treaty Collection.  (2018) International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, New York, 13 April 2005. Available at: aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XVIII-15&chapter=18&Temp=m tdsg3&clang=_en (accessed 3 March 2018).
US Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense. (2018, February) Nuclear Posture Review. Available at:  https://dod.defens (accessed 11 March 2018).