Horizontal vs. Vertical proliferation.

Horizontal proliferation.

Horizontal proliferation is the spread of nuclear weapons to new countries by banning the trade of nuclear arms and to stop any capability of producing nuclear weapons. From the first successful nuclear detonation in New Mexico in 1945 the spread of nuclear weapons has posed a serious threat that America sought to stop to best of their ability, with refusing to share this new technology in contrary to their previous agreement even with their close allies in Great Britain as they felt it was too much power. However, it can be seen earlier on that although they did not share this new technology it wasn’t till the 1960’s that they began to start to realise that they needed to come to an agreement with the rest of the world on how to stop proliferation. This came with the form of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty of 1968 banning the trading of nuclear weapons with states that did not have them, and to focus efforts towards finding sustainable energy resources rather than weapons. With all the countries in the world that had nuclear weapons at the time the signing the agreement it seemed like a success.

However, within 4 years India had developed their own nuclear programme and with North Korea withdrawing themselves from the agreement it had to be questioned as to whether the spread of nuclear weapons was no longer an issue for the United states until 2015 when the states became aware of Iran’s nuclear programme and sought to quickly stop it before they were able to perfect and detonate a bomb. With the Obama administrations intervention placing limited on the amount of uranium that Iran could refine leaving them with just enough to power their nuclear power plants and no more as well as regular inspections of their facilities it became clear that non-proliferation was still a priority to the United States.

With the new President-elect Donald Trump believing that more countries should have nuclear weapons it has to be questioned whether he believes that this will force more diplomatic discussions or if he has no clue as to their destructive capability.

Vertical proliferation.

Vertical proliferation refers to the advancement and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War both America and Russia were competing to create the largest and most destructive bombs and create large stockpiles to create a large arsenal of these destructive weapons. While vertical proliferation was seen as one of the main threats throughout the Cold War years. It can still be seen today with the U.K. recently replacing it submarines and renewing its Trident programme costing around £20 billion, and the U.S. with its focus on creating new “mini-nukes” and battlefield weapons it is clear that it is to this day a vertical proliferation is still prominent

Harry Breese.


Ikle, F. Possible consequences of a Further Spread of Nuclear Weapons. January 2, 1965, box 7, Committee on Nuclear Proliferation.

Wittner, L. Resisting the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954-1970. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 1997.


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