Amelie Stötzel

Thesis Title:

Nuclear Hedging Narratives – How States Narrate their Nuclear Strategies


Nuclear Hedging, a nuclear strategy aiming at the development of nuclear capabilities with the intent to come close to but stop before nuclear weapon acquisition, has featured prominently in scholarly literature since the late 1990s. Whilst the reasons why and how states pursue this strategy have been investigated, the role of narratives has not been explored in detail, despite being noted as a central element to hedging strategies.

By drawing on narrative theories from the fields of sociology, economics, psychology, and political sciences, a conceptual framework of nuclear hedging narratives is developed. It shows that states can use narratives to support their nuclear hedging strategies by creating a compelling circular argument that balances the drive toward a nuclear weapon with the restraint to stop short of a weapons acquisition. By using a two-layered communication technique employing front- and backstage communication, as well as value-laden narrative elements, nuclear hedging narratives can generate support for hedging strategies and avoid international backlash. They do so by enforcing identification with and conferral of legitimacy to the narrator. Using discourse analysis and interviews with subject matter experts, a cross-case study analysis of India, Iran, and Japan, tests and confirms the validity of this conceptual framework of nuclear hedging narratives.

The findings of this thesis have important policy implications. While challenging nuclear hedging narratives is admittedly difficult, breaking into the circular argument by provoking contradictory statements permits the exposure of nuclear hedging strategies. Furthermore, breaking links between national identity and nuclear hedging promoted by nuclear hedging narratives is crucial for non-proliferation success. At a minimum, monitoring nuclear hedging narratives can allow the early detection of policy shifts, either toward nuclear weapons acquisition or increasing restraint.

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First supervisor:

Prof Christopher Hobbs


Pathway 12: Strategic, Regional, & Security Studies (SRSS)


2022 – 23


Chapman, G., Earnhardt, R., Hobbs, C., Roth, N., Salisbury, D., Stoetzel, A., & Tzinieris, S., (2021). Nuclear Security in Times of Crisis. Centre for Science and Security Studies London.