In this study, I will be analyzing the factors that affected nuclear strategy during the Obama administration. At the beginning of his term, President Obama, through rhetoric and action, put the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons as a main goal of his administration. This was asserted through directives such as his 2009 “Remarks in Prague” speech and the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. However, starting in 2014, his policy shifted. As seen in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, for example, this new strategy focused on modernizing nuclear weapons and the importance of these weapons as a deterrence factor. In my study, I will be using a neoclassical realist framework in order to better understand this policy shift. This viewpoint is the most useful because it accounts for systemic level factors, such as the balance of power, but also takes into account other factors, such as domestic politics and elite perceptions. Additionally, since neoclassical realism is best used for explaining security issues and foreign policy decision-making, this case will be a strong test of the descriptive, explanatory, and predictive powers of the neoclassical realist theory.


Marsh, Kevin


International Relations


International Relations


nuclear strategy, neoclassical realism, President Obama

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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