Since the early 1990s, the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has moved to the centre of the global security agenda. As discussed in Chapter 2, the increasing prominence of proliferation reflects two factors. First, the end of the Cold War dramatically reduced the risk of nuclear war between the USA and Russia, effectively bringing the first part of the nuclear age to an end. Second, India’s and Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear weapons tests, the 2003 Iraq War and the controversy surrounding Iraq’s WMD programmes, North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests, Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and fears, following 9/11, that terrorist groups might obtain WMD, suggested that the world was on the verge of a major new wave of proliferation. This might in particular expand the number of nuclear weapon states significantly, and place nuclear or other WMD in the hands of terrorists.
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