Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Kenneth A. Rodman

Second Advisor

Paul Josephson

Third Advisor

Jennifer Yoder


On September 11, 2001, Islamist terrorism targeted thousands of US. citizens on their own soil and became the defining threat of the post-Cold War security order. Subsequent terrorist-attacks similarly impacted the EU and Russia. In the wake of these attacks, elites in the US., the EU, and Russia overwhelmingly drew the conclusion that Islamist terrorism is one of the great - and perhaps even the greatest - security threat of the new century. Despite consensus also that Islamist terrorists are actively seeking nuclear weapons and would not hesitate to use them, 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks have catalyzed only limited changes in US.-EU-Russian cooperation to address the threat of nuclear terrorism through programs to secure vulnerable materials and weapons. Meanwhile, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Graham Allison asserted in 2004: "Today there are more than two hundred addresses around the world from which terrorists could acquire a nuclear weapon or the fissile material from which one could be made." The specter of a nuclear 9/11 haunts us all, yet even in the wake of so catastrophic an event as the conventional attacks of September 11, 2001 the U.S., the EU, and Russia have failed to take action commensurate with the level of the threat of nuclear terrorism. Effectively addressing the threat entails either securing all nuclear weapons and fissile materials, or securing all terrorists seeking to acquire such weapons. Whereas securing all terrorists is impracticable, securing all vulnerable nuclear materials and weapons is an inherently finite task. Preventing nuclear terrorism therefore requires the US., the EU, and Russia to expend resources cooperatively through nuclear threat reduction programs until all vulnerable materials and weapons have been locked down or destroyed. Unfortunately, these vital programs have run into major constraints, including insufficient elite support, lingering Cold War suspicions, and poorly organized program implementation. This thesis will seek to explain the limitations of 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks in making support for nuclear threat reduction programs a priority for the U.S., the EU, and Russia.


Full-text download restricted to Colby College campus only.


Islamist terrorism, nuclear weapons, nuclear terrorism, US, EU, Russia