The Image of a State As an Instrument for Comprehending a Threat in International Relations (Iran's nuclear program used as an example)

Author: Anna SMIRNOVA

As is known, ensuring national security means protecting the state's key interests from external threats. However, whereas a definition of national interests rarely gives rise to serious differences, opinions differ among the country's political leaders and expert community on what the source of a threat might be and how much harm it might do.

As far as current world politics is concerned, Iran's nuclear program has become a graphic example of differences in assessments of a potential threat. According to a study conducted by experts of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (Monterey, the United States), there are considerable differences between the prevailing views of nations on nuclear threats and nonproliferation strategy. For instance, assessments of Iran's nuclear threat vary from low (Brazil, India, Pakistan, the South African Republic) to high (Egypt, Germany, Israel, Spain, Sweden, the United States). At the same time Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea perceive the threat as moderate.1 Experts are not unanimous also on possible consequences which might arise from the creation of nuclear weapons by Iran, and in regard to approaches which might resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear pro-gram.2

In practical terms such differences in assessing external threats above all mean that the absence of a common understanding hinders an effective resolution of these differences. In theoretical terms these differences prompt researchers to rethink the mechanisms that induce political leaders to adopt views on the existence of a potential threat posed by another country to the country's security, stability in the region or in the world at large.


A. Smirnova, Cand. Sc. (Political Science), assistant professor at the Department of Social and Political Psychology of Yaroslavl State University named after P. Demidov. This article first appeared in Russian in the journal Politicheskiye issledovaniya (POLIS), No. 5, 2008. It was sponsored within the framework of a grant awarded by the President ...

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