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Jeff Knopf
McGowan Building MG200C
(831) 647-7174

When Jeff Knopf was a college student in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he participated in protest movements against the nuclear arms race. This piqued a lifelong interest in understanding the risks associated with nuclear weapons, the options for states to reduce those risks, and what ordinary citizens can do to contribute to the lessening of nuclear dangers. After graduation, Knopf worked for two years at NGOs based in Washington, DC, that were concerned with aspects of U.S. defense policy. He then decided to get a Ph.D. in order to study these issues in greater depth, and this launched him on an academic career. Since completing the Ph.D., Knopf has taught at the University of Southern California, the Naval Postgraduate School, the University of California-Santa Cruz, and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. 

This is actually Knopf’s second stint at the Institute. From 1998-2000, Knopf worked at the Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies as a researcher and also the editor of The Nonproliferation Review. After 9/11, Knopf became interested in the debate about whether terrorism can be deterred. An article resulting from this research titled “The Fourth Wave in Deterrence Research” received the Bernard Brodie Prize for the best article published in 2010 in the journal Contemporary Security Policy. His most recent book is a volume he edited on International Cooperation on WMD Nonproliferation, published by University of Georgia Press.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

An introductory survey of research methods, with special attention to how research can be utilized to inform policies related to international security. The course gives particular emphasis to the processes of identifying research topics and designing research projects. It will also address the basic elements of doing policy analysis. Students who complete the course will be able to read with comprehension and critically assess research produced across a wide range of qualitative and quantitative research methods. The course will also address how to write up and present research proposals and finished research products, and will consider the ethics of doing research. The course will be conducted primarily in lecture format, but some class time will also be devoted to exercises that involve active student participation.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

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This seminar examines deterrence and other strategies for responding to security threats, with a focus on how those strategies might be adapted to deal with the dangers posed by terrorism and WMD proliferation. The course will survey existing research on deterrence and various alternative policy tools such as coercive diplomacy, assurance, positive incentives, and soft power. It will introduce some of the latest thinking about whether these tools are useful for influencing actors away from support for terrorism or WMD acquisition or use.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

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This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the issues surrounding the proliferation of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological (NBCR) weapons and their means of delivery, the consequences of proliferation, and means to stem it or ameliorate its dangers, including:

• Nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons technologies

• Means of delivery, including ballistic and cruise missile technology

• Alternative perspectives on the dangers of proliferation and the utility of the term “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD)

• Factors affecting why states do or don’t pursue and obtain nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons and their means of delivery

• Potential and actual non-state actor pursuit, acquisition, and use of NBCR weapons

• Profiles of key countries and their NBCR programs and policies

• Deterrence vis-à-vis states and non-state actors

• Counterproliferation, including the possible use of force

• The nuclear nonproliferation regime, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system

• The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC)

• The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

• Missile control regimes and other export control arrangements

• Cooperative threat reduction and various post-9/11 initiatives

• Alternative futures, including new nuclear abolition debates

Fall 2017 - MIIS

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This course provides an overview of U.S. national security policy formulation and related intelligence analysis as these apply to the nonproliferation domain. It examines the foreign policy roles and powers of key governmental actors: the president, executive branch departments and agencies, and Congress. It also addresses the characteristics and foreign policy influence of non-governmental actors: interest groups, the media, and public opinion. With this policy context as backdrop, students will then delve more extensively into the role of intelligence analysis in addressing proliferation threats. The class will provide information about the organizations that make up the U.S. intelligence community; the process by which raw information may become an intelligence assessment; and the various pressures and dynamic existing within the intelligence community. The class will also examine several cases, such as the South Asian nuclear weapons tests, North Korean uranium enrichment activities, accounting for Iraq's WMD, and Iran's uranium enrichment development efforts, where the intelligence community appears to have failed or at least faltered. Using these case studies, we will examine the reality and the fallacies underlying this perception.

Spring 2017 - MIIS

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Areas of Interest

Much of Knopf’s work is motivated by concern about the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. This has led him to do research on arms control, nonproliferation, and other forms of international cooperation that seek to reduce the threats from weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He has also done work on strategies such as deterrence and security assurances that states can use to respond to security threats, including how these strategies might be adapted to deal with terrorism. Finally, he has long been interested in the potential for public opinion, NGOs, and social movements to influence government policies in these areas. In his teaching, he helps students explore how academic research can be applied to real-world policy problems. One of the classes he teaches regularly covers how the United States makes national security policy, with the goal of giving students a greater understand of how the decision-making process in the U.S. government really works.


Research Centers

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Political Science, Stanford University, 1991
  • MA in Political Science, Stanford University, 1986
  • B.A. in Social Studies, Harvard College, 1983

Professor Knopf has been teaching at the Institute since 2012.


  • “Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation: Are They Linked?” International Security (forthcoming, winter 2012). PDF/link not available yet.
  • Editor, Security Assurances and Nuclear Nonproliferation (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012).
  • “NGOs, Social Movements, and Arms Control,” in Arms Control: History, Theory, and Policy, ed. Robert E. Williams, Jr. and Paul R. Viotti (ABC-CLIO/Praeger, 2012).
  • “The Concept of Nuclear Learning,” Nonproliferation Review 19, no. 1 (March 2012): 79-93.