Professor; Program Chair, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies

Jeff Knopf
McGowan Building MG200D
(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)

International Security Research and Analysis

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 2020 - MIIS, Fall 2020 - MIIS, Spring 2021 - MIIS, Fall 2021 - MIIS

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Seminar: Deterrence and Influence Terrorism and WMD Proliferation

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.

Fall 2020 - MIIS, Fall 2021 - MIIS

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This course introduces students to the formulation of U.S. national security policy. It summarizes the roles played by different governmental actors, including the President, Congress, and relevant bureaucratic departments and agencies, and describes the interagency process. It then covers the influence of domestic politics on national security policy, including the impact of interest groups, the media, and public opinion.

Spring 2021 - 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

Spring 2020 - 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.



  • Co-author, with Wyn Bowen and Mattew Moran, “The Obama Administration and Syrian Chemical Weapons: Deterrence, Compellence, and the Limits of the ‘Resolve Plus Bombs’ Formula,” Security Studies 29, no. 5 (2020): 795-831. 
  • “Regional Variations on Deterrence and Stability,” in The End of Strategic Stability? Nuclear Weapons and The Challenge of Regional Rivalries, ed. Lawrence Rubin and Adam N. Stulberg (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2018).
  • “After Diffusion: Challenges to Enforcing Nonproliferation and Disarmament Norms,” Contemporary Security Policy, special issue on “Nuclear Norms in Global Governance,” 39, no. 3 (2018): 367-398.
  • “Nuclear Disarmament and Nonproliferation: Examining the Linkage Argument,” International Security 37, no. 3 (Winter 2012/13): 92-132. . 
  • 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.

Co-editor / Editor

  • Co-editor, with Anne I. Harrington, Behavioral Economics and Nuclear Weapons (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2019).
  • Editor, International Cooperation on WMD Nonproliferation (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2016).
  • Editor, Security Assurances and Nuclear Nonproliferation (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012).

For the full list of his publications, please view Professor Knopf’s CV.

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