Associate Professor, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies

Philipp C. Bleek
McGowan Building MG205
(831) 647-6509

Philipp Bleek works on the causes, consequences, and amelioration of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons threats at the intersection of academia, non-governmental organizations, and government. Dr. Bleek has been on the faculty since 2011, but in 2012-13 took a leave to serve as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, supported by a Council on Foreign Relations fellowship. He has served as an advisor to several political campaigns, a consultant to the U.S. government and non-governmental organizations, and regularly participates in Track 2 dialogues.

Dr. Bleek came to Monterey from a Research Fellow position at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Before that he was in Washington, DC, where, while completing his doctoral studies, he taught at both Georgetown and in the Department of Defense Senior Leader Development Program. During that time, he also served as a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Dr. Bleek is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. He serves on the board of the Monterey Symphony and on the selection committee for the Big Sur International Short Film Festival.

Philipp Bleek

Professor, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies
Bleek learned firsthand the importance of negotiation and communication skills when overcoming barriers.

My name is Philipp Bleek, and I'm a Professor in the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program here in Monterey at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In 2012-13, I had a really remarkable opportunity to take a leave from Monterey to go serve in the federal government in Washington D.C.

Maybe the most important thing that I did while I was in government was to staff an interagency group focused on Syrian chemical weapons. Doing that effectively required overcoming a lot of barriers. There were barriers within the Pentagon, where I worked. There were barriers between the Pentagon and other agencies, including the State Department.

And maybe, most critically, there were barriers between the US government and other governments, most crucially, the Russia Federation, with whose officials I had a chance to negotiate as part of a White House delegation. And in all those cases, overcoming barriers hinged on empathy, and respect and camaraderie at least as much as it hinged on cold headed calculations of shared interests.

That experience has been hugely relevant for my teaching, for my research, and, also, for the policy work that I do now that I'm back here in Monterey. So I try to remind my students that grad school is, not only a chance to build skills and expertise, but it's a chance to learn to play well with others.

That sounds warm and fuzzy, but that turned out to be a really crucial factor in our ability to deal with the threat of Syrian chemical weapons effectively. The world can be a pretty ugly and dysfunctional place. But the way in which individual human beings are able to find ways to overcome barriers and to work together on the Syrian chemical weapons issue is something that gives me hope.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

The goal of this workshop is to hone students’ professionally-relevant, policy-oriented communication abilities, including memo writing and briefing. The course will include a combination of lectures, seminar-style discussion, small working group engagement, and individual student work.

Fall 2018 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Spring 2019 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop, Spring 2020 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

View in Course Catalog

The goal of this seminar is to develop the skills necessary to analyze the motivations and capabilities of non-state actors to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction (WMD), more specifically chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons and materials, for terrorist purposes. Through class discussions, simulation exercises, and individual research, students will review the technical aspects of CBRN, examine the history of CBRN use by terrorists, assess CBRN terrorism threats and vulnerabilities, and assess policy responses to CBRN terrorism. Students are required to have substantial background knowledge of either CBRN or terrorism before joining the seminar.

Students will prepare weekly short memos, conduct group work for integrative simulation exercises, prepare an independent research project, and have various presentation opportunities.

Spring 2019 - MIIS, Spring 2020 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

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 2018 - MIIS, Spring 2019 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Dr. Bleek’s research and teaching focuses on the causes, consequences, and amelioration of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons proliferation to both states and non-state actors. He is motivated to try to address what he regards as serious, albeit often poorly understood and sometimes exaggerated, threats. And he is fascinated by the combination of science and technology on the one hand and individual and social dynamics on the other that doing these topics justice requires. He particularly enjoys introducing students to the field and helping them grapple with the often highly conceptual dangers of the non-state dimension of the threat.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Government, Georgetown
  • Master in Public Policy, Harvard
  • AB in Public and International Affairs, Princeton

Professor Bleek has been teaching at the Institute since 2011.


“Finding Shared Interests Despite Conflicting Ones: A Comment on ‘Pursuing Enhanced Strategic Stability Through Russia-U.S. Dialogue’”  PIR Center (January 3, 2020)

Microfluidics Should Scare You; But It's Not All Bad News” (with Cyrus Jabbari), Proceedings/U.S. Naval Institute (June 2019).

Reflecting on the Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Weapons in International Politics” in Forum on “Global Nuclear Order” H-Diplo/International Security Studies Forum (June 21, 2019).

“Honey, I Shrunk the Lab: Emerging Microfluidics Technology and its Implications for Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Weapons” (with Cyrus Jabbari) Emergence and Convergence Research Paper No. 5, Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction, National Defense University (May 2019). 

"Fellowship of the Drone" (with Zachary Kallenborn) CBRNe World (February 2019).

“Drones of Mass Destruction: Drone Swarms and the Future of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Weapons” (with Zachary Kallenborn), War on the Rocks (February 14, 2019).

“Swarming Destruction: Drone Swarms and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Weapons” (with Zachary Kallenborn), The Nonproliferation Review (2019).

"Avatars of the Earth: Radical Environmentalism and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Terrorism" (with Zachary Kallenborn), Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (2018).

“Red Flags Waving in the Wind: Insider Threats and What to Do (and Not Do) About Them” H-Diplo/International Security Studies Forum (October 5, 2018).

“When Did (and Didn’t) States Proliferate? Chronicling the Spread of Nuclear Weapons” Discussion Paper (Cambridge, MA: Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University and Monterey, CA: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies, June 2017).

“Special Issue: Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction” (co-edited with Chen Kane and Joshua Pollack) The Nonproliferation Review Volume 23, Number 1 (2016).

“Eliminating Syria’s Chemical Weapons and Implications for Addressing Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats Elsewhere” (with Nicholas J. Kramer) The Nonproliferation Review Volume 23, Number 1 (2016), pp. 197-230.

“Elimination of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Lessons from the Last Quarter-Century” (with Chen Kane and Joshua H. Pollack) The Nonproliferation Review Volume 23, Number 1 (2016), pp. 15-23.

“Iran Deal Buys Time: Now America’s Real Work Begins” National Interest (July 18, 2015).

“Kazakhstan’s Nuclear Fuel Bank: A New Nonproliferation Tool” National Interest (June 23, 2015).

“Security Guarantees and Allied Nuclear Proliferation” (with Eric Lorber) Journal of Conflict Resolution, Volume 58, Number 3 (2014), pp. 429-454. Note: Revised and reprinted as “Security Guarantees and Allied Nuclear Proliferation” (with Eric Lorber) in Neil Narang, Erik Gartzke, and Matthew Kroenig (eds.), Nonproliferation Policy and Nuclear Posture: Causes and Consequences of the Spread of Nuclear Weapons (Routledge, 2015).

“Atomic Kingdom? Not So Fast…” WMD Junction (November 15, 2013).

“Turkish-Iranian Relations: From “Friends with Benefits” to “It’s Complicated” (with Aaron Stein) Insight Turkey, Volume 14, Number 4 (2012), pp. 137-150.

“Shadow Wars: Covert Operations Against Iran’s Nuclear Program” (with David Vielhaber) The Nonproliferation Review Volume 19, Number 3 (November 2012), pp. 481-491.

“Turkey and America Face Iran” (with Aaron Stein) Survival Volume 54, Number 2 (April-May 2012).

“Abrüsting und Nichtweiterverbreitung” (mit David Vielhaber) in Simon Koschut und Magnus-Sebastian Kutz (hrsg.), Außenpolitik USA: Theorie – Prozess – Politikfelder – Regionen (Verlag Barbara Budrich, 2011). Note: German-language publication, translates as: “Arms Control and Nonproliferation” (with David Vielhaber) in Simon Koschut and Magnus-Sebastian Kutz (eds.), U.S. Foreign Policy: Theory, Process, Subject Areas, Regions (Barbara Budrich Publishers, 2011).”

“Chemical Weapons and Public Health” (with Ernest C. Lee and Stefanos N. Kales) in Barry S. Levy and Victor W. Sidel (eds.) Terrorism and Public Health, 2nd Edition (Oxford University Press, 2011).

“Revisiting Aum Shinrikyo: New Insights into the Most Extensive Non-State Biological Weapons Program to Date” Issue Brief, Nuclear Threat Initiative Issue Brief (December 2011).

“Why Do States Proliferate? Quantitative Analysis of the Exploration, Pursuit, and Acquisition of Nuclear Weapons” in William Potter (ed.), Forecasting Nuclear Proliferation in the 21st Century: The Role of Theory (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010).

“Minimizing Civil Highly-Enriched Uranium Stocks by 2015: A Forward-Looking Assessment of U.S.-Russian Cooperation” (with Laura Holgate) in Future of the Nuclear Security Environment 2015 (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009), pp. 89-104. Note: Russian translation published by Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Deterring, Compelling, and Cooperating with States to Bar Non-State Routes to the Bomb” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Project on Nuclear Issues 2007 Conference Series Papers (April 2008), pp. 3-13.

“Nuclear Weapons, Strategic Stability, and Conflict between India and Pakistan” Occasional Paper (New Delhi: Delhi Policy Group, Spring 2008).

“After an Attack: Preparing Citizens for Bioterrorism” with Richard Danzig and Rachel Kleinfeld, (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, June 2007), pp. 1-68. Note: Identified as one of “ten notable publications of 2007…that influenced our collective thinking about biosecurity” by the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh (January 10, 2008).

“Would ‘Deterrence of Negligence’ Reduce the Risk of Catastrophic Terrorism?” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Project on Nuclear Issues 2005-2006 Conference Series Papers (2006), pp. 18-33.

“Securing and Removing Civil Nuclear-Explosive Material Worldwide: Preventing Nuclear Terrorism and State Acquisition” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Project on Nuclear Issues 2005 Conference Series Papers (2006), pp. 45-62.

“Global Cleanout of Civil Nuclear Material: Toward a Comprehensive, Threat-Driven Response” Issue Brief #4, Strengthening the Global Partnership, Center for Strategic and International Studies (September 2005), pp. 1-11.

“Global Cleanout: An Emerging Response to the Civil Nuclear Material Threat” Occasional Paper (Cambridge, MA: Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, September 2004), pp. 1-43. Note: Paper served as basis of November 10, 2004 episode of NBC television show “West Wing.”

“Project Vinca: Lessons for Securing Civil Nuclear Material Stockpiles” The Nonproliferation Review Volume 10, Number 3 (2003), pp. 1-23.

“China’s Nuclear Posture at the Crossroads: Credible Minimum versus Limited Deterrence and Implications for Engagement” Kennedy School Review Volume 5 (2004), pp. 1-12.

“Tactically Adept, Strategically Inept: Reflections on the 1999 Campaign to Ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” Kennedy School Review Volume 4 (2003), pp. 93-105.

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