Professor; Director, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

William Potter
Office
499 Van Buren Street, Rm. 234
Tel
(831) 647-4154
Email
wpotter@miis.edu

Potter was trained as a Soviet specialist and wrote his first book on the technology, economics, and politics of nuclear nonproliferation. He soon became fascinated by parallels in Soviet and U.S. nuclear export and nonproliferation policy and the degree of cooperation between the two Cold War adversaries in the sphere of nonproliferation. As such, he was one of the very few scholars knowledgeable about both Soviet affairs and the dangers of nuclear weapons spread when the Soviet Union collapsed. He parlayed that knowledge and an interest in “open source” (unclassified) data collection to build what soon became the largest research and training center on curtailing the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the world—the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS)

He also launched the first major graduate concentration in nonproliferation studies, which subsequently became the MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. He is best known for his work on disarmament and nonproliferation education, including the use of simulations in pedagogy, and his research on multilateral nuclear negotiations in the context of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). He also has served as a delegate at every NPT Review Conference and Preparatory Committee meeting since 1995. In addition, he has served on numerous committees of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and for five years was a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. 

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

This course is devoted primarily to a simulation of the postponed 2020 NPT Review Conference, which
has been rescheduled for the first half of 2021. The conference will involve multilateral negotiations on
the implementation of the NPT, with special reference to issues of nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation,
and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Based on the outcome of the 2015 Review Conference, the 2017
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the results of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 NPT
Preparatory Committee meetings, one would expect major debates at the Review Conference on the
subjects of nuclear disarmament (including the US initiative on Creating an Environment for Nuclear
Disarmament, the “Ban Treaty.” and the impact of the unravelling of arms control accords such as the INF
Treaty on the NPT), nuclear risk reduction (and the deterioration of US-Russian relations), creation of
additional nuclear-weapon-free zones (especially in the Middle East), DPRK nuclear developments, the
demise of the JCPOA, other regional nuclear threats, negative security assurances, nonproliferation
compliance, international safeguards, nuclear terrorism, peaceful nuclear uses, and provisions for
withdrawal from the Treaty. The course will rely as much as possible on in-person deliberations, but plans
have been made to conduct the negotiations in a realistic virtual environment if necessary.

Fall 2019 - MIIS, Fall 2020 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

NPT Simulation
This course is devoted primarily to a simulation of the postponed 2020 NPT Review Conference, which has been rescheduled for the first half of 2021. The conference will involve multilateral negotiations on the implementation of the NPT, with special reference to issues of nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Based on the outcome of the 2015 Review Conference, the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the results of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 NPT Preparatory Committee meetings, one would expect major debates at the Review Conference on the subjects of nuclear disarmament (including the US initiative on Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament, the “Ban Treaty.” and the impact of the unravelling of arms control accords such as the INF Treaty on the NPT), nuclear risk reduction (and the deterioration of US-Russian relations), creation of additional nuclear-weapon-free zones (especially in the Middle East), DPRK nuclear developments, the demise of the JCPOA, other regional nuclear threats, negative security assurances, nonproliferation compliance, international safeguards, nuclear terrorism, peaceful nuclear uses, and provisions for withdrawal from the Treaty. The course will rely as much as possible on in-person deliberations, but plans have been made to conduct the negotiations in a realistic virtual environment if necessary. (Open to Juniors and Seniors only) The dates of this course are AUGUST 24 through DECEMBER 11. Registering for this course signals your interest in taking the course. You will be notified via email on August 21 whether you can officially enroll in the course.

Fall 2020

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Much of Potter’s research has related to issues of multilateral nuclear diplomacy, US-Soviet/Russian arms control negotiations, illicit nuclear trafficking, and forecasting proliferation developments. His research is informed by his extensive experience as a participant in negotiations related to the NPT, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. These issues also figure prominently in his teaching. His personal mission—“training the next generation of nonproliferation specialists at home and abroad”—also serves as the overarching mission of CNS.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Political Science, University of Michigan
  • MA in Political Science, University of Michigan
  • BA in Government, Southern Illinois University

Professor Potter has been teaching at the Institute since 1989.

Publications

Dr. Potter has contributed chapters and articles to over one hundred and twenty scholarly books and journals.

Books

  • Principles versus Pragmatism: The Nuclear Politics of the Non-Aligned Movement (2012)
  • The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism (2005); Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Options for Control (2000)
  • Nuclear Profiles of the Soviet Successor States (1993)
  • Soviet Decisionmaking for Chernobyl: An Analysis of System Performance and Policy Change (1990)
  • Nuclear Power and Nonproliferation: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (1982)

Editor

  • Principles versus Pragmatism: The Nuclear Politics of the Non-Aligned Movement (2012)
  • The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism (2005); Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Options for Control (2000)
  • Nuclear Profiles of the Soviet Successor States (1993)
  • Soviet Decisionmaking for Chernobyl: An Analysis of System Performance and Policy Change (1990)
  • Nuclear Power and Nonproliferation: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (1982)

Co-Editor

  • Forecasting Nuclear Nonproliferation in the 21st Century (2 volumes, 2010)
  • Engaging China and Russia on Nuclear Disarmament (2009)
  • The Global Politics of Combating Nuclear Terrorism: A Supply Side Approach (2009)
  • Dangerous Weapons, Desperate States (1999)
  • Dismantling the Cold War: U.S. and NIS Perspectives on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (1997)
  • Soviet Decisionmaking for National Security (1984)
  • The Nuclear Suppliers and Nonproliferation (1985
  • Continuity and Change in Soviet-East European Relations (1989)
  • International Missile Bazaar: The New Suppliers’ Network (1994)

News Feed