William C. Potter

Professor, Director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

He has served as a consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the RAND Corporation, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has been a member of several committees of the National Academy of Sciences and currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences Nonproliferation Panel. His present research focuses on nuclear terrorism and forecasting proliferation developments.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and served for five years on the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and the Board of Trustees of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. He currently serves on the International Advisory Board of the Center for Policy Studies in Russia (Moscow).

He has been an advisor to the delegation of Kyrgyzstan at every NPT Review Conference and Preparatory Committee Meeting since 1995.


Nuclear nonproliferation, illicit nuclear trafficking, and nuclear terrorism; Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); the International Atomic Energy Agency; the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and nuclear politics; the sources of nuclear weapons decisions; U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control; Nuclear-Weapons- Free Zones (NWFZs); nuclear safety and security; and nuclear disarmament and  nonproliferation education.

Dr. Potter interviewed on Russia Today
Dr. Potter's contribution to the Carnegie Corporation "virtual roundtable" on U.S.-Russian relations


PhD, MA, Political Science, University of Michigan; BA, Political Science, Southern Illinois University


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


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)


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)


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)

Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

NPTG 8516 - NPT Simulation      

This course is devoted to a simulation of the first NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting following the 2015 NPT Review Conference. This PrepCom is likely to be held in New York in spring 2017, and will constitute the first two-week session of the 2020 NPT review process cycle. It 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 outcomes of the most recent NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings, but in advance of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, one would expect major debates at the 2017 PrepCom on the subjects of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, further reductions in all types of nuclear weapons, creation of additional nuclear-weapon-free zones (especially in the Middle East), negative security assurances, nonproliferation compliance, international safeguards, nuclear terrorism, peaceful nuclear uses, and provisions for withdrawal from the Treaty. It remains to be seen if there will be an on-going crisis in Ukraine at the time of the PrepCom, but if there is, it also is apt to impact on deliberations at the NPT negotiations.

Students will assume the roles of delegates to the Rev Con from ten or more states, possibly including Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and the United States. In most instances, delegations will consist of two students. The precise number of states will depend on the size of the class.

The base point for the simulation is the “real world.” Dr. William Potter will be the principal instructor. He will be assisted in the course by other CNS experts, a number of whom also have participated in actual NPT meetings.

(1) The simulation places a premium on interpersonal skills and oral communication.

(2) Emphasis will be placed on developing analytical and political skills relevant to operation in a foreign ministry and other national and international organization bureaucracies. The written component of the course will entail preparation of concise policy papers and drafting of international legal texts.

(3) Students will be required to immerse themselves in the historical record of prior NPT negotiations, especially those related to the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

(4) Students will become familiar with the process of multilateral negotiations, which places a premium on coordinating positions across and gaining consensus from a large number of states with diverse national interests and objectives.

(5) Students will be expected to develop an understanding of the multiple expectations of the NPT regime by various states parties and regional groups, as well as to generate constructive ideas to meet the political challenges facing the NPT today.

Course Requirements: By the end of the first three weeks students should be familiar with the evolution of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and the basic domestic political and international security challenges it confronts. Students also are expected to be knowledgeable by the end of the third week about the principal concerns of the countries they represent with respect to the NPT review process. At a minimum, all class members should have read the following materials prior to the formal initiation of the simulation in the fourth week:

Darryl Howlett and John Simpson, eds., Nuclear Non-Proliferation: A Reference Handbook (1992), pp. 15-28, 51-56.

George Bunn, Arms Control by Committee: Managing Negotiations with the Russians (1992), pp. 59-83.

Tariq Rauf and Rebecca Johnson, “After the NPT’s Indefinite Extension: The Future of the Global Nonproliferation Regime,” Nonproliferation Review (Fall 1995), pp. 28-42 at http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/npr/vol03/31/raufjo31.pdf.

John Simpson, “The 2000 NPT Review Conference,” SIPRI Yearbook 2001, Appendix 6B, pp. 1-16.

William C. Potter, “The NPT Review Conference: 188 States in Search of Consensus,” The International Spectator, Vol. 3 (2005). (An assessment of the 2005 NPT Rev Con.)

William C. Potter, “The NPT & the Sources of Nuclear Restraint,” Daedalus (Winter 2010), pp. 68-81.

Jayantha Dhanapala, “The Management of NPT Diplomacy,” Daedalus (Winter 2010), pp. 57-67. )

Carlton Stoiber, “The Evolution of NPT Review Conference Final Documents, 1975-2000,” Nonproliferation Review (Fall-Winter 2003), pp. 126-147.

William C. Potter, Patricia Lewis, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, and Miles Pomper, “The 2010 NPT Review Conference: Deconstructing Consensus” at http://cns.miis.edu/treaty_npt/.

William C. Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, Nuclear Politics and the Non-Aligned Movement (2012).

Thomas Markram, “The NPT’s Review Process and Some Options for Its Further Strengthening by 2015,” Unpublished manuscript, 2012.

Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, 2014 Monitoring Report: Implementation of the Conclusions and Recommendations for Follow-on Actions Adopted at the 2010 NPT Review Conference at http://www.nonproliferation.org/2014-npt-action-plan-monitoring-report/. See also related reports by Reaching Critical Will available at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, “Rough Seas Ahead: Issues for the 2015 NPT Review Conference,” Arms Control Today (April 2014).

Additional readings will be assigned following the conclusion of the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

In addition, students should all become very familiar with the NPT Briefing Book (2015 Edition) available at cns.miis.edu/treaty_npt/npt_briefing_book_2010/pdfs/npt_briefing_book_full-version.pdf.

Fall 2013 - MIIS, Fall 2014 - MIIS

More Information »

Faculty Program Tags