How to increase democratic legitimacy in nuclear weapons deployment

Inaugural lecture Michal Onderco
Marie Nemeckova, Peace Research Center Prague

Nuclear weapons are an essential element in European security. It is believed that the United States, as part of NATO's nuclear umbrella, is stationing atomic weapons as part of so-called 'nuclear sharing' in five European countries, including the Netherlands. But how democratic is such an unpopular deployment, and how can leaders increase the legitimacy of this policy? Prof Michal Onderco will address these questions in his inaugural lecture at Erasmus University Rotterdam on 8 December.

Contributing to the nuclear weapons task within NATO is very unpopular with the general public. Onderco asks whether the current policy of contributing to the atomic weapons task is then undemocratic. Not only was the presence of weapons on Dutch soil never confirmed, but its grounds are also unclear. In his speech, Onderco uses recent insights into policy-making in a democratic society where leaders face two types of pressure - the pressure to respond to public demands and the pressure to pursue responsible policies. The responsibility calls to contribute to nuclear weapons tasking, also given alliance obligations. 

Onderco argues that it is relatively easy for policymakers to use responsibility-based arguments. It is because nuclear policy is mainly made by experts, far from the public eye, has an important international dimension and receives little public attention. Onderco: "However, this does not give leaders carte blanche to ignore public opinion. Instead, in my lecture, I show that there are numerous ways in which technocratic leaders can enhance the democratic legitimacy of existing policies."

About Michal Onderco

Prof.dr. Michal Onderco has been appointed professor of International Relations at Erasmus University Rotterdam from the 1st of July 2022. His research focuses on international security. He has published two monographs, edited three volumes and published almost 30 papers in leading international journals. In 2018-2019, he was a Junior Faculty Fellow at Stanford University; in 2014-2015, he was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. Onderco regularly wins (international) grants in the field of nuclear security and defence.

More information

Lecture starts at 16.00 in the Aula in the Erasmus Building at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Burgemeester Oudlaan 50

If you are unable to attend, you can also attend the inaugural lecture via livestream:

Marjolein Kooistra, communications ESSB, 06 83676038 |

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