Date of Graduation

Spring 2024


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Kerry Kartchner


Strategic culture plays a crucial role in shaping countries’ decision-making in regard to security and foreign policy. In the context of nuclear proliferation, strategic culture can significantly impact a country’s willingness to pursue nuclear weapons and how it calculates the risks and benefits of such a decision. This thesis examines Saudi Arabia’s decision-making under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has brought about significant changes in the country's strategic culture through aggressive top-down reform. While much of Saudi Arabia's traditional strategic culture has remained intact under MBS and his father, King Salman, some elements have shifted dramatically. This raises questions about whether Riyadh’s nuclear calculus has or will change. To address these questions, I summarize traditional Saudi Arabian strategic culture and nuclear thought, identify areas of Saudi strategic culture MBS has changed, and analyze whether these changes portend an evolution in Saudi nuclear thought. Ultimately, this study seeks to contribute to the existing literature on strategic culture and nuclear proliferation and fill a gap in the literature on Saudi Arabia's defense and nuclear decision-making, which has yet to catch up to the country's rapid evolution in recent years.


strategic culture, foreign policy, national defense, strategy, nuclear proliferation, nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia, Vision 2030, Mohammad bin Salman

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | Models and Methods | Other Political Science


© Andrew Brown

Open Access