This thesis examines the role of middle powers in post-Cold War arms control debates and negotiations. Following the collapse of the old bipolar international order, attention has turned towards the expected role that second-tier powers such as Australia and Canada would play in the more fluid international politics of the post- Cold War period. Much of this analysis focused on the role of middle powers in global economic debates, such as the creation of multilateral trading regimes like the Cairns Group and the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. Middle powers were said to exhibit a new kind of leadership style - one based on building coalitions of like-minded countries through entrepreneurial, technical or intellectual skills rather than the traditional leadership role of the great powers through material strength. This work demonstrated that middle powers tended to display a similar set of diplomatic behaviours when confronted with a similar set of problems.
However, the same academic work, written in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, suggested that middle powers could only expect to play a secondary role on questions of international peace and security. Middle powers, such as Australia and Canada, were described as having a more limited 'followership' role when the strategic interests of the major powers were engaged. The case of the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991 was cited as an example of how middle power diplomacy was ultimately constrained by the interests and actions of the major powers.
By extending the focus of middle power behaviour to the issue of arms control and disarmament, this thesis offers important insights into the leadership behaviour of middle powers on a central question of international security. The project has both conceptual and policy-relevant dimensions. The main aim of this study is to examine how middle powers achieve a leadership position on issues of international security. A new conceptual framework is developed which highlights the importance of the ideational skills of middle powers in constructing and framing a leadership role for themselves on specific, niche aspects of the arms control agenda. Through detailed case studies it is shown that such a leadership position can be effective in shifting the foreign policy behaviour of other states in the international system, including the major powers. However, as this study concludes, middle power leadership on questions of international security can also be constrained by both structural and domestic political factors.