The nature of the problem is that US security has been threatened by the theft of nuclear material and the creation of weapons that will be used by terrorists against the US. The terrorists are not a state, which is the prime actor in realist thought; nevertheless these terrorists are revisionists who challenge the hegemonic status of the US within the system by using the nuclear weapons to disable the US through the immediate and eventual effects of a nuclear attack. The terrorists are also seeking their own state by establishing camps in Afghanistan, which were bombed by the US and the UK. By retaliating with the nuclear weapons, the terrorists seek to ensure the survival of their own states in a Western-dominated world.
What is known about this problem is that nuclear material in Russia from the Cold War has not been secured and has even been stolen for the creation of nuclear weapons; there is also a high possibility that these weapons will be used against the US.
What is also known is that there has been a spike in Al Qaeda activity. What is presumed, then, is that Al Qaeda terrorists will be using these weapons against the US; it is also presumed that the US borders and security practices, particularly along the US-Canada border and within the ports, are sufficiently secure and that no . For example, the border patrol's equipment consists of paperwork and a metal detector that is too weak to detect the nuclear weapon. What is unknown is at what point the status and even the survival of the US will be challenged by a nuclear attack.
This problem of "loose nukes" has come about essentially because states' primary concern is survival within the anarchic international system (Mearsheimer 1994/95: 9-10, as quoted by...