Will you take a nuclear weapon with those fries? GLOBAL GOVERNANCE POLICY SERIES
Towards a Nuclear Weapons Peace Framework: with more countries thinking of acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities are they becoming a dangerous commodity?
Report includes conclusions on the:
NON PROLIFERATION REVIEW CONFERENCE. U.N. NEW YORK, MAY 2010 Keywords: Main belief systems> ideologies> global governance> ethics> war strategies> missile threats and responses> geopolitics> intelligence> mutual assured destruction (MAD)> nuclear and weapons technology> Cold War> disarmament and deterrence> terrorism and counter-terrorism> national and international security> international cooperation.
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Introduction The national security paradigm for nuclear weapons was developed during the Cold War. Its underlying assumptions were the foundation of thought on the nuclear issue and are still prevalent in much current thinking on the topic. They can be seen, both in the framework controlling and monitoring proliferation and nuclear progression, and in the way nuclear weapons and material are thought about both militarily and in a wider sense. Considering the changes that have taken place in the world over the past 20 years, this thinking and its consequent actions, no longer make total sense either within a security framework or a control framework. The hypothesis is that the effect of these inconsistencies serves to drive proliferation and increase the danger of the nuclear issue rather than reduce it. The article considers this from two directions. Firstly, holistically from a bird’s eye view. In this respect, the article considers the variety of the current threat and the differences in its reality to certain outmoded security paradigms, concluding that current threats are fundamentally outside the scope of previous conceptions’ solutions. From this perspective it also analyses the current non-proliferation framework and its underlying thought, concluding that it is neither aligned with the current nuclear reality nor with current nuclear dangers. Secondly, it considers the machinations from within the issue as a bottom up consideration of the factors that may provide momentum for future change. In this respect, it considers recent developments in the context of nuclear weapons and non-proliferation, particularly considering subtle but potentially important changes in U.S. and Russian stances and considers what repercussions they could have for the wider model and the position and role of nuclear weapons in the world.
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The Nuclear Threat Nuclear weapons as well as other forms of nuclear material have the potential to cause massive damage and potentially even more serious long term consequences. To compound this, the nature of a nuclear weapon or fissile material used as a weapon, strategically and militarily speaking, mean that its use for effect would most likely be against a city or populated area. They are potential weapons of genocide and are intrinsically dangerous.
Mikhail Gorbachev, with Ronald Reagan and George Bush. Gorbachev’s accession to power helped bring to an end the Cold War.
However, until twenty years ago the time in which they have developed and had a paradigm built around them, cast them not only in the role of military devices but also political tools. Not only as weapons of destruction, but as threshold weapons, also weapons which were touted as diverting politics and states from militaristic decision making. Throughout the time of the Cold War, a relatively simple model surrounded the building and existence of nuclear weapons, and the threat of nuclear material was essentially summed up by the idea of deterrence and mutual assured destruction. Although there was a massive build up during this period and a nuclear capability was developed by a range of states, the sparsity of main actors and the similarity of logic behind the build up in arsenals and their potential use, coupled with the arguably simpler military and political dynamic of the two superpowers, made the nuclear equation easier to calculate. The aim of this article is not to question the logic of past actions that have founded our current predicament, but it must be pointed out that with the relative simplicity of the equation and the arguable predictability of outcome and of logic, came a form of threat manageability (at least on the part of the few actors playing key roles at that time). With the fall of the Soviet Union and the developments of the last twenty years there have been considerable changes to the global picture in all respects. With these changes however, the power of the weapons and their equally powerful political and strategic associations, built over 40 years of Cold War politics, has not diminished.
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Coupled with this the spread of fissile material and nuclear technology geographically and in terms of understanding and the fact that non-military and military uses for the technology essentially share a very similar base, means that the availability and ability to manipulate material has never been so difficult to control or monitor.
NEW INTERNATIONAL DYNAMIC POST COLD WAR BYPASSED
Old Cold War and international relations inertia ruling nuclear thought theory COLD WAR
Thought theory on nuclear issues
- 2 superpowers - States singular actors
POST COLLAPSE SOVIET UNION
- New dynamic - Globalisation - Non state actors join scene
- New states with nuclear weapons arrive on scene - Non state actors acquire nuclear capability - Some states with nuclear capability fail
- National Security - Deterrence - Second strike - MAD
- Inertia from Cold War - National security - Deterrence
- Deterrence Fails - Still unable to use arsenals
- Build up by nuclear powers - Alliances
- Nuclear posturing - Unwillingness to disarm - New states seek weapons
- Need for a new nuclear doctrine/ strategy
During the Cold War a consideration of the international dynamic led to a theory paradigm around nuclear weapons which in turn led to this being the relevant
mode of behaviour on the part of states. Thought and behaviour then served to reinforce each other. However following the end of the Cold War, a new international
dynamic developed whilst the thought and behaviour around nuclear weapons remained largely unchanged - a form of historical inertia. Thus while they now continue
to reinforce each other, their key link to the reality of the international situation is not present and a key part of the logic chain is missing.
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States The changes over the last twenty years and the phenomenon of globalisation in particular, have arguably altered the consistency and meaning of the idea of the state, and whilst ties between nations have arguably never been so varied and strong, developments have occurred at increasingly breakneck speed. They have occurred at different speeds in different places, and have had different impacts on different social models. The unpredictability of these changes has created an international environment which, on the one hand has never been so homogeneous, but on the other, an environment in which the fluidity and range of ideas, reasoning and actors have never been so varied. The newly shaped playing field has given rise to new niches in which nuclear weapons can form a threat. Niches in which the safeguards of the past perhaps play no role. Considering the balancing of a nuclear equation for a major nuclear power is now far more complex and must take into account many more factors, taking place on far more fronts. This becomes more difficult still as more states consider developing nuclear capabilities.
A sovereign state (commonly simply referred to as a state) is a political association with effective internal and external sovereignty over a geographic area and population which is not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state.
Thus the threat of the use of nuclear weapons between states is arguably higher now than even during the Cold War. The actors to which globalisation has given a voice are now far greater in number, although nothing has yet replaced the state as the key reference point for security or political action on an international stage. Coupled with the above factors of the proliferation of knowledge and materials and the fact that nuclear weapons still have a strategic voice in politics and war, one can see that the factors fuelling the thinking of weapons acquisition in the Cold War, for states seeking the means nuclear weapons provide, are still present. In regard to states, in principle the number of actors with nuclear weapons or the ease of their availability does in itself not preclude deterrence from being an operable principle. Indeed, there are many who argue that more nuclear weapons and not less would be the safest way to ensure a lasting nuclear peace. Argued ad infinitum and put rather succinctly, “a ‘world without nuclear weapons’ would be a world in which the United States, Russia, Israel, China, and dozen other countries would have hair-trigger mobilization plans to rebuild nuclear weapons and mobilize or commandeer delivery systems...The urge to preempt would dominate; whoever gets the first few weapons will coerce or preempt. It would be a nervous world.”
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Deterrence is a strategy by which governments threaten an immense retaliation if attacked, such that aggressors are deterred if they do not wish to suffer great damage as a result of an aggressive action. Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), conventional weapons strength, economic sanctions, or any combination of these can be used as deterrents. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is a form of this strategy, which came to prominence during the Cold War when it was used by the US to characterise relations between the United States and Soviet Union. Both nations were prepared to fight a full scale nuclear and conventional war, but were not willing to risk the carnage of a full scale nuclear war.
However, original deterrence principles, extrapolations of which seem to be followed in security circles today, were built on balance, an understanding (and implied agreement) of what strategic purpose the weapons were to be used for, the understanding of the thresholds they represented and a reciprocal predictability to the logic leading to their use. Thus in the current climate certain actors, particularly rogue or pariah states have the chance and the motivation to acquire these weapons, but do not fit into the original deterrence model. The difference in model, ideology and leadership in states such as Iran and North Korea (including associated non state actors and proxis) and their consistent violations of international norms and accepted state behaviour raises certain questions about the predictability of their actions, which the principle of deterrence relies on. Should it be assumed that the decisions of these states rely on logic, albeit a foreign concept of logic (and the argument has been made that it is not impossible to rule out that an illogical, rash or unmotivated act could take place), one is still faced with the problem that the differences in make-up of these states, their leadership or their decision making processes unquestionably make a consideration of this logic in reference to thresholds based on past or standard international frameworks inadequate. The same is true of evaluations of decisions leading to the use of weapons. Likewise, demonstrated indifference to implied state behaviour and their fringe status in the international community unquestionably makes their view of the potential and acceptable use of nuclear force, or the arenas in which it may be brought to bear, politically as well as militarily, reliant on a different equation, and thus one interminably difficult to predict or counter.
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Shahab 3 missiles displayed by Iran in the military parade of April 2010.
Finally, if the lessons of the last twenty years have taught us anything, it is that the international realm is an unpredictable and uncertain place and that the actors, motivations and relationships are constantly reinventing themselves. Admittedly, despite the above argument, state use of nuclear weapons is the least likely form of nuclear threat, but for the above reasons, and possibly others that have not come into being yet, that will not certainly always be the case. This is particularly true considering the idea that proliferation begets proliferation. For the very same reason a nuclear capability would be developed in one state, without the guarantee that it will be used within defined and predictable parameters (and arguably even the attempt to gain a weapons capability in the current international climate shows evidence of an unpredictable environment and could be construed as a demonstration of unpredictable intent) it would very possibly lead to the belief that the strategic necessity existed for other actors in an area to acquire a capability themselves. Whilst the progress of nuclear arming has in fact happened at a very slow rate up to now (currently only 8 (perhaps/probably 9) states are in possession of weapons) this may also not always necessarily be the case especially considering the proliferation of nuclear latent states.
Example: should Iran gain a weapons capability, owing to the balance of power shift it would represent and the consequences that would stem from it, it would be likely that other states in the region would very quickly begin their own programs in the interests of their own security.
Iranian soldiers march during a military parade marking the annual National Army Day in Tehran on April 18, 2010.
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Non State Actors
Al-Qaeda is a militant Islamist group founded sometime between August 1988 and late 1989 by its current leader Osama bin Laden. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless arm and a fundamentalist Sunni movement calling for global Jihad. It is widely considered a terrorist organisation.
Far more likely is the threat that has manifested in the form of global terror networks. Although there have been terrorist groups since the Second World War and even before, they have for different reasons, up until recently, been unlikely to have wanted to or been able to realise the possibility of manifesting a nuclear threat. Owing to a confluence of developments this is probably no longer the case. Developments of the last twenty years, culturally, economically, politically and technologically have come together to create networks of increased numbers, support, sophistication, means and aim. Events over the last 10 years reinforce this in terms of the complexity of destructive acts that have been brought to bear as well as the response of states to them. Some states no longer seem to know whether it is even possible to classify them as terrorist groups or armies, or where the difference lies. In fact, it has been argued that in the age of global linkage and military hegemony, these groups form the basis of a new paradigm in warfare. Ironically, although they form the most likely threat, they are also the group against which the possession of nuclear weapons can have no deterrent effect. The motivation to obtain and use a nuclear device is present. Previous formats of groups with more local aims may have found their use counter-productive compared to the sweeping aims of certain of today’s networks. Osama bin Laden, for example, has already claimed it as a religious duty to secure a nuclear device and there have already been documented attempts to buy Uranium by terrorist organisations. The attacks that have already taken place as well as constantly growing evidence suggest that the rhetoric cannot be taken lightly. Indeed, the strategic abilities of a bomb would fit with the actions of certain groups targeting densely populated civilian places seen so far, and the effects would follow the declared mode and aim of their warfare. Should the threat materialise in the form of possession of a bomb, needless to say, the lack of alignment of these groups with any international protocols or demands on states will reduce the use of the device to a logistics and aim calculation.
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Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. Uranium has the second highest atomic weight of the naturally occurring elements, lighter only than plutonium-244.
With nuclear knowledge and material proliferation, both peaceful and military, the possible access points to material and information have grown in variety and type whilst the potential use for nuclear material has also increased. Apart from the possibility of a direct attack on a nuclear facility releasing quantities of radiation, there are three potential manifestations of this threat. 1. The theft and detonation of an intact weapon, 2. the acquisition of fissile material and the consequent construction of an improvised nuclear device and 3. the acquisition of radioactive materials leading to the construction of a radiological dispersion device (a dirty bomb) or a radiation dispersion device. The first two options would be the hardest to carry out and would result in the most damage, and yet each step to their completion could now be theoretically fulfilled by a sophisticated network. The fact that there are unstable states such as Pakistan with nuclear weapons is a concern as far as the theft of an intact nuclear device is concerned, whilst the volatile transitions under-way in the ex-Soviet Union states left and leave questions of security and documentation around weapons stockpiles. Even easier would be the acquisition of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium necessary for the fabrication of an improvised nuclear device. Indeed a Congressional Research Service report, suggests how possible the theft of HEU, in particular, really is (indeed there have already been documented instances of theft of nuclear material as well as the discovery of a nuclear smuggling ring involving top scientists in Pakistan). It is used in various forms of civilian commerce, for example research reactors which are common all around the world and which are very sparsely guarded.—A very small quantity is all that would be required for an improvised device. According to many nuclear scientists, following the acquisition of the material, the science to fabricate a crude device would be within a sophisticated group’s ability. Finally, a dirty bomb could be made using a range of radioactive sources in common use in medicine, industry and research (many of which have fallen outside regulatory control) and would require little more than a knowledge of high explosives (although it must be mentioned that the damage evaluations for dirty bombs almost preclude them being mentioned in the same breath as the other two possibilities). Again recently, terrorists have once again shown that the security protocols are not water tight and with the quantity of trade and private traffic currently, should a weapon be acquired, the probability of it being stopped on delivery will probably never be 100 per cent.
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International Frameworks, Control Mechanisms and Theory The existence of such technology and weapons automatically creates the potential for their misuse. However, there is an international system in place for the control of fissile material and the normalisation of nuclear weapons designed specifically to counter the possibility of their misuse and dangerous proliferation. Does the fact that up to now there have been only two non-test uses of nuclear weapons, and that there are still not more than 9 states with a nuclear weapons capability mean this system is working? To evaluate this we must consider what this system is, its flaws and how applicable it is in the contemporary world and to contemporary threats.
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The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
The Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT) is a treaty to limit the spread (proliferation) of nuclear weapons. The treaty came into force on 5 March 1970, and currently there are 189 states party to the treaty, five of which are recognised as Nuclear Weapon States.
Counter-terrorism efforts aside, which focus rather more on the logistics of prevention of a special form of terrorist attack than on the overarching mechanism for the control of weapons, the system is based on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This is complimented by other bi and multilateral agreements such as the SALT and START treaties (aimed at reductions in weapons stockpiles in the US and the Soviet Union/Russia), international conventions such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and an Additional Protocol aimed at strengthening the classical safeguards system. The treaty is essentially split into three pillars: to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to promote co-operation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. Opened for signing in 1968, the treaty is now in force indefinitely following a review conference in 1995. There are 189 parties to the treaty, which recognises five as nuclear powers. There are four sovereign states not party to the treaty: India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea (although the legality of the withdrawal by North Korea is questioned). Under the treaty, Nuclear Weapon States agree not to transfer weapons to other states and not to assist Non-Nuclear Weapon States in the construction of a nuclear device, and Non-Nuclear States agree not to construct or receive such devices. The treaty demands states to comply with IAEA safeguards which include methods for keeping track of fissile material. It allows nuclear research for peaceful purposes and encourages inter-state co-operation for its development toward peaceful ends. It demands that negotiations are pursued toward disarmament (although the wording of article VI is ambiguous). The possibility to leave the treaty is provided in article X after 3 months notice and provided “extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country”.
Four non-parties to the treaty are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan and North Korea have openly tested and declared that they possess
nuclear weapons, while Israel has had a policy of opacity regarding its own nuclear weapons program. North Korea acceded to the treaty, violated it, and in 2003 withdrew from it.
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NUCLEAR WEAPONS. PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE Explosive power at the disposal of nuclear weapons states in 1984. Each dot represents the total amount of explosives used in World War II. Dots in circle enclosing 9 megatons represents the weapons on just one Poseidon submarine. Equal to the firepower of three World War II’s.
One dot. Firepower of World War II: 3 megatons.
Just two squares on this chart (300 megatons) represent enough firepower to destroy all the large- and medium-size cities in the entire world.
Just one Trident sub 24 megatons with the firepower of eight World War II’s enough to destroy every city in the northern hemisphere.
All other dots in chart represent the world’s present nuclear weaponry which equals 6,000 World War II’s or 18,000 megatons.
Source: Harold Willens. The Trimtab Factor. 1984.
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Problems with the Treaty
The US - India nuclear deal undermines the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by making a special exception for India that runs contrary to a delicate global bargain that all but four of the world’s countries have accepted.
This structure looks excellent on paper, but deeper analysis reveals flaws when considering the efficacy and contemporary relevance of the framework. Politically the treaty suffers from the same problems that affect all international legal implements. International law in general suffers from a lack of consensus on meaning and efficacy which leads to gaps in cogency and a lack of enforcement mechanisms. At the same time, as the key building block is still the state, particularly in terms of security, parochial interests are likely to override international law should they be deemed beneficial enough or pressing enough. Parochial interests can also influence its interpretation to the point of contradiction or meaninglessness. This manifests in this case in various ways. Firstly, the framework suffers from a lack of legitimacy that comes about as the treaty is not fully international. As mentioned above, there are four states with nuclear weapons who are not party to the treaty, meaning they are not bound by its obligations and call into question the very essence of it as an international agreement. Iran has raised the argument that it would theoretically be better off outside the treaty as regards its nuclear program, as the freedom enjoyed by states such as India and Israel seems to come with little drawbacks to their nuclear programs (regardless of the intentions behind the Iranian program the argument holds weight). An argument used by India, to justify their absence, about the lopsidedness of the treaty and how it is biased toward the named nuclear powers serves to illustrate another flaw. The argument has not abated since it was said that the nuclear powers ‘basically, did whatever they wanted to do before the introduction of NPT and then devised it to prevent others from doing what they had themselves been doing before’. Compounding this is the debate over the obligation to disarm. Whilst such stockpiles of weapons still exist and weapons research, purchase and maintenance continues to take place in the Nuclear Weapon States, NonNuclear States have also raised the question as to the level of commitment to their disarmament obligations and thus to the obligation to honour the treaty generally. Although the point is often made by the US and Russia that they have massively reduced their arsenals, the truth remains, even considering the noises the Obama administration has made toward disarmament, that the stockpiles are still huge and are being replenished and certain weapons programs and groups still seem to be following the Cold War thinking and patterns.
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The treaty cannot be viewed as a globally recognised tool if only some parties are obliged to fulfil their obligations. Although the argument of the nuclear powers that the wording of the disarmament article is vague and that the treaty is predominantly about non-proliferation rather than disarmament, the difference in interpretation in itself is another hole in the cogency of the framework. Finally, the lack of an enforcement mechanism in the treaty means that, depending on the circumstances, states straying from it have no specific recourse to fear. Although not a flaw in itself, coupled with other factors, the principle of peaceful proliferation and advancement of nuclear technology and the principle of dual use technology lays the foundations for weapons acquisition and the danger of fast widespread proliferation. ElBaradei, former Director General of the IAEA estimated that 35 to 42 states now have latent nuclear weapons capabilities. The fear is that it will be through this dual use technology that Iran may gain its weapon.
USSR / Russia
45,000 40,000 35,000
30,000 25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 1945
United States and USSR/ Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945-2006. These numbers include warheads not actively
deployed, including those on reserve status or scheduled for dismantlement. Stockpile totals do not necessarily reflect nuclear
capabilities since they ignore size, range, type and delivery mode.
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Problems with the Framework
Scott D. Sagan is the Caroline S.G. Munro professor of Political Science at Stanford University and co-director of Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). He is known for his research on the organisations managing nuclear weapons and has published on the subject in The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons. He also is one of the leading pessimist scholars about nuclear proliferation.
On a philosophical level, much of the current framework and the paradigms supporting it were conceived during the Cold War. During this time a different dynamic existed, out of it came a paradigm which is arguably maintained in much of the framework, and yet no longer fits the realities of the modern world. Primarily problematic is the emphasis put on outmoded models of the state and national security. As can be seen above, within the last 20 years, new threats have come into being. In the first instance, this has created a situation in which the primary focus of the control mechanisms is to prevent states using weapons against one another, whereas as can be seen, this is not the most pressing danger. Secondly, it puts too much weight on national security as the dynamic of international relations. Whilst it is still a vitally important reference point, it is not necessarily the only reference point and perhaps is not as important as it once was. This has the knock on effect of creating the basis for discourses and for the definition of terms which, due to the far more complex relationships that now exist, inevitably culminate in inappropriate responses and actions. For example, the discourse centring on why states decide to build nuclear weapons largely revolves around the idea that they are always built for security aims as a founding fact, whereas the reality is probably much more complex. As is suggested by Sagan, a mixture of thinking and reasoning could lead to the decision to embark on a weapons program. In this sense, the true causes of proliferation could well be overlooked. Another example would be how the definition of how a nuclear device fits into a grander scheme as a political tool or weapon also seems to be overlooked. In a more linked and complex world, nuclear weapons gain reference points and associations by being tools in a wider sphere, as does everything else. The logic of the current framework seems to put nuclear weapons in a national security pigeon hole. This separates them theoretically from the role they play in the real world and isolates them from issues they now have a direct bearing on in reality. One can see the dilemma in North Korea’s use of Nuclear Weapons as political bargaining tools as a threatened state, or in the discourse between Nuclear Weapon States and the Non-Aligned Movement. Finally, an underlying concern with this model is that thought, in terms of national security and its principles, can never stop proliferation, but only slow it down. Indeed in some ways it is amazing it has succeeded so well so far. The formulation relies on holding back on agreement, a progression which eventually would come naturally considering national security as a bedrock principle.
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Recent Developments - A Change in Thinking? The above points illustrate a holistic birds eye consideration of the development of the thinking, frameworks and their consequences that are possibly misaligned with the fact of the nuclear threat as it exists and serves to make moves toward effective disarmament and non-proliferation more unlikely. However, in order to consider the issue more fully there must be a consideration of developments specific to the field that may alter development of the issue in the future. Obviously, the entrenchment and mythology that make nuclear weapons a key tool in international relations are not readily changeable, however, in the last year there have been interesting developments in stance by key trend-setting nuclear powers (Russia and the U.S.A.) on the issue. On the one hand, it is impossible to evaluate what practical results these developments will have, and it is easy to compare them to prior stances as further targeted rhetoric without intention backing them up. On the other hand, there are distinct (although subtle) alterations to lines of approach to the issue that appear to recognise the significance and track the developments of the past 20 years more accurately than priorly and potentially provide first steps toward realigning approaches to fit the current nuclear threat.
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Nuclear Posture Review The release of the Nuclear Posture Review (the U.S. policy document charting the state’s nuclear position), uniquely limits potential U.S. use of nuclear weapons for the first time. States which have no weapons and are not attempting to gain them now (according to the Review) now have nothing to fear from the U.S. Nuclear arsenal. Concurrently, states attempting to develop nuclear capabilities or who are acting outside their nuclear obligations are still subject to the full range of sanctions and use. This suggests an understanding that the threat in this context comes from rogue states and signifies a step away from handed down concepts such as deterrence and MAD. Secondly, the document realises the terrorist nuclear threat as growing and likely in a way that previous policy documents have failed to do. This approach appears to be progressive. It acknowledges new threats and is attempting to move toward a modern structure for consideration of how to deal with the nuclear issue. More importantly perhaps, it also points toward a recognition of the alteration of the international environment both in terms of interstate relations and of the role of nuclear weapons in a wider context.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a joint news briefing on the new Nuclear Posture Review at the Pentagon April 6. The Obama administration, kicking off an intensive week of nuclear diplomacy, unveiled a revamped policy restricting U.S. use of its atomic weapons stockpile.
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The new START treaty is the successor to the START I and II treaties. The START III negotiating process was not successful. The development of the agreement commenced in April 2009 immediately after the meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in London. Preliminary talks were already held in Rome.
Similar positive trends can be pulled from the renewal of the weapons limitation treaties between the U.S. and Russia. The challenge of the expiration of the old START treaty in December 2009 was met in April as the U.S. and Russia signed a (New) START follow on treaty in April 2010. The noises made by both sides were overwhelmingly pro non-proliferation and disarmament, whilst cooperation between the two sides took major leaps forward after the various Bush European missile systems fiascos. The treaty itself contains reduction clauses that would reduce stockpiles to levels unseen since the 1950s and further monitoring and transparency clauses increase trust and improve safety. Further, preliminary discussion of the treaty signing has shown a certain openness to the consideration of the role of nuclear weapons in defence strategy and in the world in general that has not always been detectable in the past. As Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander said: ‘there is an openness to considering the treaty’ (within the Republican Conference), ‘The treaty itself is modest’. Whilst not indicative of a sea-change, this has been seen to be indicative of a spreading understanding of the need to consider alterations to the nuclear paradigm, even amongst the more conservative elements of the key powers.
Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev have signed a nuclear arms-cutting pact in Prague (April 8, 2010). They’ve agreed to cut their nuclear arsenals by a third while cutting the number of bombers, submarines and missiles that carry the nukes in half.
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Unfortunately, there are also potential negatives and steps backward to be taken from the progression of the treaty which cast shadows over the advances it appears to make. Firstly, the talks took much longer than expected to conclude. There were a number of reasons suggested for this, the most concerning suggestion for which was that there was still a quantity of mistrust remaining from the Cold War that had not dissipated. Secondly, the treaty is still not multilateral (although Russia has been pushing for the next round of talks to go this way). Thirdly, both sides will still possess massive weapons stockpiles and deployments capabilities still so much so that the reductions (1550 warheads; 800 deployed and non deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments; and 700 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments) in fact compared to 1. the capabilities of other countries and 2. what could possibly be necessary to retain an effective deterrent, are minimal. Fourthly, the treaty has not been ratified and this is a major issue. Whilst the Duma appears much more responsive to the executive branch this may not be so in the U.S. Senate. Mentioned above, there is openness to considering the treaty and whilst many previous reduction treaties have been met with bipartisan support, the senate is currently heavily polarised on the back of domestic arguments and these may well carry through into the consideration of the ratification of this treaty. Lastly, the treaty does face opposition from those who feel it would limit U.S. Defensive capability (amongst other things). Coupled with the mechanisms in the U.S. Senate that would allow individual senators to slow or block action on the treaty, the outspoken objections of certain senators, both on and off the Foreign Relations Committee (the committee with jurisdiction over treaties) such as Senator James Inhofe begins to look menacing: “New START faces a hard battle in the Senate, and I’ll lead the opposition to it”.
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Overall the key developments over the last year represent tentative and slow moves in the right direction. The thinking behind them is progressive and appreciates and incorporates certain developments (often absent in the alignment of frameworks and philosophy with fact) into thinking on nuclear weapons. However they are only first steps. They do not rectify key problematic issues and it remains to be seen how they will impact on thinking in a wider sphere. Firstly, as regards other states and thinking on the nuclear issue in an international context, and secondly, whether over time they provide the impetus for further moves toward non-proliferation and disarmament. In this context tangible manifestation is key and the manoeuvrings and actions of the Obama regime in particular, will be subject to massive scrutiny for their validity and alignment with the rhetoric. That they are only first steps (or slow progressions) however is perhaps not a negative thing. Firstly, the fact that they have found the space and ability to come into existence at all is a positive sign. Secondly, in relation to nuclear questions many states take their cues from Russian U.S. relations and that they appear to be founding the correct thinking probably means that it will filter through in some way across the board (of course this comes with the caveat that the developments must have NUCLEAR ARSENAL AND TREATY LIMITS more than just pleasant sound bites behind them). Launchers Warheads* Thirdly, the longest journey begins with the first step 1,600 6,000 START START and due to the complexity limit (1991) limit (1991) 1,400 of issues involved, especially 4,000 considering the integral role 1,000 nuclear weapons have come 3,000 to play in various aspects 800 New START Moscow of international relations, limit (2010) Treaty limit 600 as pointed out above, mean 2,000 (2002) that sweeping change would 400 New START have been 1. impossible and limit (2010) 1,000 200 2. may in fact have produced more dangerous results than 0 0 benefits. US Russia US Russia * Additional warheads in reserve / awaiting dismantlement: US 6,700, Russia 8,150 SOURCE: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
21 GOLD MERCURY INTERNATIONAL Will you take a nuclear weapon with those fries?
NPT Review Conference 2010 As a measure of the potential of the above mentioned developments, the five yearly review conference of the NPT, which concluded on May 28th 2010 has been encouraging. Not only has the final declaration been largely well received across the board, but the fact that a final declaration was adopted (after the failure to adopt a final declaration 5 years ago) shows signs of progress in cooperation on the issue if nothing else. Throughout the conference the language of the majority of participants also reflected much of the progressive thinking highlighted above. Finally, the content of the final declaration includes more concrete moves toward long discussed issues of disarmament and nuclear control, including commitments from the nuclear powers toward disarmament, the set up of talks for 2012 aimed at the creation of a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (MENWFZ), and the return of North Korea to the six party talks regarding its nuclear presence.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones NW states Nuclear sharing Neither, but NPT
A Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone, or NWFZ is defined by the United Nations as an agreement which a group of states has freely established by treaty or convention, that bans the use, development, or deployment of nuclear weapons in a given area, that has mechanisms of verification and control to
However, whilst the majority of the rhetoric has been positive, there are issues that may negate the effect of the results of the conference. Apart from general problems with the efficacy of the developments of the conference and international law in general, it remains to be seen whether progressive language can be translated into progressive action. Taking key issues as reflective of the intentions and probable translation of rhetoric into fact is illuminating in this regard. Whilst there has been a commitment toward disarmament by the nuclear powers, it was impossible (partially due to U.S. objection) to conclude a time-scale for this. Secondly, on key issues such as the MENWFZ, although progressive steps appear to have been taken, key problems still remain. Whilst there have been moves toward talks in 2012, the trust necessary for these to be effectively implemented is still lacking. For example, while Iran received no particular mention in the final declaration, the U.S. was particularly disappointed at Israel’s singling out and suggested this could be a major stumbling block on the road to a MENWFZ and words encouraging North Korea to rejoin the six party talks are neither innovative nor binding.
enforce its obligations, and that is recognized as such by the General Assembly of the United Nations. NWFZs have a similar purpose to, but are distinct from, the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which all countries except for four nuclear weapons states are party.
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In essence, the result of the conference has been positive (and to have expected more may have been mere wishful thinking, and indeed not aligned with the strength and efficacy of the developments mentioned above), demonstrating developments in the streamlining and progressiveness of rhetoric and (also seemingly) in intention that indicate a change in thinking may be finding ground on which to stand. However, as with all issues in the international sphere, it remains to be seen whether the rhetoric has the swell behind it to carry it past the obstacles that will certainly be presented when it comes into contact with other aims and necessities.
23â€ƒ GOLD MERCURY INTERNATIONALâ€ƒ Will you take a nuclear weapon with those fries?
Conclusion Considered from an aerial perspective, nuclear weapons and material are now a strategic liability. They retain their power and yet exist in a different world from that of their inception. With the new dynamic that has grown over the last twenty years, the issues which produced certain behaviour in relation to nuclear issues either disappeared or took new forms. Thinking about these issues has not followed pace, consequently leaving a solution from the past to deal with issues of the present. Thus it is with the rise of a new global dynamic and international landscape that the risk of interstate use of nuclear force has escalated. Other issues have arisen since this time which could not have been considered then, but which now form a firm reality. It is from here that nuclear weapons and material constitute a very real terrorist threat, whilst serving no purpose in its alleviation or prevention. In turn, their entity is controlled by a framework that is driven forward with outmoded thought and on outmoded presumptions (although this may be changing). In a general way, this is what fractures and weakens the international agreements on the subject. In a more specific way, the direction these ideas lead, when put into practise in the modern environment can be contrary to expectations. Finally, due to this lack of adaptability the framework does not provide the safety mechanisms that it ought against the realities of the nuclear threat. To compound the danger they now present, the above issues must be viewed against a background of consistent development and geographical spread of technologies and material.
24 GOLD MERCURY INTERNATIONAL Will you take a nuclear weapon with those fries?
However, when one considers movements within the system there are signs of potential changes in thinking, and therefore the possibility for change in the construction of the model around nuclear weapons and their conceived place in the world. This is primarily obvious through the perspective of U.S. and Russian stances. Although there are issues behind all the manifestations of these developments, their practical effect is as yet uncertain. It is encouraging and indicative that they have found the space to exist at all. Dara Hallinan, Research Fellow of Gold Mercury International, contributed to this paper.
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25 GOLD MERCURY INTERNATIONAL Will you take a nuclear weapon with those fries? SOURCES LECTURES Wilson, W., ‘Four Myths about Nuclear Weapons’, Monterey Institute of International Studies, 12 November 2008. Full lecture available at: www. youtube.com/watch?v=_bB9_hsETP4 Russell, L., ‘The Good Faith Assumption: Different Paradigmatic Approaches to Nonproliferation Issues’, Monterey Institute of International Studies, 17 March 2009. Full Lecture available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSgXG4_zluM STATEMENTS, TREATIES AND REPORTS ‘Global Fissile Material Report 2009: a path to nuclear disarmament’, IPFM, 2009 Medalila, J., ‘Nuclear Terrorism: A Brief Review of Threats and Responses, Congressional Research Service’, 10 February, 2005
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Published on Jan 29, 2013
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