Joining the Nuclear Family: A New Arms Race?
Part I: A Summary of the Nuclear Arms Issue
With the dropping of two atomic warheads on Japan at the end of World War II, the United States heralded the beginning of the Atomic Age. During subsequent years, four other nations acquired nuclear arsenals, and late 1960’s saw the implementation of a series of treaties and pacts aimed at stopping the availability of nuclear material and knowledge, limiting deployment and testing. The most well known of these, the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), recognized five nuclear powers which were permitted to have nuclear arms contingent upon reduction of their arsenals. The nations specified included the United States, Britain, France, China & Russia. In March 1993, a panel testifying before the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee concluded that India and Pakistan were now nuclear powers, and that the spread of nuclear weapons to developing nations was the single biggest threat to national security. What this spelled out in terms of anti-proliferation protocols, such as the NPT and Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) of 1972, was that the danger of further nuclear proliferation was very real, and that nuclear capability was no longer a case of the “Haves” versus the “Have-nots. Rather, the recent trend has been that the “Have-nots” are quickly becoming the “Haves.” In an attempt to gain power and influence on the world stage, these nations have been or are presently aspiring to develop their own nuclear arms programs despite Non-Proliferation treaty terms.
In addition to these rogue nations that are known to have nuclear capabilities, there are suspect nations such as Israel, Iran, Libya and North Korea that are known to have nuclear weapons capability, if not the actual nuclear weapons themselves. Presumably these countries have covertly developed their nuclear programs under nuclear power programs, or have picked up bootleg nuclear material or live warheads and/or delivery vehicles from the destitute armies of the Russian republics. In order to help combat the spread of this nuclear material, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was introduced in 1997, which was aimed at ending nuclear testing among 44 nations with nuclear arms arsenals or production capability. Unfortunately, the treaty will not go into effect until all 44 countries considered to have nuclear capability — including the United States — ratify it. In the meantime, the world community holds its breath as new developments unfold. I believe that at the present time, only India and Pakistan have yet to sign, but have expressed interest in doing so on a mutual basis.
Further aggravating the situation in many people’s opinions is the Bush administration’s wish to develop and implement anti-missile defense system, the so-called Star Wars project envisioned in the Reagan administration. Many experts believe that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has brought strategic stability to the region through a mutual fear of retaliatory strikes between the United States and the former Soviet Union. This has allowed arms reductions on both sides, but now the threat is no longer limited to just Russia, whose promiscuous sales of intermediate and long-range missiles and raw material has managed to jumpstart the nuclear weapons programs of other countries. President Bush sees this as a deterrent to a nuclear, chemical or biological strike against the U.S., but many fear that it could be the start of a new arms race, as other countries attempt to reach military parity with other nations.
Part III: Personal Thoughts on the Issue
In dealing with nuclear arms issue, there seem to be no clear-cut answers on how to curb the spread of nuclear arms. However, complicated problems yield complicated solutions. What I have learned is that economic sanctions and international protocols only go so far. Nations such as North Korea, despite anti-nuke treaties as well as economic sanctions imposed in the early Nineties, has somehow managed to become a nuclear threat to both its Asian neighbors and to the rest of the world. What further compounds the problem is that these weapons are being sold on the black market without regard to their moral and ethical implications. Once again, humanitarian cause is thrown out the window, as machines capable of annihilating