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The nuclear deterrence illusion

The Nuclear Illusion, Project Syndicate, Gareth Evans, 26 April 13 ”……the US refuses to de-alert its own nuclear missiles if Russia will not. So nearly 2,000 weapons of mass destruction still face each other on high alert, maximizing the prospect of a catastrophe through human or system error or cyber sabotage.

This deterrence logic produces a snowball effect. With Russia and the US holding 18,000 of the world’s current stockpile of 19,000 nuclear weapons, it is proving impossible to persuade any of the other nuclear-armed states to reduce their own (much smaller) arsenals until the Big Two make further drastic cuts to theirs.

China shares Russia’s concerns about US conventional and missile-defense superiority, and is increasing and modernizing its estimated 240-weapon stockpile. With China taking that course, India – outside the NPT but with 100 weapons of its own – feels the need to add to its own arsenal. And Pakistan then becomes even more determined to try to keep ahead of India.

The truth is that none of the nuclear-armed states, inside or outside the NPT, pays anything more than lip service to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. The continued seductive power of the Cold War logic and language of nuclear deterrence is the primary reason, though for some states it is clear that the testosterone factor – perceived status and prestige – also plays a role.

The uplifting pro-disarmament rhetoric of US President Barack Obama remains just that. No nuclear-armed state will set a timetable for a major reduction in the number of nuclear weapons, let alone their abolition. The size of their arsenals, their fissile material stocks, their force-modernization plans, their stated doctrine, and their known deployment practices all point in the same direction. All foresee indefinite retention of their nuclear weapons, and a continuing role for them in their security policies.

The implications of this stance are profoundly troubling. Concern about states in the Middle East and Northeast Asia joining the nuclear club is as high as it has ever been. But the foot-dragging by the nuclear states on disarmament is making it increasingly difficult to add necessary new muscle to the global non-proliferation regime……..
Progress toward achieving a safer and saner world requires all of the nuclear-armed states to break out of their Cold War mindset, rethink the strategic utility of nuclear deterrence in current conditions, and recalibrate the huge risks implied by retaining their arsenals. It is time for them to recognize that in today’s world, nuclear weapons are the problem, not the solution.

April 29, 2013 - Posted by | general

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