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Global paralysis in weapons control agreements as a new arms race begins

Nuclear paralysis and nuclear risk, Japan Times, BY DAVID HOWELL, MAY 10, 2019, LONDON – We are dangerously close to a world without arms control agreements. That is what some of the most experienced U.S. defense and disarmament experts are now warning, and a recent detailed report from a U.K. House of Lords Committee fully shares their alarm. The implications for the increasing risk of nuclear weapons use, tactical or strategic, are direct, immense and horrific. The disarmament process, on which the previous generation put so much hope, has come to a halt and what is termed “policy paralysis” has set in.

Whether these warnings are going to attract the urgent attention, and the action, they deserve is an open question. Of course in the Pacific Rim region the nuclear threat seems obvious and omnipresent, with unpredictable North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s ongoing missile-launching activity still looming over nearby states, notably Japan.

But in the West it is quite different. A thick layer of complacency surrounds Western opinion about arms control and nuclear risk, built up from assumptions that the basic architecture of global arms stability of the last 70 years still works and stays firm. Preoccupation with other issues, such as Brexit, immigration and global warming, blots out most media coverage of nuclear matters, even though one nuclear slipup could kill millions in minutes.

Comfort is drawn from the belief that the balance of mutual deterrence between nuclear powers still holds firm, that Russia and the United States — which possess 90 percent of the world’s stock of nuclear weapons — still have some sort of dialogue despite their antagonism (as in the Cold War), that the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been reasonably contained and will continue to be so, and that the full range of arms control and limitation treaties, agreed on 20 or 30 years ago, are still valid or can be renewed.

Unfortunately none of these conditions still hold true. It is just dawning on Western policymakers that the whole arms stability structure, far from maintain the balance of the decades since World War II, could soon become highly unstable.

First, there has been a vast deterioration in both Russian-U.S. and Russian-European relations……..

Second, the “game,” if that is not a misnomer, is no longer a binary affair between two superpowers but, with the ascendancy of China, between at least three …….

Third, while the global spread of nuclear weapons, much feared half a century ago, has up to now been limited, as far as is known, to four new countries — namely India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea……

Fourth, in August America is withdrawing from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 and requiring the progressive destruction of short- and medium-range missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads…….

Fifth, new cybertechnologies are now of such power that they can disrupt anti-missile warning systems, send fake alarms, attack command and control systems and provoke “accidents.”…….

Next year will come a major review of the 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which somehow holds the whole precarious pattern in place. The treaty accepts the legal right of the original five nuclear powers — the U.S., United Kingdom, Russia, China and France — to have nuclear weapons as long as they make progress to disarm and eventually get rid of them…….

a new arms race is beginning and the nuclear risk is increasing when the world has enough troubles already and can ill afford any more.

David Howell is a Conservative politician, journalist and economic consultant. He is chairman of the House of Lords International Relations.


May 11, 2019 - Posted by | politics international, weapons and war

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