Ending the Nuclear Evil


Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu has observed that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is no license for world’s acknowledged nuclear powers to retain their nuclear weapons indefinitely. They have the obligation to negotiate for achieving nuclear disarmament in good faith. Article VI of the NPT says “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at early date and to nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”.

Writing in “Dysfunctional Disarmament” the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged all to seize upon the rising tide of disarmament. He sees momentum in disarmament tracks taking into account the successful May 2010 review of the NPT. His optimism should get boosted by the recent development in endorsing global ban on nuclear testing. Indonesia’s most recent ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a welcome move. It may induce other holdouts of the treaty to accept prohibition on all categories of nuclear detonations.

In 1986 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on CTBT with overwhelming support. It has been considered an important step to promote nuclear disarmament. This is the treaty that puts ban on all nuclear tests whether underground, in atmosphere, in outer space or under the sea. Until now the world community has been able to conclude nuclear test ban treaties that lack comprehensiveness unlike to the CTBT.

The Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) of 1963 and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty put prohibitions on certain categories of nuclear explosions. Despite adoption of the CTBT with much fanfare by the UN about 16 years ago, its ratification by all the 44 countries, which operate nuclear reactors has not been accomplished as yet. The lack of ratification from remaining holdouts such as India, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Egypt, U.S. China and North Korea has prevented the landmark treaty from coming into force.

Looking at the above list of holdouts, one naturally wonders why the U.S. is still showing demur to ratify the above treaty. As opined by nuclear expert Richard Weitz in “Obama’s Policy of Nuclear Balance” President Obama has unexpectedly been conferred the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize as an ardent advocate of abolishing nuclear weapons. According to him nuclear balance has been maintained by the current American administration through steps towards disarmament followed by measures to retain nuclear primacy.

April 6, 2010 issuance of Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) under Obama presidency seems to be in contrast with what the Pentagon has been advocating now. President Obama had then declared that the U.S. would not retaliate with nuclear weapons against any country that attacks with chemical and biological weapons. Articulation of NPR hinted that America was going to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons.

Pentagon’s push, however, for the development of nuclear-armed Drones—Hydrogen Bombs deliverable by remote control is very troubling in Desmond Tutu’s view. He displays his utter dissatisfaction with announcement that Obama, who has vowed to rid the world of all nuclear weapons, has allocated $185 billion to augment U.S.’s number of strategic weapons over the next decade. The American government has been spending more than $50 billion on such weapons annually.

Michael Gorbachev, a Nobel laureate and Soviet Union’s last president, who had a very productive engagement with his then U.S. counterpart Ronald Reagan, counters the critics who value the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. In his thoughtful essay “A Farewell to Nuclear Arms” Gorbachev refutes the argument that Cold War’s long peace is the consequence of nuclear doctrine. He argues that nuclear deterrence i. e. a policy of retaining nuclear weapons by the potential adversaries, which deters them from using such arms against each other because of inherent catastrophe, has not staved off major wars in the world.

According to Gorbachev, nuclear doctrine becomes less reliable and more risky as the number of nuclear-armed states increases. Since the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the number of nuclear weapons capable states has gone up. Until then China, France, Britain, Russia and the U.S. were the existing nuclear powers. Given this worrisome development, the warning from former U.S. president John F. Kennedy some fifty years ago sounds relevant. Kennedy said “every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest threads, capable of being cut at any moment”.

In tune with the above observation many disarmament analysts opine that as long as the nuclear weapons exist, the possibility of their use will remain. One can understand the appalling consequences of even the most limited use of nuclear weapons. No one has ever succeeded in persuading humanity to believe that any use of nuclear weapons, even on the smallest scale, could reliably be expected to remain limited. It is exactly this fact that scares even Nepal though she is not a nuclear power nor intends or affords to be in future, when her existence may be at a great risk, should adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan result in nuclear Armageddon. History testifies that they were on the brink of such war in 1999.

Nuclear tests are meant for enhancing nuclear capability. Abolition of nuclear weapons cannot be realized without stopping such tests altogether. The suspension of nuclear explosions in effect at the time being may not remain intact, unless a global ban on all kinds of tests is enforced. Therefore, the joint efforts launched by the foreign ministers of Mexico and Sweden for mobilizing world opinion for the CTBT are commendable. All other countries interested in nuclear disarmament should lend them due support.

Nuclear madness demonstrated in nuclear powers’ pursuit of more destructive weapons, reserving right of periodic nuclear tests, is a challenge that must be tackled before the world experiences the trauma of the second use of nuclear weapons. In this vein, the role of the U.S. as a predominant nuclear power is vital.  President Obama has no better opportunity of transforming his vision of no-nuclear weapon world into a reality than CTBT’s ratification.

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