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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Sidney D. Drell

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Sidney D. Drell

Last Build Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2006 00:49:35 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

The Shadow of the Bomb, 2006

Sat, 29 Apr 2006 00:49:35 -0600

The top priority for U.S. nuclear-weapons policy must be to keep that from happening. It is easy to recognize and to state this priority -- but it is a most difficult challenge to figure out how to prevent such proliferation. On the diplomatic front, which is the most challenging, we must strengthen and sustain an international nonproliferation consensus that today appears to be fragile and weakening. At the same time, on the technical front, so long as we retain a nuclear deterrent, we must work to ensure its security, reliability, and effectiveness against newly emerging threats. A Cold War success During the darkest days of the Cold War, we were successful in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons to no more than a handful of nations. A norm of nonpossession of these weapons was established, as was a norm of their nonuse in military combat that has extended over 60 turbulent years. This record belies a view frequently expressed by those who disparage the value of international cooperation and arms-control treaties and who consider continuing negotiating efforts against nuclear proliferation to be futile. Today only eight nations are confirmed nuclear-weapon states: the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, and Israel, a nondeclared nuclear-weapon state (see Figure 1). The evidence is unclear in the case of North Korea, though its government has the fuel for nuclear bombs and wishes the world to worry that it has them. Iran has been aggressively building a nuclear infrastructure. This number of eight nuclear weapons states is much smaller than was anticipated in the early 1960s; President Kennedy predicted 16 by the end of that decade. And the number hasn't grown over the past two decades. This is all the more impressive when one recalls the many nations that flirted with the idea of going nuclear -- and those that, in fact, started down the path to nuclear weapons and turned back. These include Argentina, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, and Sweden; and South Africa, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, which gave them up. But we are reminded daily by events in North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan -- with its precarious arsenal and the extensive nuclear-supplier network created by Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan -- that the nuclear-restraint regime is facing tough challenges. FIGURE 1 Number of States with Nuclear Weapons The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, has been a bulwark for worldwide efforts to counter the spread of nuclear technology and weapons to other nations for 35 years. These are its basic provisions: * It requires that there be no transfer of nuclear weapon technology between nuclear weapon states and nonnuclear weapon states. * It assigns authority to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for full-scope safeguards over the declared sites for peaceful nuclear activities of all signatories, which is designed to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials to use for weapons. * It stipulates, as part of the Grand Bargain with the nonnuclear weapon states, that the peaceful benefits of nuclear technology will be made available to them. The partners to the treaty are also committed to good-faith negotiating efforts toward an eventual goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons. At present the NPT has almost universal support: 188 nations, all but four in the world, have signed on to it. The only outliers are India and Pakistan, which became nuclear after the treaty entered into force in 1970; Israel, which has never explicitly admitted to being a nuclear power; and North Korea, which withdrew in 2003. And Iran is threatening. In the face of the new challenge of the spread of technology to rogue nations and terrorists, it is natural to question whether the npt still meets our security needs. The United States and our allies, including the other nuclear weapon states, recognize a need for new restraints and modifications to make the treaty effective in keeping the worst weapons out of the worst hands. On the other hand, [...]