Chasing the nuclear-free utopia

By Charles Bloomer
web posted May 29, 2000

At a recent Non-Proliferation Treaty conference at the United Nations, the five major nuclear powers pledged an "unequivocal commitment" to eliminate their nuclear weapons. The United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China issued a statement that expressed their "commitment to the ultimate goals of a complete elimination of nuclear weapons", but stopped short of any specific commitments or timetables.

This is pure fluff.

This statement reflects the sort of feel-good, utopian nonsense that comes out of the United Nations. No one really believes that any of the major nuclear powers in the world are going to do away with their nuclear weapons, at least not anytime soon.

The 187 signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) needed to show something for the time and money they spent gathering in New York. Evidently, posturing and beating up on the nuclear powers by the non-nuclear nations wasn’t enough. There needed to be a significant piece of paper to enhance the illusion of importance and to show the world what vital work is being done.

The nuclear powers presented the statement to deflect criticism by the non-nuclear nations that countries with nuclear weapons, and especially the US and Russia, are not doing enough or moving fast enough toward disarmament.

Obviously, the statement should not, and will not, be taken seriously by any sentient being.

While the NPT committee was negotiating disarmament, other events relating to nuclear weapons were happening, none relating to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Last week, the US military leadership was defending the size of the US arsenal to Congress. GEN Henry Shelton, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and ADM Richard Mies, commander of US Strategic Command, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that they were not in favor of a Russian plan that would cut the US nuclear arsenal by 1000 warheads. The US military leadership feels that possession of nuclear warheads provides the US with a significant deterrence against attack. ADM Mies called the weapons "our nation’s ultimate insurance policy." Obviously, the US military leadership would not support complete nuclear disarmament.

China continues to develop its nuclear capability. Having stolen or bought the bulk of US nuclear weapons design secrets, China is not likely to forego more development and a larger inventory. China has violated the terms and intent of the NPT on several occasions, and continues to do so. China has sold or given nuclear technology to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. If China cannot abide by the present terms of the treaty, there can be no confidence that they will abide by an agreement to disarm.

The new Russian government of Vladimir Putin has advanced a proposal to the US that would cut nuclear warheads by both sides by 1000 each. But the Russian proposal is not based on some altruistic desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Russia is having trouble financially supporting its nuclear arsenal, unable to maintain aging warheads. The Russian inventory will decrease because of fiscal constraints. Russia will not unilaterally disarm. In fact, Russia is currently developing new weapons systems to replace older ones.

No reasonable person can believe that the major nuclear powers are going to rid themselves of their nuclear weapons. To believe in nuclear disarmament is to believe that, by disarming, nuclear weapons would disappear from the face of the earth. This is obviously not the case.

India, Pakistan and Israel have not signed the non-proliferation treaty. All three have nuclear weapons. Does anyone really believe that if the major nuclear powers disarmed, these three countries would abandon their nuclear programs?

Would Iran, Iraq, Libya or Syria give up on acquiring nuclear weapons if the major nuclear powers disarmed? Doubtful. In fact, it can be argued that these rogue nations would intensify their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, knowing they could hold the disarmed superpowers hostage to their demands.

So the statement issued by the NPT conference is merely an exercise in foolishness. It satisfies a need for some people to think that we are making "progress" toward a safer world. Of course, this attitude assumes that the world would be safer without nuclear warheads. There is no evidence that would support that assumption.

Countries without nuclear weapons benefit from the deterrent value of the weapons in the hands of their allies. Aggressive countries are restrained and deterred. For example, NATO has benefited from the US-UK nuclear umbrella. Individual allies in Europe did not have to have nuclear weapons in order to prevent the Soviet Union from occupying the entire continent.

Yes, the Cold War is over. Yes, the Berlin Wall has come down, the Warsaw Pact has dissolved and the Soviet Union has disintegrated. Does that mean that no threats exist? Russia is far from stable, and is showing renewed interest in the old-style communist way. China has made no secret of its intentions with regard to Taiwan, or of its desire to dominate Asia. From the US perspective, it would make no sense to eliminate its most visible element of deterrence. The mistake the disarmament zealots make is assuming that the US nuclear arsenal existed specifically and exclusively to deter the Soviets. In actuality, the US nuclear arsenal is a deterrent force designed to deter any potential aggressor.

Nuclear weapons will be removed from service when they become obsolete – either replaced by something better suited for the function, or when a perfect counter is developed. No matter the amount of wishful thinking, nuclear weapons cannot be "un-invented", nor can they be effectively eliminated.

There is no such thing as a nuclear-free utopia.

© 2000 Charles Bloomer Mr. Bloomer can be contacted at chuck.bloomer@comcast.net.

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