A paradox of nuclear security

Dr Musarat Amin

Terrorists’ networks are gaining more strength through their global outreach and they finance their activities with black money obtained by various illegal means. Under prevailing circumstances when states’ sovereignty has withered, chances of nuclear terrorism are quite a possibility. Terrorist networks might by vying to acquire nuclear bomb or some components of it. They could get hold of nuclear related material and build a crude atomic weapon which is quite possible scenario as enunciated by Mathew Bunn (nuclear and energy policy analyst at Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University).
US presidents from Ronal Reagan to onward have been supporting curbing of nuclear proliferation but President Obama has articulated his proliferation goals on April, 2009 in Prague. Obama has taken initiative to minimize the chances of nuclear terrorism and nuclear war by launching Nuclear Security Summit.US kicked off Nuclear Security Summit by inviting World Leader. Building strong international consensus was the main motive about highlighting threats of nuclear and radiological terrorism. It was highlighted that of all possible threats to global security and peace, most lethal is proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons.
US President Obama was sanguine and realistic of this challenging task and himself said that “Achieving the security and peace of a world without nuclear weapons will not happen quickly, perhaps not in my lifetime.”It doesn’t mean that he was not sure of his success but it means he believed in his vision that world leaders would realize the magnitude of threat that nuclear terrorism poses to world peace and security. Some scholars of international relations are underrating US’ global leadership in non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament due to series of domestic and global challenges but this perception is fallacious.US still enjoys supremacy in political, economic and cultural realms and has lot more to offer to world in the areas of knowledge, diplomacy, sci-tech and international regimes.
International Institutions and international regimes most notably United Nations Organization to promote peacekeeping and humanitarian aid globally, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle disputes between UN members in accordance with International Law, World Bank an enterprise to help developing countries, International Monetary Fund(IMF) to promote economic stability globally, World Trade Organization(WTO) to regulate international trade and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to promote peaceful use of nuclear energy, are the macro contribution of US that it has made to world peace, security and prosperity.
Obama urged Russia and US the top possessors of nuclear stockpiles to lead the way by making reductions in their respective nuclear arsenals. He took a swipe on Putin for hampering nuclear disarmament. During Obama’s presidency, Russia negotiated deep-cuts on US’ arsenal while substantially enhanced its own. As the tensions between US and Russia are heightening, the latter has returned back to threats of cold war times. Time Magazine reported NATO’s reports saying, Russia has begun to practicing for nuclear strike. Putin’s skipping of Nuclear Security Summit reveals that Russia isn’t willing to cut its arms. Last year in November, during his meeting with Kremlin, Putin accused the US of struggling to neutralize Russia’s nuclear arsenal by building missile shield over Europe. In response he recommended Russia would have to strengthen the potential of its strategic nuclear forces.
Mr. Obama also figured out various regions of the world that need special attention to prevent spread of nuclear weapons and radioactive materials, South Asia was top on the list. Mr. Obama, commented on India and Pakistan “area where I think we’d need to see progress. As India and Pakistan are developing military doctrines, they should not be continually moving in the wrong direction.” He ostensibly referred to India’s “cold start doctrine” which would allow Indian troops to conduct coordinated offensive inside Pakistan to stave off nuclear retaliation. Indian doctrine is based on the assumption that Pakistan would not resort to use of nuclear weapons in response to a limited Indian incursion.
Washington is also concerned about Pakistan’s fierce retaliation. Pakistan may use low-yield nuclear weapons in such a condition. Washington’s another major concern is that terrorists have attacked Pakistan and India multiple times and both the countries need to beef up security of their nuclear assets. Summit concluded with a classified video shown to world leaders in which possible scenarios were highlighted with respect to possible terrorist threat to nuclear arsenals globally. Mr Obama told the leaders that Islamic State is a greatest threat to international peace and acquisition of a nuclear weapon was “one of greatest threats to global security.”
Obama’s initiative ought to amass unrelenting support as world is sliding into the jaws of terrorism. Al-Qaida has not been eliminated yet, another more potential terrorist organization pops up. This organization has millions of sympathizers globally and huge potential for recruitment. Media has been recently exposing ISIS’ recruitment tactics. Therefore, such a threat with international network may attempt to acquire nuclear materials to build a crude atomic bomb or dirty bomb.
Though Cold war is over since 1990s but malicious thinking of cold war still persists not only between US and Russia but also other small or medium range powers. Cooperation paralysis on the issues of collective good such as nuclear security indicates liberal order has done little to allay mistrust between or among states. It whether be US-Russia, US-China, India-Pakistan, China-India, North Korea-South Korea, KSA-Iran, Israel-Arabs or Argentina-Brazil, world politics is primarily governed by objective laws of power. Contemporary challenges of security and possible nuclear terrorism reshape realist thinking that, weapons which have been security agents once, also need security.
Fourth and the last NSS ended with an effort to adopt an action plan to minimize chances of nuclear terrorism. Obama urged of taking concrete measures to squeeze number of nuclear weapons deployed by US and Russia under New START by 2018. US has reduced the number and role of nuclear weapons in national security strategy. There is no doubt that strengthening of NPT would also prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. International fuel bank that is being built in Kazakhstan would provide access to countries seeking nuclear energy without enriching Uranium. Real progress is only possible if Russia and US practically cut their respective nuclear arsenals which would urge other nuclear actors to follow suit.
— The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Defence and Diplomatic Studies, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.

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