The cacophony of nuclear fatalism ? | Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi


The cacophony of nuclear fatalism ? 

SADLY, despite many anti-nuclear historic moves and initiatives, today’s world seems moving into a trajectory of nuclear fatalism.

The quest for acquiring and enhancing nuclear capability, maintaining nuclear deterrence capability, also accompanied by a global race to recalibrate nuclear weapons with new technologies have become a glaring norm of global order.

Recently, a UN conference on nuclear disarmament (CD) was held in Geneva to continue its dialogue— on reduction of nuclear arms— albeit with a few more mega challenges to confront.

The double standard of the P5 remains one of the driving causes promoting nuclear fatalism-cum-nuclear disarray.

Nuclear fatalists argue that there is no peaceful solution to nuclear arms race. Undeniably, be it the Cold War era or the post-Cold War order, the world community remains unable to achieve the goals of nuclear disarmament, instead, the time has proven that nuclear fatalism has become a fait accompli of the present era because of the growing exigencies warranted by national security concerns; and brewing dynamics of 5th and 6th generation warfare.

The grinding reality is that, the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW, effective since January 2021 (the exclusive voice of the UNGA) no more serves to attain its objectives in that the P5 powers have not espoused this treaty.

In practice, no nuclear weapons state— (NWS) out of the nine nuclear powers (neither defacto nor de jure)—is yet inclined to withdraw itself from participating in the ongoing nuclear race—richly manifested by the fact with the passage of time, they all are equally eager to accelerate their nuclear power capabilities.

Historically, the task of preventing the nuclear arms race was started in1963 with the formation of Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), apparently, the resolve was further galvanized by the fundamental notions imbibed in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT, in 1968) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT in 1994, yet not enforced).

Sadly, the message enshrined in the UN’s credo of nuclear disarmament has been lost in global powers’ nuclear competition.

Washington and Moscow signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on 31 July 1991. In March 1992, both sides — the Americans and the Russians — also began eliminating their intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and launchers, and heavy bombers well in advance of START’s anticipated entry of force date.

Although the Lisbon Protocol to the START I Treaty was signed on May 23, 1992, nearly three-and-a-half years until Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, which had inherited strategic nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union, ratified START and joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear states.

Whereas, in 1993 START II imposed a limit on strategic weapons and it intrinsically required that reductions be accordingly implemented in two phases.

Phase I conditioned both the United States and Russia to systematically reduce their arms to a certain quantitative limit by the end of the phase.

Resultantly, phase II stipulated the states to eliminate all heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by the end of the phase.

Also, States were agreed to be verified by on-site inspections, like in START I, the START II— established the Bilateral Implementation Commission (BIC) — is a forum where the US and Russia could work towards compliance.

In March 1997, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and US President Bill Clinton signed the START-111.

Subsequently, in March 2002, President George W. Bush and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). And yet, the New START or the Moscow Treaty (signed in 2010) has been grudgingly extended in February 2021.

For years, Washington has accused Moscow of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing and deploying a banned missile system, and Washington blamed its treaty withdrawal squarely on Russia. Russia refutes these allegations levelled against it.

One of the important notions that halts nuclear disarmament goals remains the pivotal factor of national security structure — accompanied by the doctrine of nuclear deterrence — which irrefutably remains the cornerstone of both the de facto and de jure nuclear states — thereby becoming adamant to maintaining the nuclear deterrence status quo.

Veritably, such is the case of both India and Pakistan in South Asia that are ardently wedded to their national security doctrines and the fact that so far they both pragmatically remain out of the domains of the NPT, CTBT, FMCT and the TPNW.

So far, the P5 club has demonstrated unequal and selective approach in South Asia—largely endorsed by the fact that despite its scowling nuclear security flaws, India still enjoys overriding privileges given to it under the US-India nuclear deal of 2005.

Admittedly, both India and Pakistan are the de facto nuclear states, but a western policy of nuclear segregation clearly indicates that the South Asian region represents a nuclear-apartheid regime whereby India is unjustifiably backed the western powers.

The western projected propaganda that Pakistan is the most growing nuclear power vis-a- vis India clearly reflects the western disdain for Pakistan’s nuclear programme notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan has had rightly fulfilled the nuclear safety/security protocols established by the IAEA. This jaundiced eye western conduct being highly unjust is justifiably unacceptable to Islamabad.

Nonetheless, in the presence of numerous multilateral treaties that oppose the development of nuclear weapons, the world has been more nuclear- centric. According to June 2021 SIPRI yearbook, the total nuclear warheads acquired by the P5 are: US (5,550), Russia (6,255), China (350), France (290) and the UK (215).

Obviously freeze for freeze notion gets no credibility. The western deadlock on the Iranian nuclear deal is also a bad omen for peace.

Currently, a number of prominent observers have argued that the battle has been lost since Pyongyang has irreversibly broken into the club of nuclear weapon states.

Since the quest for expanding nuclear power is being systematically demonstrated by the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS), the scope of a nuclear weapon free world remains a Kafkaesque task—glaringly manifested by the unbridled North-Korean nuclear ambitions’ case.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.

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