Nevertheless, “global zero” is a useful framework as it focuses the goal not just on non-proliferation, the focus of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but on actual reduction of nuclear weapons. And yet, beyond a certain point reduction itself is an extraordinarily difficult goal - the US and Russia have both reduced their deployed nuclear arsenal by over 70 % from their peaks, and there is further that they can go, but there is a floor on the number of nuclear weapons that the US and Russia can possess to form a credible deterrent against each other and against other potential foes.
Non-proliferation has been one of President Obama’s few successes in foreign policy, but this success is tenuous. The idea that there should be no new nuclear states is the basic premise of the NPT. However, the ability of the world to prevent non-nuclear states from going nuclear hinges in part on the U.S. presidential election. If Donald Trump is elected president, something that I think is unlikely but not impossible, it would mark the end of the NPT as we know it. Trump has not only demonstrated his willingness to break American treaty obligations, but seems almost gleeful and excited about doing so-- and there is no reason to think that the NPT would be immune to his insanity and inanity.
Indeed, Trump has already suggested that Japan and South Korea should build a nuclear arsenal and cover the cost of defending themselves from North Korea.This policy would be a dramatic reversal of decades of U.S. (and Japanese) policy. Moreover, if Trump follows through on his threats to abandon Saudi Arabia, or to “rethink” the U.S. commitment to NATO, it will cause nuclear proliferation on an unprecedented scale. Even though other NATO countries would be unlikely to develop nuclear weapons, the perception among other actors, like Taiwan, would be that U.S. security guarantees are meaningless.
Rampant proliferation is destabilizing, and would dramatically increase the number of nuclear sites to secure, including from cyber attacks. It is dangerous because some of these governments have their own extremists within them, like Saudi Arabia; or because there is continued domestic instability, like in Egypt. Le Phenomenon Trump itself shows that even the U.S. can fall prey to a leader that otherwise should not be allowed within 100 miles of the nuclear launch codes. If an ignorant know-nothing who responds “ten-fold” to personal attacks is in control of 1500 nuclear weapons, then we are all in danger.
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Cover Image: Peace Bell at Hiroshima Memorial Park [via Wikipedia]
What is your opinion about the likelihood of the total abolition of nuclear weapons, and the regime of nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) with regards to international security? What do you think about the idea (concept) of a nuclear-free world? Join the discussion in the comments section below.