While the United States and Russia are currently engaged in talks to reduce their stockpiles, the proposed agreement does not affect warheads held in reserve, “non-strategic” weapons, or the size of the total stockpile, nor does it require dismantlement of any nuclear warheads.1 Meanwhile, both countries have plans to modernize their nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
A US plan for the development of a missile “defence” system in Europe has also increased tensions between the two countries. Meanwhile, China continues to modernize and expand its arsenal. The United Kingdom decided to renew its nuclear system last year. France’s president, while promising to reduce his country’s stockpile, also promised that he will retain the possibility to “send a nuclear warning” to underscore France’s “resolve” to protect its interests.2
There are also four countries that possess nuclear explosive devices but are not recognized as nuclear weapon states by the primary nuclear treaty regime, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—and are thus not bound by its rules. India, Pakistan, and Israel are still making materials for use in nuclear weapons, while North Korea has threatened to resume production. Pakistan and India are both building new reactors to increase their capacity to make plutonium for nuclear weapons. Both are actively developing and testing ballistic and cruise missiles to carry nuclear weapons.3
Despite the end of the Cold War, despite supposed “thawing of tensions” between the major powers, and despite the reality of an interconnected, interdependent world order, the mythical ideal of the power of the bomb persists. It continues to influence national security doctrines, international relations, and multilateral negotiations, subsequently undermining international law, human security, and our ability to build resilience to the converging climate, peak oil, food, water, and financial crises we face.
WILPF urges all governments and citizens to consider our options for the future. It encourages everyone to support and work for the elimination of nuclear weapons and for the redirection of nuclear weapon expenditures to meet environmental, social, health, housing, food, and economic needs. We need to creatively build resilience into our international system that does not rely on violence or military power but rather promotes cooperation, ingenuity, and human security. As a first step toward this end, WILPF calls on all nuclear weapon possessors to cease modernizing their arsenals as a step toward the good faith pursuit of nuclear disarmament and a nuclear weapon free world.
For more information about WILPF’s work on nuclear disarmament, please go to www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
1Hans Kristensen, “START Follow-On: What SORT of Agreement?” Federation of American Scientists, Strategic Security Blog, 8 July 2009, http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2009/07/start.php?pfstyle=wp.
2For more on the nuclear programmes of the five NPT-recognized nuclear weapon states, see Rhetoric vs. Reality: Elite Disarmament Proposals and Real Disarmament Prospects, Information Briefing, Western States Legal Foundation, May 2009, http://www.wslfweb.org/docs/rhetoricvreality.pdf.
3Zia Mian, “Pushing South Asia Toward the Brink,” Foreign Policy in Focus, 27 July 2009, http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/6295.