Knowing why states build nuclear weapons is important for us in order to determine the future of international security and to direct foreign policy efforts in such a way so as to limit the spread of such dangerous armaments. Nuclear weapons are explosives which derive their ability to destroy from chemical reactions, either fission or fusion or a combination of both reactions. These reactions release an enormous quantity of energy, having the capability to destroy even vast cities even if the mass containing the explosive is very little. Such is the power of nuclear weapons.
Since the Soviet Union's dissolution, the key foreign policy interest of several powerful states has been to control the spread of nuclear arms. Those states which are armed with nuclear weapons or are associated with nuclear arm possessing countries continuously pressurize non-nuclear states to not develop their own weapons. The reason these states do so is that there is always lesser risk involved in attacking a country which is not equipped with nuclear weapons. Of course, however, all states strive to go nuclear and the pressure from weapon possessing countries does not always seem to work. Understanding why most nations want to go nuclear can be a very complex task. Fear, security, improving the countries potential to bully others and reputation are just a few of the many reasons why states want to have their own nuclear armaments. (Pavil 2004)
The United States was the first country that developed nuclear weapons and it initiated the world's first nuclear weapon program. The United States president Franklin Roosevelt was warned that there was a possibility that Germany would develop nuclear weapons before they would and therefore they U.S. was motivated by the fear that Germans would out win them in this armament war. The U.S. Of course, succeeded and even used its nuclear weapons to blast the two cities of an almost defeated Japan in the World War 2, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the Unites States, it was the Soviet Union tat developed nuclear weapons. It was true that during the period of the World War 2, the United States and the Soviet Union were allies; it was highly likely and seen by many that this relationship was not going to last after the war would end and as expected this is what happened. The United States had kept its plan of going nuclear a secret from the Soviet Union and this alerted them thinking the U.S. might dominate them thus creating the need for developing nuclear arms. Many thought it would take the Soviet Union several years before it could actually declare itself to be a nuclear state but within a span of four years from initiation it had completed its mission. (Pavil 2004)
After the Second World War ended in 1945, both Britain and France, though victors, emerged less powerful and prestigious than they had been before the war. Thus they both embarked on the quest to equip themselves with nuclear artillery as well. Both countries could have chosen to wait a while and stay under the U.S. nuclear shell for a while but they both thought the right thing was to develop their own arms and so first Britain and then France developed their own nuclear weapons. Since Britain's scientists had worked with the U.S. To develop Bombs in the Manhattan Project, they had prior knowledge on the U.S. nuclear project as well and were thus able to develop their own quicker than France.
Finally, after the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France, China too decided to go nuclear. It was the last member of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to announce its effort to become a nuclear state. These 5 states under the Non-proliferation treaty of 1970 were declared as nuclear states. (Pavil 2004)
If we analyze just the five states mentioned above and try to determine why each of them developed nuclear weapons we can see that security and fear of being overtaken and out powered by the other state were major reasons. The United States developed itself as a nuclear state because it feared that Germany would become one before it. The Soviet Union, now Russia developed its nuclear weapons to compete with the United States. It did not trust the U.S. because while the U.S. was in the processes of becoming a nuclear state the news was kept hidden from the Soviet and thus they believed that in order to protect themselves they must go nuclear. Britain and France also came into the nuclear game because after the world war they had thought their prestige and status was lost despite victory and in order to regain it and come in line with the U.S. super power they developed nuclear weapons. China simply became a nuclear state in order to prevent the other nuclear states from gaining too much power over it. States want to counter balance their own strength and the strength of other states. The moment any one state begins to realize or doubt that another state is a potential threat to its sovereignty, a problem arises. Nuclear weapons are way lot cheaper to make than other conventional forces and therefore weaker states that are in need of instant security resort immediately to these weapons. When a state has nuclear capabilities, even if it is inferior it may become a significant enemy. Take the example of Iraq. When it started its nuclear plant back in the mid-90's, Israel perceived it as a threat even though Iraq did not have any nuclear weapons. This immediately caused Israel to develop itself as a nuclear state not because it had planned to become one for a long time, but because a domino effect had begun out of fear of its neighbors' capability. States who go nuclear for prestige get an entire package. With prestige comes influence and power. There comes recognition. It shows that a nation has highly trained and educated persons who can develop such arms. Had countries like USA, Russia and China not been nuclear states today would they have had so much influence in the international forum today? Of course not. (Pavil 2004)
Today there are eight established nuclear nations in the world. Five of them are the permanent members of the UN security council while the other three include India, Pakistan and just recently North Korea has joined the ranks. There are also states who claim to have nuclear weapons or are believed to posses them. Israel is one of them. Other states like Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey share nuclear weapons with the United States either to deploy them or for storing purposes. As can be seen, nuclear weapons which at one point in time, less than a century ago did not even exist in this world, are now spread across the globe.
Nuclear proliferation is the term used to define the spread of nuclear weapons in countries around the globe. However, this spread is limited to only those countries that are not listed as a Nuclear Weapon State under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This treaty aims to take measures against the spread of nuclear weapons to maintain peace and cooperation. As a part of this treaty, the member countries agree not to transfer nuclear weapons from one state to another. Moreover, they are not allowed to assist or encourage countries without nuclear weapons to acquire such arms under any circumstance. (Polmar 2009)
Because of the need to safeguard one's own country from external threats and succumbing under pressure due to the lack of nuclear weapons to show pressure, most countries may feel the need to develop their assets by adding nuclear weapons to the stock. But by doing so, it is only causing the worse due to the danger of nuclear weapons. Therefore, to prevent this spread of such weapons, measures have to be taken. (Hansen ) [1: ]
The first method of prevention is increasing the security of the nuclear weapons that are already possessed by countries. By this, unauthorized people will not be able to penetrate and misuse this dangerous weaponry in anyway. This only applies to countries that already have nuclear weapons such as the U.S.A., UK, Russia, China etcetera. In order to succeed fully in this measure of prevention, a wholesome amount of capital must be invested to hire security personnel that is productive as well as land and technological needs to fulfill the necessity of safety. Also, those literate and well learned people of the sciences of nuclear weaponry should be necessarily reemployed into new jobs that may keep them busy and away from work that holds high potential of danger to be produced. Supervision should be kept on all people in the records who hold education and ability to produce these items. (Hansen ) [2: Chuck Hansen, Us Nuclear Weapons the Secret History, (Crown, ).David Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race…