Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Facilitators and Detractors
Ever since the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world has been polarized into two different groups: one that supports nuclear proliferation, and another that vehemently campaigns against the piling up of nuclear material in the world. Both groups have their own arguments to justify their stand. While those who oppose nuclear weapons argue that nuclear proliferation endangers the very existence of the world and international peace, the supporters of nuclear weapons argue that nuclear weapons are required as a deterrent force. The American policy of minimum deterrence echoes this sentiment. However, considering the fact that the world reached dangerously close to an all out nuclear war way back in the eighties during the cold war years, points to the fact that the policy of minimum deterrence can, in the hands of hot-headed heads of states, become a very dangerous tool for political manipulation. At the same time it must also be mentioned that the fear of nuclear weapons was a major factor that prevented an all-out war between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. during the peak of tensions during the cold war. It is here that we need to analyze the importance of a nuclear deterrent policy, and its relation to a policy that actively discourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons. On closer inspection it may be seen that nuclear proliferation and nuclear non-proliferation is in fact closely related; at least strategy wise. The factors that have been considered as the primary contributors to nuclear proliferation are surprisingly similar to those factors that encourage nuclear non-proliferation in the world
The arguments for building nuclear arsenals
Nuclear weapons as a deterrent
The threat to national security is the prime concern that drives a nation to develop nuclear weapons. It is quite obvious that the race for superior nuclear weapons was initiated by the U.S. And the U.S.S.R., which perceived each other as enemies of equal strength. Both the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. were very much concerned about the rising power of each other, and sought to offset each other's influence by building a nuclear arsenal that could match the other's power, if not better it. The effects of such brazen lust for power are quite evident in the whole world today. The whole world was divided into power blocks that swore allegiance to either of the two power centers. International bickering between the members of the power blocks further initiated small time nuclear proliferation between these countries which further enhanced the presence of these deadly killers in all parts of the world. The net result was that nuclear supremacy was seen as the sole factor that could provided a country with the upper hand in a war. During peace times, nuclear power enabled a country to bargain for more. It is a bygone conclusion that the United States would not have attacked Japan with atomic weapons, if it had even suspected Japan of having a similar weapon. Similarly, if Japan was aligned with the U.S.S.R., America would have certainly thought twice before going ahead with the atom bomb. It only highlights the fact that the nuclear weapon was and is certainly a strong deterrent that can prevent a flare up between nations. Hence, it may be seen that the fear of all-out destruction was a very dominant factor that encouraged nuclear proliferation. The urge to remain prepared in case of a nuclear strike was a very dominant factor that drove, and still drives many nations to arm themselves with the most powerful nuclear weapons [Spring, D.W. 1999, Serebriannikov V. V, 2002]
The politics involved in nuclear weapons
On the other hand, it is quite amusing to note that in spite of the tensions during the cold war, The U.S. And the U.S.S.R. took extra care to prevent even minor flare-ups between their armies or allies. Although the rhetoric against each other often reached critical levels, both the countries took pains to ensure that they did not cross the diplomatic limit that could have instigated a full-scale violence between them. This proves that nuclear weapons have more value to politicians than what is clearly evident to the masses. Politicians thrive on rhetoric, particularly when their government is in danger or when they become unpopular with the populace. President Reagan is remembered for his unflinching loyalty to power politics and nuclear proliferation than anything else. He is seen as a president who could take on the threat posed by a bigger and seemingly well organized country like the U.S.S.R. The relations between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. further deteriorated when President Reagan assumed office. He was well-known for his hate for the Russians and the American government under him, made massive rearmament efforts including the star wars programme [John 1990]. Hence, the nuclear arms race was perceived by politicians as a political tool, and successive United States Presidents used it to assert their dominance over the world. Even today, the President of the United States has through his actions, made it very clear that he believes in coercion than reason. Nuclear power only adds to the arrogant attitude of a nation and its politicians consider nuclear power a ticket to domestic popularity.
While nuclear proliferation was caused due to specific reasons in countries that were either a dominant member of the super power block, or super powers themselves, many non-aligned countries have also fallen into the nuclear trap due to the pressures caused by international agencies. India for example, was a vociferous advocate of the Non-Aligned movement, but had to adopt a pro-nuclear proliferation policy because of the imminent threat from Pakistan, its close neighbor. In 1974, after 27 years of attaining freedom, India exploded its first atomic bomb. This was in response to the bloody battle with China and Pakistan during the late sixties and the early seventies. It may be seen that the compulsions that drove India to acquire nuclear weapons was driven by the threat from Pakistan and China. In fact, India conducted its second nuclear explosion only in 1998, when tensions between India and Pakistan reached a new high. The fact that Pakistan responded to the second test thirteen days later with its own nuclear tests, prove the point that the policy of minimum deterrence still holds true in modern international diplomacy [Bulletin of the Atomic scientists, 2004]
The political philosophies behind nuclear proliferation
The Realist theory became very important during the cold war period when it was the main policy of the United States of America's foreign affairs department. In fact, it may be seen that the realist principles were the dominant idea in President Truman's doctrine. The stress on realism reached its heights during the reign of President Truman when he made his doctrine of containment an active policy of the U.S. administration. It goes without saying that the doctrine had profound effect in the balance of power and created new frontiers in international relations all over the world. New power blocks sprung up and the world aligned itself to a new world order that was based on power politics [Bull, 1997].Wight (1966) gives a detailed account on the theory of international relations and speaks about the absence of good international relations in the world, even though we are moving towards a system that is better coordinated and connected. He believes that the inherent difficulties in the ideologies between nations are the reason that prevents the formation of effective international relations. For example, he tries to highlight the difference between revolutionist ideology and realism. While the previous one is based on utopia, realism tries to see things as it is, and approaches it directly. Hence realism stresses on immediate and direct action. Wight also considers the ideological differences between different philosophies in international relations and mentions the reasons that prevent amiable relations between all the countries in the world. For example, he believes that while the biggest threat in revolutionist ideology is utopia, realism is pessimistic and takes a negative and over cautious view of the world. To cite examples, Nixon is depicted as a realist while Reagan as a revolutionist. While Nixon's ideas were often conciliatory, and was one that reacted accordingly to ground realities, Reagan was a revolutionary who had a set of idealist perspectives. Even today reactionary measures encourage nuclear proliferation while conciliatory attitudes ensure peace.
Factors that encouraged a rethink on nuclear proliferation
Once the cold war was over, nuclear proliferation continued unabated for some time before the leading nations of the world initiated moves to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The move was encouraged by many factors such as:
The need to restrict irresponsible nations from acquiring nuclear weapons. This was particularly important considering the fact that smaller nations who could afford nuclear weapons may use it for irresponsible purposes, which could endanger the safety of the whole world. The need for containment through diplomatic efforts became more important because if left unchecked, nuclear proliferation could backfire at…