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Overview of the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons among Nations

Is The Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons Something To Be Feared or Welcomed?

A nuclear weapon is a device that explodes as a result of nuclear reactions. The significant impact of nuclear proliferation is the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the Second World War. The bombing of these two cities increased people’s awareness of the power and strength of nuclear weapons. Globally, there are approximately 16,000 nuclear weapons possessed by few countries. About7, 000 of these explosives are owned by the United States whereas 300 by France, 7,700 by Russia, and 250 by China (Green garage, 2014: par.5). Accordingly, the United Kingdom owns about 225, Pakistan 110, 80 in Israel, 100 in India and 10 in North Korea. For this reason, the paper aims to argue that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is something to be feared because they increase the world vulnerability to nuclear war, to be precise between the superpowers. Besides, the proliferation of these weapons might result in nuclear terrorism if these weapons are accessed by terrorist organizations and a threat to human life.

According to Burroughs (2007: 33), nations around the world are increasingly determined to commence stockpiling and developing reliable and efficient nuclear weapons. In fact, nonnuclear materials, knowledge, and components required to design these weapons are easily accessible globally. Detailed analysis of how to construct facilities that produce nuclear weapons is in public domain. The availability of this information might be utilized by terrorist organization and rebels to design their weapons and use them to terrorize the world.

Nations such as India and Russia among others are developing nuclear weapons with the primary objective of feeling secure. Given the fact that nations possessing these weapons including China, the United States, and France among others are feeling insecure without them, nonnuclear states will also be triggered to have their own nuclear weapons to feel safer (Perkovich, 1999: 65). As a result, they will jeopardize the peace being experienced in various parts of the world as a consequence of the possibility of nuclear terrorism. Since the mid-1960s, nations have become concerned about the possibility of terrorist organizations acquiring nuclear weapons. Schultz (2007: 15) argues that terrorist groups aim to utilize these weapons to destabilize governments and extort them in the case of a coup. Besides, the proliferation of nuclear weapons will compel terrorist organizations to use force to steal these weapons from transport vehicles and military facilities.

Challenges of Nuclear Proliferation

The proliferation of nuclear weapons whether by non-state or state actors jeopardizes international security. The challenge of nuclear weapon proliferation is global and to halt the proliferation of these weapons, countries must join hands.  Nine states including the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, India, France, and China are believed or acknowledged to own nuclear weapons (Sidel & Levy, 2007: 1560). Other countries including South Korea, Germany, and Japan exhibits the technological capability also to acquire these weapons. The declining oil prices in conjunction with the need to invest in nuclear energy, the increased diffusion of technical and scientific knowledge and fossil fuels impact on the environment has resulted in the need to access dual-use technologies. However, there are efforts to counter the proliferation of nuclear weapons. For instance, the UN Security Council (UNSC) in 2009 passed Resolution 1887 that emphasized on total nuclear disarmament (Sidel & Levy, 2007: 1563). As a result of this treaty, the number of countries that embraced the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty increased to 157 by 2011(Council of Foreign Relations, 2013). The treaty also encouraged countries including Iran, Israel, and the United States to follow suit. Despite the existence of this treaty, multilateral institutions have not been successful in preventing nations such as North Korea, Pakistan, and India from developing nuclear weapons. For this reason, there is a need for the reinforcement and updating of the existing framework to address threats posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Krieger (2010: par.3) argues that the proliferation of nuclear weapons poses a great challenge to the human population because they are deadly and dangerous. Previously, they were utilized to cause havoc in the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, signifying that these weapons are dangerous. Despite the threat that nuclear weapons pose to the life of human beings, leaders of some countries still develop and maintain nuclear weapons and depend on them to strengthen their national security. Accordingly, they justify the possession of nuclear weapons using the theory of nuclear deterrence.  Using this theory, they claim that the proliferation of nuclear weapons averts war by the threat of revenge using extreme and destructive force (Alexander & Millar, 2003: 245). However, they fail to understand that this theory is flawed and subjected to human fallibility. For instance, it is difficult for a leader with nuclear weapons to make a rational decision when exposed to stressful situations. Besides, deterrence is not effective against non-state actors including extremist groups. It is challenging to locate these groups and their followers are suicidal.  For this reason, deterrence is not effective because when it fails, the impact of nuclear weapons is catastrophic.

Reasons why the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons should be Feared

The nuclear experiment can have a significant impact on human life because their effects are felt for decades.  For instance, nuclear weapons can result in radiation disaster which affects human beings and the environment including wildlife and water ecosystem. In addition to having a great impact on the environment and human life, the proliferation of nuclear weapons continues to fuel geopolitical instability as evidenced by non-fruitful efforts by the UN Security Council to agree with Iran regarding its nuclear program in the future (Meyer Stephen, 2006: 54).  Equally, the author contends that the conflicts experienced today are as a result of non-state actors. Leaders characterized by a revolutionary past are likely to seek nuclear capability. For example, Kim Jong-Un, in North Korea has made a decision to invest in a nuclear program despite the ailing economy of the country. North Korean president defied UN sanctions, and in 2015, he launched his fourth nuclear test which was followed by the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Non-state actors are not only the concern because technological advances and the efficiency of nuclear equipment have increased the potential attainment of nuclear weapons by organized crime works, terrorist groups, and rebel movements. Various nuclear weapons were left behind following the collapse of the Soviet Union.  As a consequence, these weapons are illegally sold in Eastern Europe. Arguably, this is considered the major threat of nuclear proliferation because they are easily accessed by terrorist groups such as ISIS (Cowen Karp, 2001: 38). These groups use the radioactive materials in these weapons to generate bombs. As a matter of fact, great attention is on the potential threat that might result as a consequence of terrorist accessing nuclear weapons whereas little focus has been channeled on the possibility of nuclear sites being attacked by terrorist groups. An attack on nuclear power plant will release radioactive materials that will jeopardize the health of human beings and the environment. Nuclear sites across France and Belgium remains vulnerable given the recent attacks by ISIS, a terrorist group (Portela, Bourantonis & Blavoukos, 2015: 55).

 Maintaining and building nuclear weapons is costly and some nations are funding nuclear weapon development at the expense of the citizen’s well-being. Channelling a larger percentage of the country’s resources on nuclear weapons development exhibits a negative impact on the treasury and triggers an unsympathetic political criticism. Fair (2016: 55) argues that very few countries can invest in weapons of mass destruction and at the same time remain wealthy and productive. Countries that channel their focus on designing and maintaining weapons of mass destruction divert from issues that are pertinent to the population.

High Maintenance and Cost

Nations possessing nuclear weapons often posits that they depend on them as tools for strategic defense. Likewise, they point out that minus these weapons of mass destruction, they are susceptible to various attacks. Despite the fact that these weapons are characterized by high risk of devastation and destruction, some countries often chose to keep nuclear weapons active and ready to use whenever necessary. Defense experts also contend that doing away with nuclear weapons will put some nations at a disadvantage because some nations considered hostile are developing these weapons (Taylor, 2015: 5). Regardless these arguments, it is obvious that countries with weapons of mass destruction are more likely of utilizing them in future to wage war.

According to Porterfield (2005: 66) point of view, weapons of mass destruction are important in preventing military aggression and exhibit an equalizing effect regardless the size of the country. Proponents of the weapon of mass destruction argue that the proliferation of nuclear weapons increases the diplomatic and military standing of a country. However, they fail to understand that nuclear weapons pose a threat and destroy life in case countries take part in nuclear warfare.  The proliferation of nuclear weapons renders human beings to stay in fear. In addition to the incident of nuclear war, there are also other dangers associated with the development of nuclear weapons such as an explosion of the nuclear plant.  For instance, Ukraine Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster of 1986 affected thousands of population in the country.

Even though Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) prohibits countries from producing weapons of mass destruction, the existing non-proliferation instruments have failed in deterring nuclear possessing states from destroying their weapons. For instance, it is the responsibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to direct states that fail to comply with the above treaty to the UN Security Council (UNSC). The council, in turn, imposes punitive measures or sanctions to countries that fail to comply with the terms and conditions of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (Fleck & Black-Branch, 2016: 95). Unfortunately, political calculations have made it difficult for the UNSC to discharge its duties allowing nuclear rogues such as the United States and Iran to disregard fairly weak and successive UN sanctions. Another challenge posed in an endeavour to put an end to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is the absence of sufficient enforcement and verification mechanism accessible by IAEA. Besides, this agency technological resources, intelligence capabilities, and budget are inadequate to punish, prevent, or deter countries from violating NPT regulations (Council of Foreign Relations, 2013: 10). The organization does not have access to countries nuclear facilities including those of North Korea and Iran. As a consequence, nuclear materials are being sold on the black market.

To eliminate the fear posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, it is important for the International Atomic Energy Agency to implement additional protocols that will boost its mandate and inspections. However, getting countries such as Iran, Syria and the United States to agree to these protocols is a major challenge. The countries possessing nuclear weapons should be made to understand that depending on the nuclear weapon to defend themselves is increasingly becoming hazardous and dangerous, especially if they fall into the hands of terrorist organizations. Diehl and Moltz (2008: 25) also notes that controlling proliferation and eventually abolishing weapons of mass destruction requires the involvement of the society, professional and nongovernmental organizations as well as intergovernmental organizations and national government.

Conclusion

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among terrorists or nations increases the threat of nuclear violence on a global scale. The impact of such an attack would be intolerable. There is also increased likelihood that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction might be accessed by irrational individuals who does not care about world security and peace. For instance, easy access to weapons of mass destruction by terrorist groups or psychotic leader might be used to trigger nuclear war as an act of retaliation against humanity. In this context, the usage of weapons of mass destruction is considered very dangerous and immoral. Equally, maintaining and building of nuclear weapons is very expensive causing a country to ignore issues that enhance the well-being of the population. For this reason, it is important for countries to understand that having a nuclear weapons doe’s not necessary make them qualify as advanced and powerful nations. On the contrary, countries such as Australia and Spain do not have nuclear weapons but are considered advanced and powerful nations as the likes of Iran and the United States.

List of References

Alexander, B. & Millar, A. (2003) Tactical nuclear weapons: emergent threats in an evolving security environment, Washington, D.C: Brassey's

Burroughs, J. (2007) The (il)legality of threat or use of nuclear weapons: a guide to the historic opinion of the International Court of Justice, Mu?nster:  LIT Press.

Council of Foreign Relations.(2013) The Global Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime.[Online] Available At: https://www.cfr.org/nonproliferation-arms-control-and-disarmament/global-nuclear-nonproliferation-regime/p18984

Cowen Karp, R. (2001) Security with nuclear weapons?: different perspectives on national security, Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

Diehl, S. J., & Moltz, J. C. (2008) Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation: a reference handbook, Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

Fair, C.C .(2016) 'Pakistans Nuclear Proliferation and Its Impact on International and Regional Security', National Bureau of Asian Research, p. 155.

Fleck, D. & Black-Branch, J.L. (2016), Nuclear Non-Proliferation in International Law : Volume II - Verification and Compliance, Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press.

Green garage.(2014) 7 Biggest Pros and Cons of Nuclear Weapons.[Online] Available At:https://greengarageblog.org/7-biggest-pros-and-cons-of-nuclear-weapon

Krieger, D.(2010) Nuclear Weapons Present a Real and Present Danger to Humanity and Life on Earth. [Online] Available At: https://www.globalresearch.ca/nuclear-weapons-present-a-real-and-present-danger-to-humanity-and-life-on-earth/18359.

Meyer Stephen M. (2006) Dynamics of nuclear proliferation, Chicago: Univ Of Chicago Press.

Perkovich, G. (1999), India's nuclear bomb: the impact on global proliferation, California: University of California Press.

Portela, C, Bourantonis, D, & Blavoukos, S. (2015), The EU and the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons : Strategies, Policies, Actions, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan

Porterfield, J. (2005) Terrorism, dirty bombs, and weapons of mass destruction, New York: Rosen Pub. Group.

Schultz,  G.P, Perry W.J, Kissinger, H.A, Nunn S. A.(2007) World Free of Nuclear Weapons. The Wall Street Journal

Sidel, V.W. & Levy, B.S.(2007)’ Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Opportunities for Control and Abolition’, American Journal of Public Health, vol.97, no.9, pp. 1589-1594

Taylor, T.B.(2015) Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. [Online] Available At: https://ee.stanford.edu/~hellman/Breakthrough/book/pdfs/taylor.pdf

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