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The Virus of Nuclear Proliferation

In an avalanche of reporting we are now assaulted with information about how the world is urgently attempting to batten down the hatches to avoid the possibility of deathly consequences from the broadly publicized outbreak of the coronavirus, causing the possibility of postponing or perhaps downsizing the upcoming five year mandatory Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Ironically, it is not nearly so well-reported, that the 50-year old NPT is threatening the world with an even worse illness then the new terrifying coronavirus.

The NPT’s critical requirement that the nuclear armed states, which signed the treaty in 1970, must make “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament is virtually moribund as nations are developing new nuclear weapons, some characterized as more “usable” and  destroying treaties that contributed to a more stable environment.

These include the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which the U.S. negotiated with USSR and walked out of in 2002, and its repeated rejections of offers from Russia and China to negotiate a treaty to keep weapons out of space, and from Russia to ban cyberwar, all of which would contribute to “strategic stability” which would enable the fulfillment of the NPT’s nuclear disarmament promise.

Further, this year the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Force agreement it made with Russia in 1987, left the nuclear deal it had negotiated with Iran as well, and just announced it would not meet with Russia to discuss a renewal of the Strategic Arms Control Treaty (START), due to expire this year,  which limits nuclear warheads and missiles.

It also created a whole new branch of its military, the Department of Space, which was formerly housed in the U.S. Airforce.  And in an obvious breach of “good faith” [i] ,this February the US staged a “limited” nuclear battle against Russia in a war game!

It cannot be denied that the NPT contributes to even more burgeoning nuclear proliferation by extending its misbegotten “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear power, currently promoting this lethal technology to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Belarus, Bangladesh and Turkey which are all constructing their first nuclear power plants — expanding the keys to the bomb factory in more and more countries, while almost all of the current nuclear weapons states have new nuclear weapons under development.

The U.S., for example, is planning to spend over a trillion dollars over the next 10 years and is working with the UK to replace Britain’s Trident nuclear warheads.

Rather than addressing the promising path forward provided by the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to finally ban the bomb, the U.S. launched a new initiative, Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND), to develop yet another set of possible new steps to comply with its 50 year old “good faith” promises for nuclear disarmament.

At a recent meeting in Stockholm with fifteen of its allies, new measures were announced for nuclear disarmament now being described as “stepping stones”, having graduated from various commitments over the years for “steps” and “an unequivocal commitment” to those steps, since the NPT was extended in 1970, indefinitely and unconditionally.

These new “stepping stones” bring to mind M.G. Escher’s stunning drawing of a series of steps to nowhere with people endlessly trudging up a staircase, never to reach their destination!

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Alice Slater is a founder of Abolition 2000, which works for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. 

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