Term Paper: Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Facilitators

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[. . .] Hence more than confrontationist attitude, a diplomatic effort was required to curb proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The need to prevent the creation of new power blocks and cold wars. The lessons learnt from the cold war between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. taught us that nuclear proliferation would always create regional imbalances that could adversely affect regional stability. If smaller nations are allowed to have nuclear weapons they could adversely affect regional stability and thereby cause concerns for other nations. This is the sentiment that has encouraged America to intervene in the case of North Korea, India and Pakistan. A nuclear flare-up in these regions can adversely affect the United States. A different consequence would be the fact that an imbalance of power can cause American interests to be jeopardized. While Pakistan is being afforded the Most Favored Nation status by America, the growth of India as a superpower can indeed put undue pressures on American interests in South Asia, considering the clout that India has over its other neighbors.

Finally, nuclear weapons have always been the dream-weapon of terrorists the world over. Even recently, the shocking revelations of Pakistani nuclear scientists that they have helped other nations achieve nuclear weaponry has caused the international community to further monitor the movement of fissile materials between countries. This also increases the responsibility of powerful nations to try and stop terrorist outfits from achieving nuclear materials for making weapons.

Further, there has been a change in the philosophic outlook of nations. While in the eighties, political rhetoric and tit-for-tat attitudes governed nuclear proliferation policies, the modern approach is to create or modify international situations that could encourage nuclear proliferation. Even though realism has been hailed as a practical way of dealing with international situations, it has its fair share of drawbacks and has attracted criticism from experts. Gaddis (1993) argues that any useful theory of international relations should be able to predict significant events in the field, and notes that none of the current mainstream theories were able to predict the end of cold war. The failure of realism, as the dominant theory, to predict the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the bipolar system that it produced, attracted a great deal of criticism.

Today nations are united in their demand to do away with nuclear weapons. The international laws and regulations are based more on economic principles that encourage cooperation and co-development rather than confrontation and animosity. As a result countries have been univocal in their demand to do away with nuclear arms and a means of military power. Today, it may be seen that nuclear weapons are sought only by nations that are ruled by autocratic men and terrorist outfits. The cultural shift that goes against nuclear weapons is quite evident these days.

Nuclear rollback also was encouraged by tactical reasons. For example, in Ukraine, which had one of the biggest stocks of nuclear weapons after the erstwhile USSR disintegrated, nuclear weapons were seen more as a liability than an asset. USSR's biggest enemy, the U.S.A. was no more an enemy state primarily because the enemy of the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. was no more existent. Similarly, Ukraine did not need its vast nuclear arsenal to dominate over the smaller states that arose after the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. This opportunity was seized by the U.S.A., which struck a deal with the Ukraine government to reduce its arms pile, which would be reciprocated by USA. Hence, in this case, the reduction of nuclear material served as a tactical method to reduce the nuclear arms pile that existed with two erstwhile enemies. When enmity was gone, there was no need to retain weapons that would probably be never used. It may be appreciated that tactical reasons combined with a commitment to peace, which was the prime reason why nuclear material was deployed in the first place, served as the reason that ultimately led to their withdrawal.

International moderation on long standing problems is another factor that has helped nations to rollback their nuclear programmes. As far as India and Pakistan are concerned, the Kashmir issue has been a long standing contentious problem that has seen the eruption of three major wars between the nations. With both countries attaining nuclear power, and the tensions between them increasing to unmanageable levels, it was only natural that international mediation was asked for, at least by Pakistan. Pakistan has successfully invited attention on Kashmir, while India has been able to prove the involvement of Pakistan in terrorist activities in India, in international forums. Once these two contentious issues have been internationally acknowledged, the degree of hostility between the nations have come down drastically, and signals from both the nations prove that the countries are more than happy to sit for negotiations than fight in the battle field. Here too the requirement for peace has encouraged the countries to desist from initiating an all-out nuclear threat against each other. The intervention of the United States in Pakistan has been a major boost for the peace processes in these countries.

Similarly, there have been instances in history when nuclear proliferation was halted as part of a country's commitment to social responsibility. For example, South Africa pulled back its nuclear activities mainly for being included in the international forums, which had discarded it due to apartheid. In the case of South Africa, nuclear non-proliferation was part of a package that allowed it to be included in the international forums. It may be said that South Africa in fact bought its rights for abandoning nuclear proliferation and apartheid [Author not known 1, 2004]

Observation has shown that nuclear proliferation was encouraged ironically as a means to maintain peace and ensure internal development. It is ironic that restoration of peace is the principal factor that is encouraging nations to roll back their nuclear arsenal. Even though economic factors like industrial growth, domestic growth factors, and general progress have encouraged nations to revert to their non-nuclear status, or to maintain minimal nuclear deterrence, peace initiatives are the prime factor that has encouraged nations to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons. Examples all over the world have shown that nuclear roll-back is a direct effect of peace initiatives.


Nuclear proliferation was caused by mistrust and fear, which encouraged nations to take extreme measures to maintain peace. That the extreme measures never attained everlasting peace is another matter. However, in the modern world where development is given more importance than confrontationist attitudes, the urge for peace has been the prime factor that has encouraged nations to resort to peaceful methods. With the lack of a dominant power block and the development of a definite international political philosophy that is more aware to realities, political pundits are giving more importance to peace initiatives for ensuring their popularity. In this context it must be said that the need for peace and popularity had been the prime factors that had encouraged nuclear proliferation a few decades before. It is ironic that the very same factors have contributed to ensuring peace in the modern world. Hence, it must be acknowledged that the sentiments that encourage and discourage nuclear proliferation are the same. Only the perspectives differ.


John Lewis Gaddis, Russia, the Soviet Union and the United States: An Interpretive History, Wiley, 1990

H. Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics, London: Macmillan, 1997, pp 236-237.

M. Wight, "Why is There No International Theory?" In Diplomatic Investigations, ed. M. Wight and H. Butterfield, London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1966, pp.33-50

John Lewis Gaddis, The United States And The End Of The Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations, Provocations, New York, Oxford University Press, 1992

Bulletin of the Atomic scientists, 2004, NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION: INDIA, retrieved at http://www.bullatomsci.org/research/collections/india.html. On June 27, 2004

Author not known, 2004, Tactical Nuclear Arms Control: History, retrieved at http://www.armscontrolcenter.org/prolifproject/tnw/chap4.pdfon June 27, 2004

Serebriannikov V. V, 2002, On cold and hot wars, Military Thought, Issue: March-April, 2002

Spring, D.W. 1999, "The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity; The Stalin Years," English Historical Review, Issue: Feb, 1999

Author not known 1, 2004, Nuclear Weapons Program, retrieved at http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/rsa/nuke/on June 27, 2004

David Albright, 1994, South Africa and the Affordable Bomb, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists January 1994

General References

GCSE History, 2003, "The Cold War: Causes," retrieved at http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/classroom/gcse/cold_war.htm. On July 6, 2003

Dukes Paul, 2001, "A long view of the cold war," History Today, Issue: Jan, 2001

John Lewis Gaddis, Russia, the Soviet Union and the United States: An Interpretive History, Wiley, 1990 [END OF PREVIEW]

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