(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India
Nuclear Measures – More Atmospherics, Little Substance
important events that have taken place recently on the nuclear issue.
this is the restarting of the stalled START process of cutting down of
weapons by the US
second is the Nuclear Posture Review just concluded by the Obama
Administration. The last is the Nuclear Materials “Summit” that the US
held with 46
countries. None of them provide any
basis for thinking that the US
has changed its positions in any fundamental sense – it goals still
nuclear dominance of the world and isolating Iran
(and North Korea).
By themselves, they do not constitute a radical departure from past
However, given the bleak global nuclear disarmament landscape today,
few gestures may indeed spark some hope for brining nuclear disarmament
table once again.
called to the Nuclear Material Summit called in Washington. It has responded by
global conference and calling for universal nuclear disarmament.
has followed this with a characterisation of nuclear weapons as haram
and therefore not a legitimate weapon even in a war.
this would provide a
backdrop to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT
Revcon), which is to take place in May this year in New York. In
2005 NPT Revcon, the US
willing to put any disarmament measure on the table while asking that
non-nuclear weapon states should give up their right under Article IV
for the fuel cycle. This time also, the US
agenda on the fuel cycle with its obvious target of Iran
is unlikely to change. Whether
the new START measures, which still retain thousands of warheads in US
Russian hands qualify as good-faith negotiations towards nuclear
mandated under Article VI of NPT remains to be seen. It will be
such even though it leaves sufficient nuclear weapons in US and Russian
to blow up the whole world many times over.
are the limits
proposed in the new START (the old one expired in 2009) signed this
month in Prague
and what are the
reductions? There are essentially three central limits under the
program. They are:
number of launch
vehicles is limited to 800 -- a reduction of about 10 per cent of US
have less functional launchers in any case) launchers. The launch
ICBM’s, submarine launchers and nuclear weapon capable heavy bombers,
such bombers being treated as one for the purpose of this count.
number of deployed
launchers to 700
number of deployed
warheads to 1,550 -- a reduction of
about 30 per cent from 2,200 each
any reckoning this is
a very modest reduction, given that the next biggest nuclear weapons
arsenal of about 400 nuclear weapons. Even worse, START talks only of
warheads and weapon launch vehicles and not about the huge stockpile of
warheads – in storage or un-deployed -- of about 10,000 warheads each.
the US and Russia
are willing to reduce this stockpile, the so-called reduction
atmospherics but little else.
insisted that the missile
shields would not be a part of the START
process. That means that the US can now go ahead with their missile
ring Russia using it. This shield has been the bone of contention
US and Russia, as all arms control discussions accepts the link between
offensive and defensive capabilities. One of the first arms control
about Anti-ballistic missile – the ABM Treaty. This is what the US has
jettisoned. The current START version accepts this link between
defensive capabilities, but in a non-binding and quite vague preamble.
US can go ahead install a missile shield in Eastern Europe, ostensibly
Review 2010 (NPR 2010) has been hailed by the US
media as path breaking. A closer
perusal makes clear that it is nothing of the kind. It accepts – for
time after the break-up of the Soviet Union – that Russia
is unlikely to attack the US!
So the NPR 2010 acknowledges that the threat is no longer from other
states but non-state actors. Even then, it does not give a no-first use
against either nuclear or non-nuclear states. The second key point in
review is that it states it will not use nuclear weapons against
weapon states who are in compliance with NPT. However, who is in
NPT or not, is a decision that the US
will take on its own: the US
can use nuclear weapons against any country by simply declaring it in
non-compliance with NPT. It has already said that North Korea and Iran
are in non-compliance so “eligible” for use of nuclear weapons. Even Syria
held to be in non-compliance – for reasons that the US Administration
willing to divulge.
restriction of the use of nuclear weapons might be considered to be a
forward. But this is not the only loophole for the US to
use nuclear weapons. On
biological weapons, it has also hedged its bets. The clause reads,
catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of
bio-technology development, the United States reserves the
right to make any
adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and
proliferation of the biological weapons threat.” Shorn of verbiage, it
that the US
can use nuclear weapons against a biological weapon attack.
non-state actors, the
NPR 2010 allows the use of nuclear weapons against non-state actors who
seeking WMD's. This indeed nullifies all talk about not attacking
with nuclear weapons. Non-state actors, by definition, reside in states
they do not control. What the US
is saying is that it can attack any state which it feels harbours
actors who, in the US
opinion, may acquire WMD's. Cutting to the chase – the US has
itself a loophole in its strategic doctrine to use nuclear weapons
other key question
is that the US
always held that it does not need to wait for an attack: it can pre
strike any country which has weapons of mass destruction – nuclear,
or chemical. Apart from the chemical part, it is difficult to read into
Obama doctrine a fundamental shift away from this position. A change
major change no.
would like to project itself as a mover on nuclear disarmament.
atmospherics without changing any fundamentals premise of the US
policy was most
evident on the so-called Summit called
by the US
by 46 countries. The list of countries drawn up seemed to have been
with an eye
on which countries the US
needed to lobby with for its proposals on further and much harsher
This was the diplomacy that the US
carried out on the sidelines, while ostensibly focussing on the safety
fissile material and stopping future production of fissile material.
One of the
biggest threat to the world comes from the huge stockpile of 10,000
each that Russia
and the US
have. Why talk about protecting it, when we need to dismantle this,
which has –
even by the gargantuan appetite of the US and Russian armed forces
earthly strategic value?
NPT ARTICLE IV
this is careful
build-up to the NPT Revcon. What the US is trying is a
revision of the NPT Article IV, which allows any country which abjures
weapons to still have the fuel cycle.
This allows countries to generate “break-out capability”, the
way that North Korea
did. This change on nuclear fuel is not credible if the other part of
Treaty – calling for nuclear disarmament – is not seen to make
progress. The US
thrust is to
make enough noise about disarmament, while pursuing the goal of
fuel cycle. The problem for the US,
as also other nuclear weapon states, is that it is becoming easier and
to develop nuclear weapons capability. Unless the world abolishes
weapons, global nuclear security is not achievable. And it is the
weapons states that need to take the first steps. Unfortunately,
do not qualify as a serious disarmament initiative. Its only importance
be, if it brings nuclear disarmament back on the world's agenda.