The return of worrying trends in nuclear proliferation

Strategic Council Online—Opinion: The latest report from the Swedish think-tank Sipri, which is active in the field of weapons surveillance worldwide, shows a worrying trend in the growth of nuclear arsenals. This is despite the fact that this trend has been declining since the Cold War. Dr. Ali Karbalaei Hosseini—Researcher of International Law

The think tank’s annual report (click on this link to download) states that all nine countries or regimes with nuclear weapons are increasing or upgrading their arsenals.

Russia, with 5,977, and the United States, with 5,528 nuclear warheads, still hold about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads. Last year, the number of nuclear warheads in both countries declined, but the main reason was the dismantling of outdated nuclear warheads that the two countries’ armed forces had abandoned for years.

Evaluations suggest that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western support for Kiev have escalated tensions as well as altered the military assessments of nine nuclear-armed states.

The trend comes as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Britain, the United States, Russia, China, and France) declared in a statement in 2021 that “nuclear war is not a war with a winner and such a war should never happen.” However, now, in clear contradiction with the declared positions, all the permanent members of the Security Council are developing or modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

Britain currently holds about 195 nuclear warheads, 120 of which the American Federation of Scientists estimates is operational. While Britain has accused China and Russia of lacking nuclear transparency, it has also stated that it will no longer publicly announce its operational and deployed nuclear weapons figures.

In early 2021, France formally began plans to develop a third-generation nuclear-powered submarine-launched ballistic missile (SSBN). China is in the middle of expanding its stockpile by adding 300 new missiles to its nuclear weapons depot. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan are apparently developing their nuclear arsenals, and both countries have announced the creation or development of new types of nuclear launch systems in 2021. North Korea has followed a similar trend.

The Zionist regime, which does not publicly state that it possesses nuclear weapons, is also, according to experts, modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

Sipri said that unless nuclear powers take immediate action to counter this trend, the number of nuclear warheads on a global scale will increase in the coming decades, unlike in the past. “All states armed with nuclear weapons are increasing or upgrading their arsenals, and most of them have intensified their rhetoric in this area and the role of nuclear weapons in their military strategies. This is a very worrying trend,” said Dr. Wilfred Van, director of the Sipri Weapons of Mass Destruction Program in the think tank’s 2022 yearbook.

Facing this trend shows that post-Cold War hopes that nuclear weapons holders will give up this weapon of mass destruction have been dashed, and agreements to limit nuclear power have been reversed; For example, we saw how former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Russia’s war against Ukraine may be more indicative of the collapse of the international legal system in the present age, but it must be borne in mind that hostile rather than competitive policies between the great powers have undermined the foundations of post-World War II international relations. And the Charter of the United Nations does not have the former sanctity that was still in place when millions of people lost their lives.

Despite the openly-stated Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which commits members to negotiating effective measures for the immediate “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”, the current situation shows that the present NPT system has failed to provide adequate security for countries that have voluntarily renounced nuclear weapons.

The reason for the ineffectiveness of this treaty is that it is based on discrimination from the very beginning, and this discrimination is becoming more widespread every day; So much so that even attempts were made to prevent countries like Iran from gaining uranium enrichment knowledge for peaceful purposes. For years, non-nuclear weapons countries that are NPT members and peace activists and opponents of nuclear weapons hoped that with the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in 2017 and its implementation in 2021, the deadly shadow of this weapon of mass destruction on humanity would go away. Unfortunately, global trends have reached the point where the Ukrainian elite at the beginning of the Russian war against their country expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision taken in the 1990s to disarm their country after its declaration of independence.

The return of the ideas of the Cold War and worse, the Mongol-like approach to present-day international relations by the great powers, will take the breath away from adherence to the principles of international law, and that is why it is necessary to try to form a multipolar system in which equal sovereignty is practiced and respected.

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