IASbhai Editorial Hunt
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.– Confucius
EDITORIAL 54:“At the edge of a new nuclear arms race“
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL/EDITORIALS FOR UPSC CSE MAINS 2020
Rakesh Sood is a former diplomat and presently Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation
At the edge of a new nuclear arms race
The U.S.’s moves to resume nuclear testing, also signalling the demise of the ill-fated CTBT, could be the first signs
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2:International Relation : Agreements
New rivalries have already emerged after novel corona virus emerged in the Pacific ring . Critically analyse the ill-fate of CBDT -(GS 2)
The article revolves around:
- Nuclear disarmament key players ;
- Their key roles;
- CBDT ban and India.
- The U.S. report also claims that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments that produced a nuclear yield and were inconsistent with ‘zero yield’ understanding underlying the CTBT, though it was uncertain about how many such experiments had been conducted.
- Russia and China have rejected the U.S.’s claims, but with growing rivalry among major powers the report is a likely harbinger of a new nuclear arms race which would also mark the demise of the CTBT that came into being in 1996 but has failed to enter into force even after a quarter century.
WHAT DOES CTBT BAN MEAN?
- For decades, a ban on nuclear testing was seen as the necessary first step towards curbing the nuclear arms race but Cold War politics made it impossible.
- A Partial Test Ban Treaty was concluded in 1963 banning underwater and atmospheric tests but this only drove testing underground.
- By the time the CTBT negotiations began in Geneva in 1994, global politics had changed.
- The Cold War had ended and the nuclear arms race was over.
END OF NUCLEAR DETTERENCE?
- In 1991, Russia declared a unilateral moratorium on testing, followed by the U.S. in 1992.
- By this time, the U.S. had conducted 1,054 tests and Russia, 715.
- France and China continued testing, claiming that they had conducted far fewer tests and needed to validate new designs since the CTBT did not imply an end to nuclear deterrence.
LITTLE BOY EXPERIMENT:
- France and the U.S. even toyed with the idea of a CTBT that would permit testing at a low threshold, below 500 tonnes of TNT equivalent.
- Civil society and the non-nuclear weapon states reacted negatively to such an idea and it was dropped.
ZERO YEILD TEST:
- Some countries proposed that the best way to verify a comprehensive test ban would be to permanently shut down all test sites, an idea that was unwelcome to the nuclear weapon states.
- Eventually, the U.S. came up with the idea of defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban that would prohibit supercritical hydro-nuclear tests but not sub-critical hydrodynamic nuclear tests.
- Once the United Kingdom and France came on board, the U.S. was able to prevail upon Russia and China to accept this understanding.
- After all, this was the moment of the U.S.’s unipolar supremacy.
WHY IT LACKS AUTHORITY
- Another controversy arose regarding the entry-into-force provisions (Article 14) of the treaty.
- After India’s proposals for anchoring the CTBT in a disarmament framework did not find acceptance, in June 1996, India announced its decision to withdraw from the negotiations.
- Unhappy at this turn, the U.K., China and Pakistan took the lead in revising the entry-into-force provisions.
RATIFICATION AND STATUS:
- India protested that this attempt at arm-twisting violated a country’s sovereign right to decide if it wanted to join a treaty but was ignored.
- Of the 44 listed countries, to date only 36 have ratified the treaty.
- China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S. have signed but not ratified.
- China maintains that it will only ratify it after the U.S. does so but the Republican dominated Senate had rejected it in 1999.
- All three have also undertaken tests after 1996; India and Pakistan in May 1998 and North Korea six times between 2006 and 2017.
- Nevertheless, an international organisation to verify the CTBT was established in Vienna with a staff of about 230 persons and an annual budget of $130 million.
- Ironically, the U.S. is the largest contributor with a share of $17 million.
COMPETITION IS BACK
- The key change from the 1990s is that the U.S.’s unipolar moment is over and strategic competition among major powers is back.
- The U.S. now identifies Russia and China as ‘rivals’.\The U.S., therefore, has to expand the role of its nuclear weapons and have a more usable and diversified nuclear arsenal.
- Russia and China have been concerned about the U.S.’s growing technological lead particularly in missile defence and conventional global precision-strike capabilities.
- In addition, both countries are also investing heavily in offensive cyber capabilities.
- Instead, the Trump administration would like to bring China into some kind of nuclear arms control talks, something China has avoided by pointing to the fact that the U.S. and Russia still account for over 90% of global nuclear arsenals.
- Both China and Russia have dismissed the U.S.’s allegations, pointing to the Trump administration’s backtracking from other negotiated agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal or the U.S.-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
- Tensions with China are already high with trade and technology disputes, militarisation in the South China Sea and most recently, with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
- The U.S. could also be preparing the ground for resuming testing at Nevada.
- The Cold War rivalry was already visible when the nuclear arms race began in the 1950s.
- Resumption of nuclear testing may signal the demise of the ill-fated CTBT, marking the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race.