China's first nuclear missile Teh Eng Koon/Getty Images

The Wrong Way to Prevent Nuclear War

A vast majority of countries want to eliminate the existential threat of nuclear catastrophe by ushering in a world free of nuclear weapons altogether. But as the current effort to push through a flawed nuclear-ban treaty shows, some solutions to the problem of nuclear weapons could do more harm than good.

STOCKHOLM – A vast majority of countries want to eliminate the existential threat of nuclear catastrophe, and rightly so. But achieving a world free of nuclear weapons is easier said than done, and there is a risk that some attempts to do so could prove self-defeating.

Since the end of the Cold War, nuclear stockpiles around the world have been significantly reduced. Russia and the United States have each shrunk their nuclear arsenals by 80%, and during Barack Obama’s presidency, the US urged Russia to pursue further reductions. In Western Europe, the United Kingdom and France have both made their already small arsenals even smaller.

These countries had various reasons for reducing their stockpiles. But, as signatories to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the foundation of global efforts to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons – they also had an obligation to do so.

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