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Nuclear Steps Undermine Peace

By abandoning many of the nuclear arms agreements negotiated in the last 50 years, the United States has been sending mixed signals to North Korea, Iran, and other nations with the technical knowledge to create nuclear weapons. Currently proposed agreements with India compound this quagmire and further undermine the global pact for peace represented by the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

At the same time, no significant steps are being taken to reduce the worldwide arsenal of almost 30,000 nuclear weapons now possessed by the US, Russia, China, France, Israel, Britain, India, Pakistan, and perhaps North Korea. A global holocaust is just as possible now, through mistakes or misjudgments, as it was during the depths of the Cold War.

The key restraining commitment among the five original nuclear powers and more than 180 other nations is the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Its key objective is “to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology...and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.” In the last five-year review conference at the United Nations in 2005, only Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea were not participating – the first three have nuclear arsenals that are advanced, and the fourth’s is embryonic.

The American government has not set a good example, having already abandoned the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, binding limitations on testing nuclear weapons and developing new ones, and a long-standing policy of foregoing threats of “first use” of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. These recent decisions have encouraged China, Russia, and other NPT signatories to respond with similar actions.