The U.S is preparing for a major renewal of nuclear arms. A recent federal study has estimated the collective cost of this armament project will amount up to a trillion dollars over the next three decades. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine encouraged this and, “made any measure to reduce the stockpile unilaterally impossible”. Samore’s comments encapsulate the status quo regarding weapons of mass destruction; it is a necessity in order to force one’s opponents to refrain from attack commonly refered to as the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Conflicts between Palestine and Israel coupled with the recent activity of I.S militants, demonstrate that although we are not embroiled in a world war this certainly is a world at war. Many argue that MAD maintains peace in such an uncertain world. However, I believe the possession of Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMDs) heightens the possibility of conflict through its creation of a culture of fear and suspicion between nations. The nuclear expansion initiated by the Obama administration will exacerbate these existing tensions.
The Cold War is the prime example of MAD. One of this period’s most precarious points was undoubtedly the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). It was a culmination of antagonism between two opposing ideologies. The fate of the world was subject to the push of a button. However, actions were being undertaken long before to reach this peak.
Krushchev proposed sharp reductions in offensive weapons, in an attempt to recover from the World War and cure the USSR’s economic backwardness.
However, the Kennedy administration, as with America today, opted for military expansion. The Soviet response was to place missiles in Cuba in October 1962. The result was what is arguably the closest we have ever come to nuclear warfare and seems to challenge the integrity of the MAD argument.
However, others argue that WMDs also provide us with influence. In 1957, Nye Bevan stated that unilateral disarmament would, “send a foreign secretary naked into the conference chamber”. However, other nations, such as Australia and Canada do not possess nuclear weapons but still exert much influence.
Ultimately, the U.S government must ask if nuclear weapons are worth the risk. The United States spends more than $60 billion annually on nuclear armaments. At a time of austerity, when ordinary people are having their living standards slashed, surely it is unfair that such amounts should be spent on something which has the potential to destroy all complex life forms on Earth.
It would take 0.1 per cent of the explosive yield of the current global nuclear arsenal to cause agricultural collapse and widespread famine. This may not even occur due to aggression, earlier this year a Chatham House report stated that the risk of nuclear accidents is rising. The report lists 13 incidents since 1962 where nuclear weapons were nearly launched by mistake.
It is time for the major powers, such as the U.S to take the brave steps towards nuclear disarmament. As Desmond Tutu said in a recent article for The Guardian, America is provoked into anger by nuclear tests in countries such as North Korea, but proliferating states will not heed those which possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Only when the major powers forsake such arms will we prevent their spread.