Whether the cities of the world go down in nuclear flames resulting in a “nuclear winter” with only the cockroaches left, or not, may depend on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
This spring marks the 50th anniversary of the Treaty. Every five years the treaty is revisited by its signatories. From April 27-May 22 at the United Nations, it is planned that 190 non-nuclear countries and the five admitted nuclear states will meet to hopefully reaffirm and strengthen the first-line defense against the spread of nuclear weapons.
“The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is an essential pillar of international peace and security, and the heart of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “Its unique status is based on its near universal membership, legally-binding obligations on disarmament, verifiable non-proliferation safeguards regime, and commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
The NPT is the best effort the world has come up with to protect us all from nuclear weapons; it is nearly universal and has been remarkably effective; unfortunately, it is in peril. The U.S. may be intending to weaken the treaty and to prevent other countries from strengthening it. The reason would be that the Trump administration wants no treaty that it perceives as constraining U.S. intentions.
Nuclear weapons have been the capstone of the U.S. capability of maintaining dominance over the world; and at the same time, the world’s ball and chain that creates its resulting proliferation, and puts the world in grave danger. The U.S. is the only country to have used nuclear weapons — on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing at least 150,000 civilians outright, and tens of thousands subsequently.
According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the worldwide total inventory of nuclear weapons as of 2019 stood at 13,865, of which 3,750 were deployed with operational forces. In early 2019, more than 90% of the world’s 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States. Five thousand of these, approximately, are operational, many of which may be launched within minutes. These include 49 in Colorado, east and north of Greeley, each up to 60 times the power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It seems that as the other signatory countries to the NPT have moved toward reducing the nuclear threat, the U.S. has taken the position that nuclear weapons are acceptable tools of warfare that it will use to achieve a variety of goals. The implication that the selective use of nuclear weapons in ordinary warfare is lawful signifies acceptance of the end of nuclear non-proliferation as the goal. If it is legal and moral for one country to use nuclear weapons when it considers interests that it alone defines as vital to be at stake, it is legitimate for any country to do so.
Those of us who were in New York City for the NPT conference in 2005 attended the huge peace march and rally against nuclear weapons on the day before the NPT Conference began. As the sun came out brilliantly after a rainy morning, the marchers arrived in Central Park, banners flying, led by 1,500 Japanese people, many of them “Hibakusha,” the deeply respected survivors of the 1945 U.S. bombings.
The 2020 NPT Conference could easily end in acrimony if the U.S. blocks agreements that would impose new commitments for the U.S. Speak out in every way you know, to demand that the U.S. is a full partner to a strengthened NPT.