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World Association of International Studies

PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post Ridding the World of Nuclear Weapons: Trust, but Verify
Created by John Eipper on 02/07/18 3:24 AM

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Ridding the World of Nuclear Weapons: Trust, but Verify (David Krieger, USA, 02/07/18 3:24 am)

I appreciate Istvan Simon's kind words (February 3rd) about returning to our home after the fire and floods in our community. It has been not only tragic, but also traumatic for many of us here.

Istvan challenges me to convert him to my point of view regarding nuclear weapons abolition. He seems to agree with me that a nuclear weapon-free world is desirable, but he questions its feasibility, primarily based upon the verifiability of a negotiated agreement to abolish nuclear weapons. Ronald Reagan, who ended up supporting the abolition of nuclear weapons, said, "Trust, but verify." So, if you find negotiated nuclear weapons abolition desirable, how do you develop confidence in verification?

First, negotiations must be phased. Countries can go as far as trust allows in each phase, building confidence along the way. On-site challenge inspections would be one means of verifying. Technical means using satellites would be another. The US and Russia have developed such means of verification that have allowed them to dismantle tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. Countries don't need to go immediately to zero; they need to be negotiating with each other, and then with the other nuclear weapons states to move as far as they can in any given phase. As parties to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they are required under Article VI of the treaty to engage in good-faith negotiations to end the nuclear arms race at an early date and to achieve complete nuclear disarmament. The problem is they are not fulfilling their obligations to negotiate and are, in fact, bolstering and "modernizing" their nuclear arsenals. As a consequence, they not making any progress at present. The recently released Trump Nuclear Posture Review makes nuclear war more likely by calling for development and deployment of new, smaller nuclear weapons that would be more likely to be used.

I would say to Istvan that, if he truly favors a world free of nuclear weapons, he should be joining me in pushing for negotiations toward that end. It is only through the process of negotiations that progress toward verifiability will be achieved. No side is obligated to go further in moving toward zero than their trust in verification allows at any given time. But there should be pressure on political leaders to be continually pursuing this end, rather than developing even stronger nuclear arsenals than those that already place the human future in serious danger. In addition, any threat or use of nuclear weapons would be illegal and immoral. Even the preparations for nuclear war are exceedingly costly.

Istvan, I hope you will join me and others throughout the world in calling for a nuclear weapons-free future, and help to stop the drift toward nuclear war--by accident, miscalculation or design. What is needed is the "political will" to end the nuclear weapons threat to humanity, including reliable systems of verification. Lacking this, we will continue to drift toward nuclear disaster.

JE comments:  If one nation "modernizes" its nukes, the others in the Club will be compelled to follow suit.  Trust indeed builds trust, but among nations it is forever in short supply.  (Trust within nations hasn't been doing so well, either.)

David, could you walk us through the concept of "challenge inspections"?  Does this mean other nations have the right to inspect at will, with no prior warning?

(Newer WAISers may not know that David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.  Visit the NAPF here:  https://www.wagingpeace.org .  Keep up the good fight, David!)


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