By Arhama Siddiqa.
Recently, former United State’s Defence Secretary William J. Perry, one of the nation’s learned men on national security, delivered a halting message when he prophesied that the world was about to be immersed in a new nuclear arms race and stated:“The danger of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than during the Cold War”.
President Trump only reaffirmed this when a day after sending shock waves around the globe with an alarming tweet about how the United States must “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” he expounded on his earlier statement, and managed only to deepen the world’s fears. “Let it be an arms race,” he with a warning to all nuclear adversaries that the United States “will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
With North Korea on the one hand threatening to test launch bigger and bigger missiles and President Donald Trump on the other hand tweeting the like is there any state leading by example when it comes to reducing worldwide nukes?
In fact the conclusion of the year 2016 showcased all nine nuclear weapon states either developing or deploying new weapon systems or at least announcing their intention to do so.
First up lets take France as an example. In spite of having reduced the overall size of its stockpiles of nukes, President Hollande has allocated an elephantine amount- 22 billion Euros- for the improvement of its nuclear deterrent capabilities. France has even developed a new range of nuclear missiles carrying “multiple warheads” and offering “longer range”.
Not far behind are the British who are still unswerving in their quest of spending billions on controversially upgrading and replacing their existing Trident arsenal. When the British Prime Minister Theresa May was asked if she was prepared to authorize a nuclear strike that could potentially kill hundreds of thousands of men, women and children? Her answer was: yes.
Concurrently, the Russians are contriving a new under water drone which has the ability to carry a thermonuclear weapon into foreign ports. In October, Russia completed nuclear-war training with 40 million civilians. It should also not be forgotten that President Putin threatened to use nuclear force over Crimea not so long ago.
Meanwhile China is in a league of its own. Superseding upgrading, the Chinese are actually increasing the overall size of their nuclear arsenal. China’s supposed“underground great wall” has the potential to hide as many as 3000 nuclear weapons.
It is time to face reality. Sure Donald Trump’s own predecessor talked the talk when he stated in a speech in Prague: “I state clearly and with conviction, America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.
Eight years after this address it is evident that he didn’t walk the walk.
Yes he did reduce the active stockpile of US nukes but what is the justification for the 1 trillion dollars that he devoted towards remodeling the US nuclear arsenal. It is also provides no validation for Washington’s green light for a new generation of steerable and smart tactical nuclear weapons including the first “smart” nuclear bomb – the most expensive of its kind ever built.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a group that aims to reduce nuclear dangers, reported that the risk of using nuclear weapons either by accident or by miscalculation is greater in contemporary times.
Hence, it is correct to be apprehensive when reports of how Trump once asked a foreign policy adviser multiple times “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons” emerge. However, it is also prudent to be well aware of the immense hypocrisy demonstrated by many of his critics, both at home and abroad.
The dangers of nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands does not only stem from terrorist groups like Islamic State, which would gladly steal or buy nuclear material on the black market, but also from the huge nuclear arsenals the United States, Russia and other big powers have been maintaining for over two decades.
Maybe it is time for countries to put a cap on their nuclear modernization and challenge other countries to do the same and capitalize in more life sustaining choices. Investing in diplomacy and international cooperation will go a long way. Expending in more nukes is an expensive and dangerous game which may lead to detrimental consequences ones that are irreversible.
Arhama Siddiqa is a LUMS and University of Warwick Alumnus. She is currently a research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. Her prime area of interest is World Politics and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org