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August 17, 2009 |  10 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Topic Focus on Intermediate Steps

Subrata Ghoshroy: Global Zero is not feasible unless the security concerns of all nations are addressed. A world free of nuclear weapons depends on conventional disarmament, deeper cuts in the US and Russian arsenals and a ban to further produce nuclear weapons.

The need for disarmament and eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons was enshrined in the Article VI of the 1968 Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Yet, the nuclear weapon holding states gave little more than lip service toward that goal.

To be sure, there have been large reductions in strategic weapons through bilateral agreements between the US and the USSR followed by Russia. Yet, despite these reductions, four decades later, there are still thousands of weapons split between the two countries which have made little qualitative difference in the overall scenario.

Few other countries pursued them during the Cold War standoff. It was only Israel and South Africa who had actually developed nuclear weapons during this period other than France, the United Kingdom, and China - already recognized as nuclear weapon states under the NPT.

However, the collapse of the old order and the subsequent unilateral military actions of the US contributed to the drive to acquire nuclear weapons by a number of countries - India, Pakistan, North Korea, and possibly Iran - all located in conflict zones. It is also clear that all these countries have taken this route to mitigate their own security concerns. This is true even for North Korea, an easy whipping boy and poster child for "irrationality."

Gen. John Wickham, former US Army Chief of Staff and Commander of the US forces in Korea said in a recent Arizona Daily Star article that "North Koreans understandably are paranoid about security and they feel increasingly isolated." He should know. These words could also equally apply to Iran.

I would argue that achieving global zero would not be feasible unless the security concerns of all nations are addressed. Wolfgang Ischinger, a Global Zero Commissioner, said in a recent interview that "the atomic bomb is a great leveler. That's why a world free of nuclear weapons is only feasible if there is conventional disarmament as well." I agree.

While this perspective is necessary in order to be realistic, it should not keep us from embarking on the project itself. The same reasoning could be applied to people who are worried that "zero" cannot be verified. There is also a historical precedence with a single country possessing nuclear weapons in the kiloton range, which is what might be expected from a rogue state or non-state actor's bomb in the future.

In the interim, the focus should be on deeper cuts in the US and Russian arsenals to get down below 1000 warheads to be followed by other weapon holding states declared, or otherwise, in a step by step manner as proposed by many. It is not necessary that they be sequential. Regional disarmament may be possible at the same time, especially in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula as we move toward an eventual global zero.

The great majority of the world's nations are signatories to the treaty banning chemical weapons, which were known as a poor man's nuclear weapon. The important thing is to similarly delegitimize nuclear weapons as soon as possible and start a gradual dismantlement of the design and manufacturing complexes. One should note that the Chemical Weapons Convention came into force more than a decade ago and it would be many more years hence before the stockpiles are completely destroyed. But its production and use are banned in a verifiable manner.

A convention banning further production of nuclear weapons and components would make it unnecessary to retain the large weapon complexes in both US and Russia. It would be possible to maintain the shrinking stockpile with a much smaller enterprise charged simply with maintaining the safety of the weapons.

Recent experimental results from the US stockpile stewardship program have reportedly determined that the so-called aging problem with the plutonium pits will not be an issue in the next hundred years. This should definitively negate the arguments of the advocates of a return to testing. None will be needed. Now, there may be other issues with the weapons performance in the next ten or twenty years, which we need to find out quickly. In this regard, why not think about a joint US-Russia effort to work out the physics issues and build confidence at the same time?

Subrata Ghoshroy is a Research Associate with the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. He was formerly a Senior Defense Analyst with the Government Accountability Office.

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Jens  Heinrich

August 17, 2009

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this article shows a good pathway not to nuclear disarmament. it even combines nuclear and conventional weaponry and disarmament. that is smart, because when we look to South Asia we see that Pakistan treats its nuclear weapons as an assurance against India's nuclear weapons AND its conventional forces (the same may hold true for Russia's tactical nuclear weapons with regard to NATO's conventional (qualitative) superiority)...
one point is made in this article which deserves greater emphasis: there is a need to delegitimize nuclear weapons. I argue that all disarmament steps are fruitless as long as states see nuclear weapons as a currency of international status. this does not mean that security considerations are less important, and they may explain nuclear ambitions of states like North Korea (or even Iran). But for the "official" nuclear powers, I can see no security threat. does France face an immidiate threat? does UK? Maybe it is this special thing about nuclear weapons that make their reduction or disarmament less likely: when you have it, you have a certain standing in the world you do not want to lose.
 
Jens  Heinrich

August 17, 2009

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I forgot the word "only" in the first sentence: I meant "this article shows a good pathway not only to nuclear..."

sorry for that
 
Colette Grace Mazzucelli

August 17, 2009

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Thank you for this commentary, Mr. Ghoshroy. I read your reflections with interest after listening to the Israeli Ambassador to the United States who was interviewed on Fareed Zakaria GPS yesterday.

In Ambassador Michael Oren's words, "Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East." I would suggest respectfully that as we think about concrete plans for disarmament, there must be a willingness to acknowledge a state's possession of nuclear weapons in this region.

I agree with your assertion that states take the nuclear route to mitigate their security concerns. In so doing, these same states simultaneously enter into security dilemmas. Witness the actions of Iran, which one may argue are a direct response to that country's perception of its own regional security vis-a-vis Israel's nuclear capacity and the United States' military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I agree with your assessment that the initial steps must be taken by Russia and the United States to reduce their arsenals significantly in the years to come. Verification is the area where it is possible "to lead by the power of example," in former President Clinton's words.

The success of these initiatives depends in large part on the US capacity to persuade Israel to forego the nuclear option as a matter of national interest. This is already the major diplomatic challenge without suggesting the requirement to pursue conventional disarmament in order to create the climate for a Middle Eastern “zone free of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction,” (WMD) including “their delivery systems.”

American leadership faces this reality in the run-up to the 2010 General Assembly. During the September 24, 2010 summit meeting of the Council, President Barack Obama will have the opportunity to make initiatives that support the goal to realize in time a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which the signatories set in the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.

United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice's remarks at New York University this past week are relevant in this context,

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/08/12/a_new_course_in_th...

Sincere regards and greetings from New York, Colette Mazzucelli
Tags: | NPT 1995/2010 |
 
Greg Randolph Lawson

August 17, 2009

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At my blog, I have begun writing extensively on what I consider the new "Golden Age of Proliferation." I think it is evident that putting the genie of nuclear weapons back in the bottle is a quixotic campaign that will ultimately lead nowhere.

Obviously, "Global Zero" is an aspirational goal. That said, how do we verify? Perhaps, even more importantly, how do we seriously address the "security dilema?"

I would agree that if we were able to resolve the security issues of the nations' seeking to acquire nuclear weaponry, we might be able to dicentivize rampant proliferation. However, isn't that nearly as quixoctic an ideal as dealing with "Global Zero" itself? In other words, what came first, the chicken or the egg? Nuclear weapons were generated because there has always been "security dilemas."

Some dilemas are legitimate and can be addressed through meaningful diplomacy and multilateral institutions. However, even rational regimes may make irrational decisions based on irrational assumptions that take us into the realm of psychology. How can that be dealt with now any more fundamentally than in the age of Thucydides?

Additionally, even if the "security dilema" could be resolved and provide a disincentive to acquisition of nuclear weapons, what of the non-status quo power (state based or otherwise) that has unlimited ambitions? Would it not be rational to obtain such weapons as a method of blackmail (or worse) in a world where others are disarmed? Isn't maintaining the flexibility inherent in a deterrent force necessary to provide stability?

I maintain that even if we think we're providing the right disincentives for going nuclear by showing a glowing moral example, we still won't really be able to guarantee rogue elements won't pursue them anyway.

Finally, the irony in the "Global Zero" debate is that nuclear weapons have largely resolved the issue of great power conflict. Since World War II, no "great powers" have engaged in a war amongst themselves, at least not directly (though I am well aware of proxy conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, the Soviet-Afghan war in the 80s). Rather, conflict has been between regional powers or have been essentially civil wars (such as Iran-Iraq War, the multiple Congo conflicts, the various Yugoslav wars). I would argue the fear of raising tensions to the nuclear threshold created an admittedly imperfect stability. While that "stability" is not nearly as stable as many previous MAD advocates might argue, the fact that there was no "Dr. Strangelove" moment says something profound.

Is the highly touted greater relative peace of the moment a product of higher morality, or of a recognition of limited utility? Could we reopen the Pandora's Box of reinvigrating new great power conflict so long as the costs remained in the "conventional" rather than "nuclear" realm? At the very least, this must be a consideration when looking to go to "Zero."

So while we face a truly frightening prospect of proliferation to a multitude of actors beyond the proverbial "great powers", do we face the same quasi existential threat we faced during the heigth of the Cold War? I think not.

Consequently, while by definition nuclear weapons are dangerous and the shadow of catastrophe remains looming over the world, there is no way to go backwards in time. We can't "unsteal" the fire our modern day Prometheans have bestowed upon us. The best choice is to be wise in our application of this gravest of all weapons. The worst choice is to be lulled into a sense of false hope by the siren song of utopian visions not grounded in a realistic assessment of the human nature that drives all human actions in this world.
 
Clayton  Macdonald

August 17, 2009

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I could hardly agree more with Subrata Ghoshroy: “Global Zero is not feasible unless the security concerns of all nations are addressed.” Conversely, the security concerns of all nations cannot be addressed without Global Zero – a neat conundrum.

Again stressing the need for broad disarmament, Mr. Ghoshroy quoted Wolfgang Ishinger: “the atomic bomb is a great leveler. That's why a world free of nuclear weapons is only feasible if there is conventional disarmament as well.” Again, I agree. But I would like to point out that, in order for any extensive disarmament to happen, the leveling effect of weaponry needs to be replaced by some other leveling effect. The fact of the matter is, and it's an issue that makes some leaders and some citizen activists particularly indignant, the world is embarrassingly unlevel and has far too few leveling effects of any significance. To attempt to take away one of the few that exists, and perhaps the one that seems the most intuitively effective, will be a mighty struggle – unless something equally appealing is offered in its stead.

Mr. Ghoshroy skillfully showed that there are precedents for controlling heinous weapons and that it is technically practicable to control nukes as well. But in addition, the need to address security is vital and stripping the smaller, weaker kid of his weapons is only going to make the kid feel more vulnerable in a schoolyard that has one or more unpredictable bullies.

Complicating that sense of vulnerability, each head of government believes she acts in her country's and/or nation's best interest, but that interest is often so deeply entangled with the leader's personal interests that she may well see little or no difference. Thus, we sometimes have leaders who will take desperate measures to satisfy or control elite constituents at home, even at great cost to the country they lead, rather than risk loosing power. This entanglement and desperation is sometimes so great that the desire for “leveling” is dramatically overshot into demands for, in effect, roll reversal. The little kid dreams of being the bully to get revenge, and may well become a bully on her home turf.

So, if we are interested in escaping constant instability, well illustrated by the pursuit of ever more powerful weaponry, then we need to provide powerful and effective levelers among the country's of Earth, and we need to remove explicit and implicit career ceilings that drive innovative, but honest, people to use both offensive and defensive dishonesty in order to advance their ambitions.

Thanks to Ms. Mazzucelli for the link to Ambassador Rice's speech at NYU. Although I would argue with certain passages, when I read such words of support for the UN, and coming from the US, I feel a little spark of hope, a little spark of belief in the great potential of competent government. It gives me a needed reminder that there are many honest public servants who work quietly and hard for a stable future. It gives substance to the already hackneyed slogan, “yes, we can.”
 
Nikolina-Romana  Milunovic

August 18, 2009

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Thank you for your comments!
I also believe that US-Russian cooperation is the quintessence of all global zero ambitions. Following the Global Zero Commission’s Action plan the abolition of nuclear weaponry by the US and Russia alone would reduce the world’s nuclear arsenal by 95%. However, the reoccurring question remains: How do we guarantee that other countries will be encouraged to follow the lead? Just imagine the impact of this sort of strategic game-changer. Even one single nuclear bomb could reshape the global power equilibrium then.
Mr. Macdonald, you suggest that “we need to provide powerful and effective levelers among the country's of Earth” – I agree, but shouldn’t punishment for a failure to comply with international agreements also be intensified? More carrots AND more sticks?
 
Clayton  Macdonald

August 18, 2009

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Ms Milunovic,

"but shouldn’t punishment for a failure to comply with international agreements also be intensified? More carrots AND more sticks?"

Probably. The problem is punishment breeds defiance. Rewards, however, are like honey to flies.

I estimate that most heads of governments and para-governments feel insecure in their positions. They jockeyed to get there and they know others are doing the same. They feel under threat from within their organizations and from without. Increasing the threats generally causes them to hunker down into ever more defensive positions. Under those circumstances, threatening to punish them if they don't give up a major means of defense is likely to generate a much more defensive attitude, possibly a defensive attitude that becomes offensive.

Certainly any rewards should be carefully designed so that they are most conveniently realized by complying with international norms. And any proposed punishments, likewise, should be designed so as to be as non-threatening as possible while also encouraging adoption of international norms.

True, some leaders are in the position where the terms of their power are completely incompatible with international norms, such that they cannot conform to norms without undermining their power base. Short of going to war, the only hope is to work with these leaders to slowly nudge them toward sanity while, at the same time, pressing hard to build open, rational, transparent, efficient, and honest global governance. But until that has been achieved and international norms have become stronger, I fear punishment will remain relatively ineffective unless it is carried to the point of open war.
 
Donald  Stadler

August 18, 2009

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"How do we guarantee that other countries will be encouraged to follow the lead?"

That is the essential question indeed. Were the US and Russia to completely nuclearly disarm, followed by the UK, France, China, South Africa, Pakistan, and India, the world would change. North Korea would be the sole nuclear power absent some kind of miracle. This is simply not going to happen; Japan would find it neccessary to develop nuclear warheads to counter North Korea, and China would be obliged to keep some of it's warheads as well.

I don't think anyone wishes this to happen. The thing which would not change is the incentive for developing nuclear arms would not go away; arguably it would get stronger, because this would then be a unique form of power.
 
Colette Grace Mazzucelli

August 18, 2009

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Hello Atlantic-Community.org Colleagues and Friends,

The point about Japan is one that interests me as well in the Asian balance.

The nuclear threat from North Korea and the historical antagonism with China provide the grounds for a reassessment of nuclear options among LDP nationalists:

http://www.fpa.org/topics_info2414/topics_info_show.htm?doc_id=991759

By the way, Donald, did you see the NYT article about Japan's economic rebound yesterday?

Japan (2009): on the rebound or second Lost Decade? http://bit.ly/19l2c9 was one of my entries on Twitter.

Here is the full link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/business/global/17econ.html

The aging of the Japanese population is cited as one of the factors that speaks to the possibility of another Lost Decade... With the economic prowess in question, will national security be defined in other, more military, terms?

Other countries would follow the lead if their perception is that possession of nuclear weapons does not provide for their national security, that their very existence poses a threat to the national interest rather than security against rivals.

How do we change the perceptions of these weapons in a world in which nuclear deterrence is still viewed as a value-added in terms of international recognition? North Korea and Iran would have to come out of isolation without the threat to go nuclear. Other incentives would have to be put in place for these countries to join the international community.

A rethinking of national and international security would have to lead and remain at the top of the global agenda. This is one of the strongest tests of leadership we face.

Greetings from New York, Colette Mazzucelli
 
Donald  Stadler

August 18, 2009

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Dear Collette,

Thank you for directing me to that NY Times piece, it is indeed interesting. My feeling is that a bounceback was inevitable this year, According to things I've read the volume of German and Japanese exprts dropped so sharply over the past years (some sources report as much as 50%) that even a slowing in the rate of decline would be bound to show an improvement.

What I mean is that the enormous dropoff in world trade was caused by fear of a great depression and complete uncertainty about the future among consumers and companies investing in capital equipment. I think the consensus is we're having a depression, but a milder one than the Great Depression, closer to the period 1979-1982 in severity. ASnd we seem to have avoided a full-blown trade war, unlike the 30's. So wiht more certainty to our outlook for the future, some consumption was going to come back, and with that, trade. Japan suffered the worst drop so it makes sense that their trade would recover most sharply, which it seems to have done.

The problem I see is that the fundamental problem causing the crisis is a failure of demand or overcapacity (take your pick). They are two sides of the same coin. Ambrose Pritchard of the Telegraph writes:

"Mr Lin said capacity use had fallen to 72pc in Germany, 69pc in the US, 65pc in Japan, and near 50pc in some poorer countries. These are post-War lows. Fresh data from the Federal Reserve is actually worse. Capacity use in US manufacturing fell to 65.4pc in July. "

"As a matter of strict fact, two- thirds of the global economy is already in “deflation-lite”. US prices fell 2.1pc in July year-on-year, the steepest drop since 1950. Import prices are down 7.3pc, even after stripping out energy. At almost every stage over the last year, in almost every country (except Britain), deflationary forces have proved stronger than expected. "

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/6...

Pritchard quotes economist Professor James Livingston of Rutgers University, who says the past decade with it's widening gap in incomes has led to an investment boom while depressing salaries in the West, forming a yawning gap between production and demand.

Livingstone dissents from the view of Milton Freidman (and Ben Bernacke) that the Great Depression was a 'credit event' which can be fixed quickly by injecting liquidity into global markets, and the data cited above seem to support Livingstone's view.

Normally we might expect that rising incomes in India and China would lead to a consumption boom in those courtries which would offset income losses in the West, but that doesn't seem to be happening because the rising exports seem to be retained by companies and the rich in those countries. With incomes rising little in those countries the money has been directed into an investment boom, whihc has led to massive overcapacity.

The production boom has depressed factory wages in the West. In past recessions income and demand from people in the services industries could be expected to offset this somewhat, but not this time, because over the past decade service jobs in the west have been under an even more concerted assault by 'Outsourcing', 'Downsizing', 'Rightsizing' movements. The centre cannot hold because it is no longer there - it has been downsized.

This certainly has been my experience. My employment pays considerably less than it did a decade ago, and is much less secure. I consume much less than I did and save as much as I can because the future looks dark and uncertain. Between the pay cuts and periods of unemployment my gross income has fallen probably by 30-40%, and I think this fairly typical of many service workers in the US and the UK. Probably in Europe nd Japan as well.

So the answer is to level income distribution according "Mr Livingston’s “Left-Keynesian” view". Pritchard asked: "back to socialism"? Perhaps, I would say. But back to the New Deal, not so much to "The Great Society", in my view. Don't forget that FDR was death on the dole, though he did eventually establish a small and circumscribed AFDC programme which grew much larger during the 60's and 70's. FDR's programme was about giving a living wage to working people. And there is no denying it worked in the long run because higher incomes led to higher demand. Something similar is needed today, hopefully led by India and China.
 

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