By Pantelis Ikonomou (former IAEA nuclear inspector)
The United States and Russia are building up their nuclear capabilities in an actio – reactio mode. The other seven nuclear weapon states are following quietly. A globe without nukes is becoming utopian.
The spiral of fear moves steadily faster and higher. The risk of a catastrophic derailing of global peace grows. Accident or miscalculation will not ultimately matter. We all know it is going to be tragic. The two big powers know it much best. Yet, the spiral continues. Moscow and Washington think that the opponent will give up first. As in the 1980s, when Reagan with his gigantic and extremely expensive Star Wars plans drove the Soviet Union to collapse.
No-one should be surprised. The nuclear escalation game started some time ago. In October 2016, a month before President Trump’s election, Russian President Putin suspended two nuclear agreements with the US and terminated a third one, all related to nuclear disarmament and bilateral cooperation in nuclear science and technology. The agreements had been valid since 2000 and were considered exemplars of the effort by the two strongest opponents of the Cold War towards a peaceful rapprochement.
What happened and why the change? Despite Putin’s explanation, ‘‘a consequence of the Crimea sanctions,’’ many saw his nuclear decisions as an attempt to strengthen his position in anticipation of Donald Trump winning the US presidential elections. Since Trump had already expressed surprisingly irrational nuclear positions, Putin wanted to take the initiative. Shortly after Trump’s election, both presidents announced in December 2016, as if in pre-agreement, that their countries would pursue expansion and modernization of their nuclear arsenals.
The US president has continued his aggressive pro-nuclear policy, encouraging friendly States to develop nuclear weapons, showing disrespect to the UN’s responsible global watchdog (the International Atomic Energy Agency), and degrading the Iran deal (JCPOA). In December 2017 president Trump announced the National Security Strategy and in the beginning of February 2018 the Pentagon presented the Nuclear Posture Review. Both documents stated that in upcoming years US nuclear capability will be strengthened and its nuclear arsenal modernized. Reason given: deterrence of Russia.
It did not take long for Moscow to reply. Russia cancelled talks with the ‘’unfriendly’’ US on strategic stability, set for March 6 and 7 in Vienna. A few days earlier the US ‘’snubbed’’ a meeting with Russia in Geneva on cybersecurity. Then last Thursday Putin in a highly impressive and nuclear-heavy State of the Nation Address announced an array of new Russian nuclear weapon systems ‘‘ready for operation.’’ They included difficult to detect ICBMs carrying multidirectional nuclear warheads capable of reaching the US over the South Pole, underwater long distance torpedoes loaded with the strongest ever nuclear warhead, and ultrasonic missiles. Furthermore, nuclear mini reactors would power Mars satellites ‘‘under development’’ aimed to outsmart enemy defense systems.
As a nuclear Safeguards inspector, I carried out stringent inspections to prevent nuclear proliferation for many years in states like Libya, South Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina and many others. These missions were performed in accordance with the countries’ Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments, including their binding obligation to undergo rigorous international inspections.
How can I understand your rationale for what the speechless world is now witnessing? You are the world leaders and main initiators of the NPT regime and are now consciously revitalizing a nuclear race, 28 years after the end of the Cold War!This is contrary to your international undertaking under the NPT (Article VI) “… to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament …”.
Can you not recognize the high risk of jeopardizing the integrity of the non-proliferation architecture? Do you not see the imminent risk of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation by aspiring candidates in the Middle East and in North East Asia? Is North Korea not enough? Can you not assess the growing nuclear threat to humanity?
hellasjournal.com (by mignatiou.com)