Is anyone else getting that “Cold War” feeling? Spies are being poisoned, diplomats are being expelled, everyone’s building walls, and global leaders are openly bragging about who has the biggest nuclear button. It feels like we’ve been here before.

On the one hand, there is hope that the announcement of talks between North Korea and the US demonstrates that everyone realises the importance of dialogue, leaving open the possibility of disarmament down the road. On the other hand, both Russia and the United States have reportedly put in place plans to expand their respective nuclear arsenals. Are we back to the bad old days of turning out nuclear missiles “like sausages”? Has the world given up on disarmament?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Athena, who argues that there hasn’t been any serious attempt at disarmament since the START treaty 27 years ago. Is she right to believe that progress has been stalled for decades?

To get a response, we put her comment to Susi Snyder, the Nuclear Disarmament Programme Manager for the peace organisation Pax in the Netherlands. What would she say to Athena?

Well, Athena, I can really understand where you’re coming from with this. It doesn’t feel like there has been any serious attempt, but in fact there has been. Just last year, 122 governments adopted a new treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. So, they set up a pathway forwards to get rid of all nuclear weapons. This is the first time ever that nuclear weapons have been made fully and comprehensively illegal. And while the nuclear-armed states didn’t participate, it still set a really clear framework and a rejection of the weapons overall, and that’s totally new, and a serious, significant attempt.

Not only that, but there was a treaty negotiated in 2010 between the US and Russia, called the New START treaty, and that has helped to bring numbers down. It’s not as good as rejecting and eliminating all nuclear weapons, but it was a small step in the right direction.

For another perspective, we also spoke to Anne Harrington, Lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University in the UK. Her research interests include nuclear deterrence, disarmament and nonproliferation. So, what would she say to Athena?

I would say that the idea that arms control is actually a mechanism for disarmament is something that has always been hotly debated in the US context, especially in academic circles, and there are many people who see arms control as a means to strategic stability, but they are very careful to distinguish that from any attempts at disarmament.

However, I’ve argued previously that the US does try to sell arms control as part of demonstrating its commitment to disarmament, particularly in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) context, and that’s basically an incredible pledge to disarm that the US has been advocating. They’re trying to show they have this commitment to disarmament through pointing to things like New START, but genuine commitment to disarmament has never been really fully taken on, at least in the US context. So, I would agree with Athena, and add that the START Treaty 27 years ago wasn’t actually a genuine attempt at disarmament either.

We also had a comment from Ted, who wonders why don’t we start with the “easy part” when it comes to nuclear disarmament, which he believes is the nuclear sharing arrangement between the US and five European NATO allies (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey). Ted believes this agreement violates the spirit (if not the exact letter) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Is he right?

How would Susi Snyder respond to Ted’s comment?

Well, Ted, I’ve got to agree with you: the NPT makes it really clear that countries should not give other countries nuclear weapons, and countries shouldn’t accept nuclear weapons from anyone else. So, these five countries – Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, and Turkey – are definitely violating the spirit of that treaty.

Also, what makes me really worried is that pilots in Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands – though not in Turkey – are training to drop American nuclear bombs. They’re not training to drop them in the middle of the ocean somewhere, they’re training to drop them on cities. And I don’t feel comfortable that my tax money is being used to potentially use nuclear weapons, and that’s not something anyone in Europe should feel good about. The planes can only reach targets within Europe. So, it’s a great first step to get the bombs out, and it’s something that can be done really quickly and easily, and does not require any new treaty negotiations because there are no legal requirements for them to be in Europe. They should go, it makes everybody safer, and it’s a great way to move the debate forward and to help us make a safer place to live in.

Finally, what would Anne Harrington say to the same comment?

This idea that nuclear sharing arrangements violate the spirit of the NPT is something the Russians have been pushing in the context of the NPT review conferences. They have come up with this argument only relatively recently, and it’s really a very revisionist reading of history because the history of the NPT negotiations were very much a history of the US and the Soviets continuing to work out what they had begun with the Limited Test Ban Treaty process, which was a settlement particularly looking at what West Germany’s relationship to nuclear weapons was going to be.

The US had originally proposed a much stronger nuclear sharing agreement, including the Multilateral Force proposal, and what we have today is actually a significant walking back of those early proposals. The Soviets were, in the 1960s, and important part of shaping what the nuclear sharing agreement looks like today, and the negotiation context of the NPT. So, I would actually question whether or not it violates the spirit of the NPT. That said, I do think that there are legitimate ways to push back against the idea of nuclear sharing from a disarmament perspective. I am just not sure that aligning ourselves with the Russian revisionist history of the NPT is the way to do it.

Has the world given up on nuclear disarmament? Is the international community backsliding when it comes to nukes? Or has progress been made? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) / BigStockPhoto – vchal – PORTRAIT CREDITS: (c) Cardiff University – Dr Anne Harrington, (c) PAX – Susi Snyder

30 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Nuclear disarmament was always just a none entity created to appease the slogan shouting left wing lunatics.

    • avatar

      Major T.J. Kong is that you?

    • avatar


  2. avatar

    Disarmament is impossible nor is it desirable. Had America and Russia not had nukes WW3 would have already happened several times with tens of millions of victims from conventional weapons. Non proliferation is a more realistic goal.

    • avatar

      I second that position.

  3. avatar

    if the mericans dont mess with the entire world , probably no one have nuclear bombs…

  4. avatar

    Why does the future Kingdom of England and Wales need nukes? Yes, it is time to get rid of these dangerous weapons.

    • avatar

      A very simple answer to your question. The primary role of any government is the protection of the people who elected it from any and all threats. Now those threats to the UK are mainly Russia and the European Union.

    • avatar

      Threatening genocide is a war crime – nuclear weapons have no place in civilisation. and they do not really proect anyone, especially the future Kingdom of England and Wales.

    • avatar

      @JD If it wasn’t for the British & American nuclear deterrent you would still be a citizen of the Great Soviet empire, is that truly what you want ?

    • avatar

      @Ivan no, that’s exactly true – but if you want to believe such things, you are welcome to that fiction LOL Actual History is a bit more complicated than that.

    • avatar

      @JD By the way knowing an inevitable outcome is not ‘Threatening genocide’ so no war crime as been commuted. :)

    • avatar

      @JD I wonder if the Russians would have taken Crimea if Ukraine still had its nuclear warheads ? somehow I doubt it. As you say, history is the proof.

    • avatar

      Ukraine is a member of NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” (PfP) program and that didn’t stop the Russians. Just saying.

    • avatar

      What has NATO got to do with Ukraine getting rid of the nuclear weapons ? .. Just asking.

  5. avatar

    Social media turm nore effective than boms ;-)

  6. avatar

    With 2 mad and dangerous asses leading the Us and Russia of course Nuclear arms are once again on the rise.

  7. avatar

    ‘Nuclear deterrence’ is a type of psychological warfare that only warmonging bullies can understand. Once our leaders come to terms with the simple fact that we live on the same one planet and that collaboration is going to be more fruitful than deterrence, we will be able to burry the armament once and for all, and look at today’s times like the good old middle ages of civilisation. For that we would probably need more women in charge finally. I think the social trends are pointing to such progress towards more humanistic and holistic values. However I fear that the way we are undermining ecological integrity may give rise to such pressures that we never quite make it, and are forced to fall back on petty infighting.

  8. avatar

    1)Most countries will not give up their nukes. It is power.

    2)Russia and US could lower amount, but replace it with “tactical” nukes or “larger” nukes.

    3)Even if you give up nuclear weapons…
    There are many devastating weapons of various types.

  9. avatar

    Nope, and they shouldnt be. To counter US and EU agression.

  10. avatar

    no country who can afford it has ever given up arming themselves.

  11. avatar

    Has the world given up on nuclear disarmament?

    That is an absurd question.The world has proliferated nuclear weapons not given them up. But, it is more than a question it is again trying to persuade the citizen of a myth the globalists want to exacerbate.

    More countries have WMD than are saying. Israel one of the biggest hoarders for many years.

  12. avatar

    We are getting the cold war feeling because we are in the middle of a Thucydides Trap between the rising power of China and U.S. and the re-establishing power of Russia and U.S. The EU is just left behind because of internal squabbles.
    Now, going to the question for nuclear disarmament, it never existed. Countries never planned to disarm, they only wanted to contain that in case of war there are safeguard for humanity. Conflict is inevitable and war is its expression, but the size of it varies and that is what we see in the world today. So rather than focusing on the question of disarmament, we should focus on development of defense systems to make them obsolete. Going backwards has never worked so we can only hope to find the solution in the future.

  13. avatar

    Nuclear dismantlement was just a political tool to shut up the lunatic left wing CND mob, it was never a real thing.

    • avatar

      Adriano Which part of my comment would you like me to explain, I thought it was pretty obvious what I meant.

  14. avatar

    Right, anyone in their right mind will surely give nukes up after seeing what happened with Ukraine that got rid of world’s third largest nuclear arsenal after being guaranteed safety. Turns out guarantees like that mean nothing, and having nukes is indeed the best way to prevent being attacked.

  15. avatar

    Nuclear disarmament is a chimera. This is one genie that we’ll never get back into the bottle. Non-proliferation and limitation are the best achievable goals.

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