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After writing the last article you may have been left slightly sceptical about the prospect of a full scale nuclear arms war. Shortly after the nuclear arms race had reached its apex, the international community felt the same. This is why in 1968 the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, more commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, was signed. The treaty entered into force in 1970 and was signed by 190 countries, excluding four UN member states and one withdrawal, which was North Korea. The primary objectives of the treaty are to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, increase international security and cooperation and lastly to encourage a gradual complete disbarment of nuclear arms.
The treaty officially recognises five states which possess nuclear arms. These are the UK, USA, Russia, France and China which are all permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations. This is no coincidence; in fact it seems to fit perfectly into the idea that the permanent members of the Security Council have gained an overarching power above that of all other nations. Indeed they always sit on the Security Council unlike the other ten seats which change frequently. The non-Proliferation Treaty assigned a special organisation known as IAEA to monitor all nations suspect of having nuclear arms. Despite what the treaty recognises, it seems that other states, which include Pakistan and India, have also been said to be in possession of these weapons. One of the worst kept secrets of international relations is that of Israel. Albeit its constant denial there is substantial evidence to believe that Israel has been constructing its own nuclear weapons. It is also thought that North Korea decided to abandon the treaty to start its own nuclear pile stock. The IAEA is only allowed to check those countries that have signed the treaty therefore from the moment in which North Korea left the agreement no organisation was able to monitor its stockpile.
The call for disarmament in the treaty has been successful for some countries. For example both South Africa and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons. In the case of Ukraine in return for this kind gesture it was guaranteed its own sovereignty – although today we know that Russia strongly undermines the nation’s borders. The big question remains: do the five big powers intend on giving up their own stock piles any time soon? Soon after the tragedy of Hiroshima US President Truman gave a speech on the horrific event and depicted nuclear arms as a tool or war and almost a quick and easy tool to end conflict. Swiftly after, however, politicians worldwide realised the true monstrosity of these weapons and recognised the need to restrict them.
States can gain nuclear weapons both horizontally and vertically. By horizontally, we intend that there can be an increase in previous non-nuclear states gaining access to nuclear weapons whereas vertically refers to states that already own nuclear weapons and then increase their stockpile. The Non-Proliferation Treaty seeks to eliminate both of these pathways to nuclear arms yet its success is debatable. In terms of horizontal ways of obtaining nuclear weapons the treaty hasn’t quite reached its goal as we have gone from five states owning nuclear arms to an estimated ten states, so the number has doubled. Vertically, however, the treaty has been slightly more effective as both the US and Russia have slowly and steadily decreased their stockpiles in a mirror fashion. The reason these two nations decrease their numbers at the same pace is so that neither one can have the upper hand and pose a bigger nuclear threat to the other. But to what extent will these states decrease their stockpile? Will we ever once again live in a world without nuclear weapons or is this simply the beginning of the end for the Non-Proliferation Treaty?