Op-Ed: How the nuclear weapons taboo is fading
This is the 10th in a series about the nuclear weapons taboo. To see the first four, click here.
Since the start of the nuclear arms race, there have been many efforts to push back the clock on nuclear proliferation in the face of mounting global danger. Many of these efforts have been spearheaded by the United States, with President Barack Obama launching a Nuclear Posture Review in 2014 to address the threat from North Korea and Iran.
While this debate about using nuclear weapons still rages, in certain quarters of the world it has seemingly taken a back seat. When the United Kingdom, France, and Germany recently proposed a treaty on nuclear weapons’ delivery and deterrence, there was little outcry from Russia, China, or other nations with nuclear weapons. Indeed, Chinese President Xi Jinping even made a point of criticizing the idea.
For the record, while nuclear treaties, treaties that would limit nuclear arms, and agreements aimed at reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons are all important, they lack a real world impact in addressing the underlying issue of nuclear proliferation. Many treaties have the effect of legalizing and, in some instances, incentivizing nuclear proliferation as a policy choice.
This is why, despite China’s criticism, the United States is working on new agreements with Russia, India, and even North Korea that seek to reduce or eliminate certain nuclear weapons as a means of controlling the proliferation threat.
Why is the nuclear weapons taboo still a major issue even with our closest military allies, and even with the president of the United States himself who has repeatedly denounced nuclear weapons themselves? Why are there so many initiatives designed to reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons, but none of these initiatives ever seem to get off the ground or, at least, to find the support of the public? And why are these initiatives not at the forefront of the US government’s nuclear weapons policy agenda?
To answer these questions, I have put together a list of the five leading nuclear weapons treaties in the world today and a few of the lesser-known initiatives that seek