President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev speak before signing the INF treaty on December 8, 1987. Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Can the nuclear nonproliferation regime be saved when arms control is collapsing?

By John Mecklin, March 1, 2020

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President Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev speak before signing the INF treaty on December 8, 1987. Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

When limits on nuclear weapons get public attention nowadays, the discussion generally focuses on the disintegration of this or that arms control agreement, and whether its diminishment or disappearance should or shouldn’t be lamented. So far, the Trump administration has lamented little, as many arms control and disarmament experts expressed alarm.

The United States’ withdrawal from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, its backing away from the Iran nuclear deal, and the impending lapse of New START – the treaty that limits US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear weapons – would indeed be worrisome enough, even considered in isolation from one another. Taken together, this broad erosion of the world’s infrastructure for controlling nuclear weapons arsenals is part of what the Bulletin Science and Security Board recently called “a new willingness of political leaders to reject the negotiations and institutions that can protect civilization over the long term.” In fact, this erosion was a major factor in the board’s decision to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock just 100 seconds from midnight – closer to the apocalypse than they have ever been.

As the coronavirus crisis shows, we need science now more than ever.

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Keywords: INF, INF Treaty, NPT
Topics: Nuclear Risk, Nuclear Weapons

 

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