Nuclear arms control outlook bleak amid rapid modernisation: report

A report by researchers deems the outlook of nuclear arms control bleak owing to the reluctance of states to abide by NPT rules, and their relentless pursuit of modernising their arsenals.

Nuclear arms control outlook bleak

Nuclear powers continue to modernise their arsenals, researchers said Monday, warning that tensions were rising, deeming that the nuclear arms control outlook “bleak“. This compounds the nuclear spectrum of problems that are faced by the world, even as it struggles to free itself from the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The loss of key channels of communication between Russia and the USA… could potentially lead to a new nuclear arms race,” said Shannon Kile, director of the nuclear arms control programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and co-author of the report.

Russia and the US account for more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Nuclear arms control outlook bleak: new START not to have much impact

Kile was referring to the future of the New START treaty between the US and Russia, which is set to expire in February 2021.

It is the final nuclear deal still in force between the two superpowers, aimed at maintaining their nuclear arsenals below Cold War levels.

“Discussions to extend New START or to negotiate a new treaty made no progress in 2019,” the SIPRI researchers noted.

Read more: New START for Russia and USA on nuclear talks; China unconvinced

At the same time, nuclear powers continue to modernise their weapons while China and India are increasing the size of their arsenals.

“China is in the middle of a significant modernisation of its nuclear arsenal. It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft,” SIPRI said.

The country has repeatedly rejected Washington’s insistence that it join any future nuclear arms reduction talks.

Nuclear arms control outlook bleak despite declining warheads

The number of nuclear warheads declined in the past year.

At the start of 2020, the United States, Russia, Britain, China, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea together had 13,400 nuclear arms, according to SIPRI’s estimates, 465 fewer than at the start of 2019.

The decline was attributed mainly to the United States and Russia.

While the future of the New START treaty remains uncertain, Washington and Moscow have continued to respect their obligations under the accord.

Read more: Pakistan nuclear technology helped country earn $7.4 bn

“In 2019 the forces of both countries remained below the limits specified by the treaty,” the report said.

But both nations “have extensive and expensive programmes under way to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities,” it added.

“Both countries have also given new or expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans and doctrines, which marks a significant reversal of the post-Cold War trend towards the gradual marginalisation of nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear Non-Proliferation in danger as Treaty celebrates golden jubilee

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. Between 1965 and 1968, the treaty was negotiated by the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament, a United Nations-sponsored organization based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Read more: ‘Powerless NPT’ fails to denuclearize the world

Opened for signature in 1968, the treaty entered into force in 1970. As required by the text, after twenty-five years, NPT Parties met in May 1995 and agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely. More countries are parties to the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the treaty’s significance.

Its scope included disarmament, arms control and proliferation of nuclear technology for the civilian application or “peaceful” use of the atom for nuclear power generation, medical treatment and improving the agriculture yield.

The number of nuclear arms worldwide has declined since hitting a peak of almost 70,000 in the mid-1980s.

The five original nuclear powers — Washington, Beijing, Moscow, Paris and London — in March reiterated their commitment to the treaty.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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