Geopolitics

To Resume Nuclear Testing is a Step Backward
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 02 Aug , 2020

US tested the world’s first nuclear device on 16 Jul 1945. On 06 Aug and 09 Aug 1945, US conducted world’s first and till date the only nuclear bombings, on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over 214,000 Japanese lost their lives and thousands were maimed. Following generations too suffered. This 06 August marks the 75th anniversary of this carnage.

Washington Post, on 22 May 2020,reported that US will presumably resume Nuclear testing. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in the third week of June 2020, sanctioned $10 million for nuclear test. It also discussed means to reduce time between decision to test and the conduct of actual test.

If one reads this news in conjunction with US reluctance to renew the only remaining Nuclear Arms Control Treaty , the “New START”, which expires in Feb 2021, it appears that the aim of US is to threaten to launch a new nuclear Arms race to bankrupt Russia and China, if they both do not agree to a US initiated Arms Control Deal, which till now , is mentioned only in the passing, by the US and no actionable steps have been taken to go ahead with the proposal.

Since the first nuclear test in July 1945, the world has witnessed 2121 nuclear tests with yields ranging from zero to 50 KT. The table of total tests conducted by each nuclear nation and the last date of testing given below will convince the reader that when scientific simulations can predict the results of a nuclear test in a peaceful laboratory environment, live nuclear testing is nothing but a dangerous image building/ muscle flexing remnant of an era gone by.

Since the news of likely resumption of Nuclear test by US, concerns are being raised on its environmental impact, on the public health risk, and the impending the diplomatic crisis, all in an already stressed world. The major fallout of the test maybe nuclear proliferation, especially now that China and Iran have signed a 25-year Strategic partnership which when seen in combination with the history of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and China’s not so clean history in adherence to nuclear non-proliferation, does not portend well for the world.

The Cons

Resumption will have severe repercussions on peaceful use of nuclear power. In the pre Trump era of a rule based world, where the US, erstwhile USSR and now Russia, were in constant Arms race, their leaders were wise and prudent, alongwith other Nuclear powers , to discuss and sign treaties such as NPT, CTBT, MTCR, INF, Open Skies ,START, New START , to name a few.NPT of 1970 has been the bedrock of global nuclear security. Such treaties ushered in peace and prosperity across the globe. It also drew clear lines drawn between Nuclear weapons and Nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

NPT is central to non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. It assures each nuclear NPT signatory state the “right” to develop and use of nuclear power technology and obligates them to enable other non-nuclear NPT member States in obtaining nuclear power capabilities. Further, NPT has a system of checks by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to inspect and to verify the use of nuclear material for peaceful purpose and preventing their proliferation for military use. IAEA’s role in New START and in the JCPOA with Iran is indeed a tribute to NPT. NPT is due for review in April 2021. NPT will be the first casualty of the new nuclear arms race.

In case the testing is not resumed, remaining eight nations of Annex 2 of CTBT will feel encouraged to endorse it. This includes India, Pakistan and North Korea who have not signed and US, China, Israel, Iran and Egypt who have not ratified it. The treaty will enter into force 180 days after the 44 states listed in Annex 2 of the treaty have ratified it. Any efforts to undermine CTBT by resumption of nuclear tests would have direct consequences on NPT.

Nuclear power is one of the bulwarks in our fight to reverse the “Climate Change”. Nuclear energy is the second largest source of low carbon electricity today, first being renewable sources of wind and solar. In EU, nuclear energy powers 30 percent of the energy needs, in US it is 20 percent and in India it accounts for 3.22 percent and growing. Due to its high capital cost, problems in storage of spent fuel and danger of radioactive leaks, if CTBT and NPT are a casualty due to resumption of nuclear arms race, countries will not be encouraged to invest in nuclear energy and opt for cheaper coal. This will skew the global warming and further endanger life on earth.

Nuclear weapons and nuclear energy are both based on the same physical process. Consequently, Nuclear power technology carries the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. IAEA and other agencies which are in vogue to ensure that peaceful use of nuclear energy does not proliferate to making weapons, will be considerably weakened if world witnesses a resumption of nuclear testing and start of a new nuclear arms race, coupled with impending termination of New START in February 2021.Iran, then may completely abandon JCPOA. With Chinese help, it will master nuclear weapons technology. Prudent to mention here that Pakistan clandestinely acquired nuclear weapons technology with considerable aid from China.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia too are aspiring to become nuclear weapons state. The chaos triggered from the new arms race will find enough nuclear weapons enabled states to proliferate the technology to them, on payments, to fund their own arms race.

Proliferation, either from present peaceful purposes or clandestinely, will see new nuclear weapons states emerging and defeating NPT. Such new nuclear states will seek delivery means and this will make MTCR a casualty, as then termination or abrogation of MTCR would make good economic sense for MTCR signatory powers, which have expertise to export missile technology.

Conclusion

US, along with China, Israel, Iran and Egypt, is a non-signatory to CTBT. US, since September 1992 has imposed a moratorium on itself, banning further nuclear testing. To abandon this self-imposed moratorium is likely to have catastrophic consequences. The belief that resumption of nuclear testing and demise of New START will generate a new nuclear arms race, which will then force China to the join Arms Control talks, is misplaced. China has miniscule numbers of nuclear weapons and their delivery system, when compared to US and Russia. China has been persistent that if talks have to be held, both US and Russia must reduce their nuclear weapons and their delivery system, substantially or completely.

The news of resumption of Nuclear testing by US must be taken very seriously by all the countries and by all the international bodies and agencies. With immediate effect, each must play its part to prevent the current US Administration from conducting a new nuclear test. All the leaders of the G7, G 20, NATO, EU, SCO, ASEAN must personally speak to the US President and dissuade him from breaking its self-imposed moratorium, which has given credence to NPT, CTBT and other Arms control treaties and enabled and encouraged peace, development and prosperity all around the world.

The hour to act is now, keeping in mind the US elections. The conduct of nuclear test for the purpose of projecting an image of a powerful leader to facilitate re-election, is not implausible. The forthcoming G 7 meet in US in September (where Russia and India too are likely to be invited) is possibly the last instance where influentially global leaders can convince US against conducting the nuclear test and for the New START, to become history. It’s a must do as the security of the human race is at stake and Mars is not yet an alternate location for them.

Today, India and the world are facing an unnerving range of challenges. It ranges from the COVID 19 pandemic, economic hardships, growing inequality, Climate change and mounting tensions between the top three super powers and their belligerent acts of putting global security at risk. The world, at this critical juncture can ill afford to allow a major power to resume nuclear testing, unleash a Nuclear Arms race, weaken beneficial global treaties and further aggravate the miseries, the world is suffering today.

This, especially in the backdrop of the 75th anniversary of the nuclear holocaust.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Col RN Ghosh Dastidar

is a freelance journalist.

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15 thoughts on “To Resume Nuclear Testing is a Step Backward

  1. Colonel Dastidar has written a very well researched article on a subject which affects the peaceful future of the mankind. This subject which was very important in eighties and nineties of last century somehow lost its due importance in the last two decades. Author has drawn our attention to the increasing threat of nuclear proliferation and role of present day world leaders to control it. A must read article for all readers of military, political ,scientific and civil faculties.

  2. Academically a very well analyzed paper but do we want to support the move ????? Going back would not only be a retrograde step but a slap on the face of humanity. We are well aware of the consequences faced by the first ever live testing done by the USA. The notification of budgetory allocation for restesting to begin has already started forming ripples in the mind of the communities more favorable to humanity. Concerns are being posted in various forums and world getting more stressed out. It is no bravado by US ( incidentally who have never won a war despite their might ) to push a race that has gradually melted but started a slew of side shows with self governng states surviving on doles.
    All these treaties and groups have no real meaning. The devastation seen by one action is enough to deter usage of weapons of mass degradation. Today Japan is leading a pilot around the world against production of Nuclear weapons. With so many players silently passing on technology and knowhow, the amassing of weapons is no longer a deterrant. Mindless arms race and any indescriminate use of the ill gotten resource can cause catastrophe of unimaginable proportations. To differentiate the use of technology for peaceful or damaging roles the margin is very thin. Its cost prohibitive and has issues of safety and storage to think of.
    When the costs and Risk are high, storage, safety and use worriesome, who wants the testing to start or even for that matter even consider holding them Let us say NO to Nuclear weapons and one cannot be just bullied to accept an unwanted idea.

  3. A very well researched article . The author in his typical “fauji” style has laid the facts on the table. The author has quite clearly enumerated the cons for resumption of nuclear tests by US. There is though definitely a need to analyse why US is heading that way. The post Cold War scenario is not what US had so well anticipated. Growth of China- has probably put the brakes on the ongoing Hegemonistic ambitions of US- it has always been the bully in the ring.The triumvirate of China’s Russia and Iran now forming has raised a lot of heckles in the US administration. Besides, China with its deep pockets and the world today in total economic turmoil- does not mind aligning with the communist dispensation as long as it’s current needs are met. US because of its own precarious economic situation is no longer the “go to” guy.
    Thus to keep alive its pole hegemony status it will go to any extent – be it nuclear testing to regain its position- and no better time than under the present Maveric president and the looming elections.

  4. A brilliant article which highlights how nuclear power has grown over the time. Not a big fan of nuclear testings no matter which country is doing it. At this time, personally feel peace is more important than anything else and each country should aim for that within and with eachother

    • Absolutely right.Essence is peaceful co existence in these are trying times. To disturb the world further will upset the equilibrium more and leaders Of some Nuclear armed nations may join the game of one upmanship, to stay relevant to their Nation and Sphere of Influence.And it may just spiral out into a greater crisis. Human existence will be at stake.

  5. Going back to nuclear testing will definitely be a retrograde step and the world one day would again come to square one. There is no guarantee that US will be able to break China, the way it could do to USSR. Afterall China is also aware of this fact. On the other hand it may give rise to number of rogue nuclear nations. Best bet for USA is have good trade blocks and mil allainces to isolate China economically and militarily.

  6. A fantastic article. It covers all facets of nuclearisation of the earth, short and crisp.
    My take, US may have invented something new in the nuclear field. Possibly they want to test the new invention (my presumption). Time will unveil why they want to resume the testing.

    • The possibility of US testing an entirely new and more devastating or a more restrictive and safer N device to be used in tactical situations , is very much feasible. Or else why would US open a new Pandora’s box of problems for the world and become untrustworthy, though still remaining the “ main power “ to whom the world looks up for ideas and innovations and guidance.

      But the only worry is that resumption of Nuc test shouldn’t set off a chain reaction from Kim- Xi-Putin- Imran- Boris & Macron. That will make the world a very unsafe place.

  7. The author a Col with a Bengali name and half Chinese looks who claims to be freelance journalist has been paid by the Chinese. USA or India should resume testing of nuclear testing to make sure the weapons are updated and prevent the Communist, Imperialist, Colonialist, and people enslavers from enslaving more people.

    • What is your real name which you are hiding here? Please disclose so that some Bengalis (or those right thinking people who take offense at name-calling) can throw mud at you for payback. India could not resume as you are proposing since the former BJP PM AVP had given a written assurance to the international community (UN?) after India conducted nuclear tests in Rajasthan (1999?) that India will not conduct any more nuclear test. So any further testing by India would breach the solemn commitment India has made in the past and could result in the UN imposing sanctions on India. Do not forget that China is a permanent member of the UNSC .

      You are up in arms against Communists etc, but what about the BJP whose present political head the PM just after his election in 2014 invited and entertained the “Communist” Xi in Sabramati as his special political head of state, and wanted to double the trade with India. When is he going to publicly announce that China is the aggressor in Ladakh which is Indian sovereign territory? Please goad him for that now he has gone silent like his predecessor MMS.

      • Modi might have done so many wrong things like not taming beaurocrats in allowing proper growth of our economy, but in taming Pakistani terrorist state,taming chinese bull by horn and showing entire world the way how to tame the dragon . In J& K also now the game is reversed. Pakistan always fearful of losing POJK ,Baluchistan etc.

  8. US conducts nuclear test is inconsequential compared to the threat of rogue china acquiring nuclear weapons & actively proliferating weapons technology to terrorist countries like Pakistan ,North korea .Next may be Iran ,Turkey &others.Today this world faces singlemost threat from CCP & its rogue ambitions. This world has to unite & tame the dragon collectively by choking its economic power through complete trade ban.

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