Nuclear disarmament

Nuclear disarmament
United States and USSR/Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945-2006. These numbers include warheads not actively deployed, including those on reserve status or scheduled for dismantlement. Stockpile totals do not necessarily reflect nuclear capabilities since they ignore size, range, type, and delivery mode.

Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated.

Major nuclear disarmament groups include Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Greenpeace and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. There have been many large anti-nuclear demonstrations and protests. On June 12, 1982, one million people demonstrated in New York City's Central Park against nuclear weapons and for an end to the cold war arms race. It was the largest anti-nuclear protest and the largest political demonstration in American history.[1][2]

Proponents of nuclear disarmament say that it would lessen the probability of nuclear war occurring, especially accidentally. Critics of nuclear disarmament say that it would undermine deterrence.



After the Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963), which prohibited atmospheric testing, the movement against nuclear weapons somewhat subsided in the 1970s (and was replaced in part by a movement against nuclear power).

In the 1980s, a popular movement for nuclear disarmament again gained strength in the light of the weapons build-up and aggressive rhetoric of US President Ronald Reagan. Reagan had "a world free of nuclear weapons" as his personal mission,[3][4][5] and was largely scorned for this in Europe.[5] His officials tried to stop such talks but Reagan was able to start discussions on nuclear disarmament with Soviet Union.[5] He changed the name "SALT" (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) to "START" (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks).[4]

After the 1986 Reykjavik summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the new Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the United States and the Soviet Union concluded two important nuclear arms reduction treaties: the INF Treaty (1987) and START I (1991). After the end of the Cold War, the United States and the Russian Federation concluded the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (2003) and the New START Treaty (2010).

In the Soviet Union (USSR), voices against nuclear weapons were few and far between[citation needed] since there was no widespread Freedom of speech and Freedom of the press as political factors. Certain citizens who had become prominent enough to safely criticize the Soviet government, such as Andrei Sakharov, did speak out against nuclear weapons, but that was to little effect.[citation needed]

When the extreme danger intrinsic to nuclear war and the possession of nuclear weapons became apparent to all sides during the Cold War, a series of disarmament and nonproliferation treaties were agreed upon between the United States, the Soviet Union, and several other states throughout the world. Many of these treaties involved years of negotiations, and seemed to result in important steps in arms reductions and reducing the risk of nuclear war.

Key treaties

  • Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) 1963: Prohibited all testing of nuclear weapons except underground.
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—signed 1968, came into force 1970: An international treaty (currently with 189 member states) to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. The treaty has three main pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.
  • Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms (SALT I) 1972: The Soviet Union and the United States agreed to a freeze in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that they would deploy.
  • Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) 1972: The United States and Soviet Union could deploy ABM interceptors at two sites, each with up to 100 ground-based launchers for ABM interceptor missiles. In a 1974 Protocol, the US and Soviet Union agreed to only deploy an ABM system to one site.
  • Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) 1979: Replacing SALT I, SALT II limited both the Soviet Union and the United States to an equal number of ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers. Also placed limits on Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVS).
  • Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) 1987: Created a global ban on short- and long-range nuclear weapons systems, as well as an intrusive verification regime.
  • Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I)—signed 1991, ratified 1994: Limited long-range nuclear forces in the United States and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to 6,000 attributed warheads on 1,600 ballistic missiles and bombers.
  • Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II (START II)—signed 1993, never put into force: START II was a bilateral agreement between the US and Russia which attempted to commit each side to deploy no more than 3,000 to 3,500 warheads by December 2007 and also included a prohibition against deploying multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs) on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
  • Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty)—signed 2002, into force 2003: A very loose treaty that is often criticized by arms control advocates for its ambiguity and lack of depth, Russia and the United States agreed to reduce their "strategic nuclear warheads" (a term that remain undefined in the treaty) to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012.
  • Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—signed 1996, not yet in force: The CTBT is an international treaty (currently with 181 state signatures and 148 state ratifications) that bans all nuclear explosions in all environments. While the treaty is not in force, Russia has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1990 and the United States has not since 1992.[6]
  • New START Treaty—signed 2010, into force in 2011: replaces SORT treaty, reduces deployed nuclear warheads by about half, will remain into force until at least 2021

Only one country has been known to ever dismantle their nuclear arsenal completely—the apartheid government of South Africa apparently developed half a dozen crude fission weapons during the 1980s, but they were dismantled in the early 1990s.

Nuclear disarmament movement

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament symbol, designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958. It later became a universal peace symbol used in many different versions worldwide.[7]

In 1954 Japanese peace movements converged to form a unified "Japanese Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs". Japanese opposition to the Pacific nuclear weapons tests was widespread, and "an estimated 35 million signatures were collected on petitions calling for bans on nuclear weapons".[8]

In the United Kingdom, the first Aldermaston March organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament took place at Easter 1958, when several thousand people marched for four days from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment close to Aldermaston in Berkshire, England, to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons.[9][10] The Aldermaston marches continued into the late 1960s when tens of thousands of people took part in the four-day marches.[8]

In 1959, a letter in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was the start of a successful campaign to stop the Atomic Energy Commission dumping radioactive waste in the sea 19 kilometres from Boston.[11] In 1962, Linus Pauling won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to stop the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and the "Ban the Bomb" movement spread.[12]

In 1963, many countries ratified the Partial Test Ban Treaty prohibiting atmospheric nuclear testing. Radioactive fallout became less of an issue and the nuclear disarmament movement went into decline for some years.[13][14]

On June 12, 1982, one million people demonstrated in New York City's Central Park against nuclear weapons and for an end to the cold war arms race. It was the largest anti-nuclear protest and the largest political demonstration in American history.[1][2] International Day of Nuclear Disarmament protests were held on June 20, 1983 at 50 sites across the United States.[15][16] In 1986, hundreds of people walked from Los Angeles to Washington DC in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.[17] There were many Nevada Desert Experience protests and peace camps at the Nevada Test Site during the 1980s and 1990s.[18][19]

On May 1, 2005, 40,000 anti-nuclear/anti-war protesters marched past the United Nations in New York, 60 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[20][21] This was the largest anti-nuclear rally in the U.S. for several decades.[22] In Britain, there were many protests about the government's proposal to replace the aging Trident weapons system with a newer model. The largest protest had 100,000 participants and, according to polls, 59 percent of the public opposed the move.[22]

The International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament took place in Oslo in February, 2008, and was organized by The Government of Norway, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Hoover Institute. The Conference was entitled Achieving the Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and had the purpose of building consensus between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states in relation to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.[23]

US nuclear policy

Despite a general trend toward disarmament in the early 1990s, the George W. Bush administration repeatedly pushed to fund policies that would allegedly make nuclear weapons more usable in the post–Cold War environment [1], [2]. To date the U.S. Congress has refused to fund many of these policies. However, some [3] feel that even considering such programs harms the credibility of the United States as a proponent of nonproliferation.

Recent controversial U.S. nuclear policies

  • Reliable Replacement Warhead Program (RRW): This program seeks to replace existing warheads with a smaller number of warhead types designed to be easier to maintain without testing. Critics charge that this would lead to a new generation of nuclear weapons and would increase pressures to test. Congress has not funded this program.
  • Complex Transformation: Complex transformation, formerly known as Complex 2030, is an effort to shrink the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and restore the ability to produce “pits” the fissile cores of the primaries of U.S. thermonuclear weapons. Critics see it as an upgrade to the entire nuclear weapons complex to support the production and maintenance of the new generation of nuclear weapons. Congress has not funded this program.
  • Nuclear bunker buster: Formally known as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP), this program aimed to modify an existing gravity bomb to penetrate into soil and rock in order to destroy underground targets. Critics argue that this would lower the threshold for use of nuclear weapons. Congress did not fund this proposal, which was later withdrawn.
  • Missile Defense: Formerly known as National Missile Defense, this program seeks to build a network of interceptor missiles to protect the United States and its allies from incoming missiles, including nuclear-armed missiles. Critics have argued that this would impede nuclear disarmament and possibly stimulate a nuclear arms race. Elements of missile defense are being deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic, despite Russian opposition.

Former U.S. officials Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Bill Perry, and Sam Nunn proposed in January 2007 that the United States rededicate itself to the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, concluding: "We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal."[24] Arguing a year later that "with nuclear weapons more widely available, deterrence is decreasingly effective and increasingly hazardous," the authors concluded that although "it is tempting and easy to say we can't get there from here, . . . we must chart a course” toward that goal."[25] During his Presidential campaign, U.S. President Elect Barack Obama pledged to "set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it."[26]

U.S. policy options for nuclear terrorism

The United States has taken the lead in ensuring that nuclear materials globally are properly safeguarded. A popular program that has received bipartisan domestic support for over a decade is the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (CTR). While this program has been deemed a success, many believe that its funding levels need to be increased so as to ensure that all dangerous nuclear materials are secured in the most expeditious manner possible. The CTR program has led to several other innovative and important nonproliferation programs that need to continue to be a budget priority in order to ensure that nuclear weapons do not spread to actors hostile to the United States.

Key programs:

  • Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR): The CTR program provides funding to help Russia secure materials that might be used in nuclear or chemical weapons as well as to dismantle weapons of mass destruction and their associated infrastructure in Russia.
  • Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI): Expanding on the success of the CTR, the GTRI will expand nuclear weapons and material securing and dismantlement activities to states outside of the former Soviet Union.

Other states

While the vast majority of states have adhered to the stipulations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a few states have either refused to sign the treaty or have pursued nuclear weapons programs while not being members of the treaty. Many view the pursuit of nuclear weapons by these states as a threat to nonproliferation and world peace, and therefore seek policies to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons to these states, a few of which are often described by the US as "rogue states".

  • Declared nuclear weapon states not party to the NPT:[27]
  • Indian nuclear weapons: 80–110 active warheads
  • Pakistani nuclear weapons: 90–110 active warheads
  • North Korean nuclear weapons: <10 active warheads
  • Undeclared nuclear weapon states not party to the NPT:
  • Israeli nuclear weapons: 75–200 active warheads[28]
  • Nuclear weapon states not party to the NPT that disarmed and joined the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states:
  • Former Soviet states that disarmed and joined the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states:
  • Non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT currently accused of seeking nuclear weapons:
  • Non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT who acknowledged and eliminated past nuclear weapons programs:

See also


  1. ^ a b Jonathan Schell. The Spirit of June 12 The Nation, July 2, 2007.
  2. ^ a b 1982 - a million people march in New York City
  3. ^ Giuliani's Obama-Nuke Critique Defies And Ignores Reagan, Huffington Post 04- 7-10
  4. ^ a b President Reagan's Legacy and U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy,, July 20, 2006
  5. ^ a b c "Hyvästi, ydinpommi", Helsingin Sanomat 2010-09-05, p. D1-D2
  6. ^ "Nuclear Disarmament," US Policy World.
  7. ^ "BBC NEWS : Magazine : World's best-known protest symbol turns 50". BBC News (London). 20 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-25. 
  8. ^ a b Jim Falk (1982). Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Oxford University Press, pp. 96-97.
  9. ^ A brief history of CND
  10. ^ "Early defections in march to Aldermaston". Guardian Unlimited. 1958-04-05.,,105488,00.html. 
  11. ^ Jim Falk (1982). Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Oxford University Press, p. 93.
  12. ^ Jerry Brown and Rinaldo Brutoco (1997). Profiles in Power: The Anti-nuclear Movement and the Dawn of the Solar Age, Twayne Publishers, pp. 191-192.
  13. ^ Wolfgang Rudig (1990). Anti-nuclear Movements: A World Survey of Opposition to Nuclear Energy, Longman, p. 54-55.
  14. ^ Jim Falk (1982). Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Oxford University Press, p. 98.
  15. ^ Harvey Klehr. Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today Transaction Publishers, 1988, p. 150.
  16. ^ 1,400 Anti-nuclear protesters arrested Miami Herald, June 21, 1983.
  17. ^ Hundreds of Marchers Hit Washington in Finale of Nationwaide Peace March Gainsville Sun, November 16, 1986.
  18. ^ Robert Lindsey. 438 Protesters are Arrested at Nevada Nuclear Test Site New York Times, February 6, 1987.
  19. ^ 493 Arrested at Nevada Nuclear Test Site New York Times, April 20, 1992.
  20. ^ Lance Murdoch. Pictures: New York MayDay anti-nuke/war march IndyMedia, 2 may 2005.
  21. ^ Anti-Nuke Protests in New York Fox News, May 2, 2005.
  22. ^ a b Lawrence S. Wittner. A rebirth of the anti-nuclear weapons movement? Portents of an anti-nuclear upsurge Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 7 December 2007.
  23. ^ "International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament". February, 2008. 
  24. ^ Kissinger, Shultz, Perry & Nunn call for A World Free of Nuclear Weapons
  25. ^ Renewed call from Kissinger, Nunn, Perry and Shultz for Nuclear-Free World
  26. ^ Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan to Secure America and Restore our Standing
  27. ^ [Yearbook, Ch. 7 -- World Nuclear Forces], Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, June 7, 2011.
  28. ^ Norris, Robert S., William Arkin, Hans M. Kristensen, and Joshua Handler. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 58:5 (September/October 2002): 73-75. Israeli nuclear forces, 2002
  29. ^ "Nuclear Disarmament". US Policy World. [dead link]

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