By Edmund Zhen
Published: February 13th, 2019
A recent article published by The Telegraph reveals the number of nuclear weapons Russia and the US have in 2017. Collectively, both countries share “88 percent of the world’s arsenal of stockpiled nukes. This figure increases to 93 percent when we consider retired nukes.”
Such large stockpiles of nuclear weapons are virtually impossible to ignore, considering the destructive power each one of them holds. So in an effort to prevent complete annihilation, both Russia and the US went on to constrain each other’s nuclear stockpile by signing a treaty, calling for a halt in all productions of nuclear weapons. But the long decades and diplomatic clashes have eroded the legitimacy of the treaty, resulting in President Trump’s decision to put an end to it. Though an arms race was never officially declared, the ramping up of weapons on both sides signifies that it is currently underway.
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the suspension of the treaty with claims that “Russia has jeopardized United States security interests,” I actually found myself resonating more with Russia’s countercriticism. Russia claims that it has been a long term interest for the United States to unbind itself from this treaty and I think there is some truth to it in the sense where the US has a long term plan that requires itself to not be tied down by certain regulations. But before concluding there are only two sides to consider in this problem, it’s worth thinking outside the box. This arms race has room to potentially include one more key player: China.
China has been seen as a recent threat by the United States when innovation and advancements in major sectors such as trade, weaponry, technology, etc proliferated. The rapid industrialization and militarization, mixed with China’s predatory nature, uprooted traditional problems between the East and West axes. In a timeline where our diplomatic relations with China was always on thin ice, coups and espionages were used by the US to keep the Chinese government in check. But today the power margin between us is slim, as China holds the second largest economy in the world. Current trade between us are prosperous but suspicions of each other’s actions are still apparent. With no longer wielding the same control over China as we use to, there is a reason for us to fear that China might collude with Russia to/on its own point their missiles and weapons towards us.
But if this assumption is probable, why should we stop at just including China? Why not include the rest of the eight countries that have nuclear weapons? Countries today that have nuclear weapons are the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China, whose nuclear weapons are legitimized through a signed treaty (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons/NPT). This treaty calls for a halt on building any more nuclear weapons and the commitment to dismantle them. But since then, three more nations have declared their unofficial possession of nuclear weapons: Pakistan, India, and North Korea. Israel is maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity, but it is suspected that they do indeed possess them. According to the Arms Control Association, there are over 10,000 of the world’s nuclear weapons in military service and it only takes 100 of them to “cause catastrophe around the world” as reported by The Telegraph.
The UN should take a more active role in enforcing the NPT and overlook those who have nuclear weapons. But getting every one of those countries to sign and uphold the treaty is extremely hard. Distrust and personal gains can lead to the indiscreet building of it and rogue nations such as North Korea are unpredictable in its actions in order to meet its agendas. So I applaud anyone who’s already trying to pacify the issue and bring the world together to solve it. There is no doubt it would take a lot more than just grit and determination to accomplish a feat that massive.