The Challenges of Armament and Disarmament in Contemporary Politics

Scientific Study, 2018

37 Pages



I. World Military Expenditure and Nuclear Armament

II. Early Approaches to Disarmament and Humanitarian Law of War
Dynamics of the Arms Race
Policies on Nuclear Disarmament
Humanitarian Law of War

III. Practical Obstacles to Nuclear Disarmament
Nuclear-Weapon States Security Concerns
Non-Nuclear-Weapon States Security Concerns
Nuclear Disarmament Verification


Symons (2005) contended that the dawn of the nuclear era has brought with it a new power, terrifying in its capacity to wipe out; awesome in its potential for good, a great contrast that confronts the world today. On the one hand, nuclear power represents a significant climate friendly source of energy. Furthermore, its applications go far beyond civil nuclear power – the preservation of food and the prevention of diseases are being revolutionized by nuclear technology – and in effect, nuclear power will practically be certainly essential if we must continue our adventure of exploration beyond our solar system (Symons, 2005).

On the other hand, if we have to continue to reap the welfares of the atom, we should take into consideration its associated threats, and prevent a technology with the power for so much good from falling into the hands of those that would utilize it to harm and exterminate life. Nuclear security therefore plays a critical role in this effort. The NPT has been a momentous and to many, a surprising success in impeding nuclear proliferation and making available a secure framework for the peaceful transfer of nuclear technology (Symons, 2005).

Together with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has played an important role in encouraging and contributing to nuclear security and safety, championing the peaceful utilization of nuclear technology and science and promoting and enforcing safeguards that protect nuclear devices and impede its diversion to destructive usages (Symons, 2005). Together the operations of the IAEA and the NPT face significant challenges. But this is not a reason to get discouraged, rather there should be more global efforts to make the system work better in the future. Symons (2005) went on to argue about the current challenges of nuclear security in asserting that the end of the Cold War brought about new hope, but as well new challenges. The threat to international security has changed and therefore we should as well change the way we address it. The most persistent image of the Cold War was an iron curtain consisting of a hard impassable boundary wrought in the container of two opposing ideologies (Symons, 2005).

Today’s boundary more strictly represents the habitat of mountain tunnels wherein some terrorists have decided to take a refuge. Likewise, the nuclear landscape no longer rests on a balance of poles – two superpowers –, but on a balance of wills (Symons, 2005). People disposed to take their own lives as they destroy others are not dissuaded by conventional logic – those with limited or no material assets, who often view their own annihilation as a prize, cannot be deterred by deterrents, whether they be nuclear or conventional –. The danger of a dirty bomb in the hands of a non-state actor, with the guaranteeing panic, chaos and trouble it would provoke, is a specter not easy to contemplate, (Symons, 2005).

I. World Military Expenditure and Nuclear Armament

SIPRI (1982) pointed out that in the 1970s the world military expenditure was rushing and the United States five-year program (1980-1985) for military expenditure predicted a 4% annual growth. During the period, the total supplementary expenditure in the military would be $80,000 million. It was estimated that the Soviet Union military expenditure had increased at a percentage of 3 to 5% a year during the 1970s. This estimate was responsible for the NATO increase of its military budget (SIPRI, 1982).

The following diagrams indicate the development of world military spending from 1949 to 1979, SIPRI (1982, p. 16).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

SIPRI (1982) postulated that world military expenditure was generally witnessing a rapid growth rate over the decade 1970-1979. In this respect, there have been states whose military spending had increased significantly. This can be exemplified by the members’ states of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) which spent an important portion of their high revenue on weapons. In the same decade, their investment rate in the military as a group of states underwent a 15% increase annually. Another place with a high military expenditure was southern Africa, with South Africa and the neighboring states, with a total military expenditure of 16% annually. In southern America, the military expenditure had reached about 5% annually, in the entire continent (SIPRI, 1982).

As for nuclear armament, SIPRI (1982) reported that in 1945 two atomic bombs with a total explosive power of about 30,000 tons of high explosive were released in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and destroyed both cities, eliminating 300,0000 people. From that time, the nuclear arsenals of the world have reached the equivalent of more than a million Hiroshima or Nagasaki bomb attacks. According to SIPRI (1982) the world’s nuclear arsenals at the time had more than 60,000 nuclear weapons, which correspond to about four tons of explosive per person. So if they ever used even a small proportion of these arms, this would be a widespread catastrophe over the planet (SIPRI, 1982).

Equally important, deterrence has been the common approach of the super powers based on MAD; however the temptation to attack first was growing increasingly and the danger of nuclear confrontation by miscalculating, madness or accident would increase accordingly (SIPRI, 1982). Nuclear warfighting was being made obtainable, but the propensity for their deployment and strategies for nuclear armament were rationalized. The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II), which establishes equal limits on the total number of strategic delivery systems between the Soviet Union and the United States, did not affect the planned deployment of nuclear weapons by these powers (SIPRI, 1982).

In effect, above the line set for the number of weapons, each side has the right to determine the structure of its strategic nuclear arsenal. The weapon developed in the United States at the time is the MX missile system, with an associated mobile building scheme to moderate vulnerability. The MX would carry 10 warheads, the maximum number authorized by the SALT II treaty. While the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBMs) did not have the required combination of accuracy and explosive to destroy targets such as missile silos, the U.S. was designing a new type of SLBMs, the Trident II, which would possibly have a final capability to destroy the planned targets (SIPRI, 1982). However, the URSS as the U.S. was also developing a nuclear arsenal as a response to the US development of MX missile systems. Among the strategic weapons developed by the USSR, we had a series of multiple-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) able to destroy a high rate of US MX missile systems. Obviously, the arms race between the super powers was more likely to continue (SIPRI, 1982).

In accordance with SIPRI, it is obvious that disarmament was a great challenge for both the United States and the Soviet Union in a sense that none of them was willing to stop developing strategic weapons. The good news is that the MAD guaranteed that a nuclear war between the U.S. and USSR would be even more destructive not only for both sides but also for the rest of the world. Consequently, a nuclear war can have no winner, because the destruction is assured for both parties, it even guarantees the. wiping out of mankind. We can talk about winners in a conventional warfare; unfortunately the current trends of the global military arsenals reveal that even a conventional war can also be very destructive.

II. Early Approaches to Disarmament and Humanitarian Law of War

According to Brooks (1982), in the decades after WW II, it was believed that limitation of advancement in weapons’ development was impossible because of the difficulties relative to the verification of those limitations, particularly in the research and development stage. And so, talks on arms control had the tendency to focus on agreements for numerical limitations to the deployment of a category of weapons whose verification could be made possible with realistic confidence through unilateral intelligence means.

The Partial Test Ban (PTB) was an attempt to the limitation of technological advancement in so much as it was expected thanks to the prohibition of atmospheric tests, to prevent the development of nuclear arsenals and to make all testing of weapons very expensive in order to slow down that development considerably (Brooks, 1982). The PTB has not been that successful. Its main advantage was to reduce atmospheric pollution; nevertheless, conducting tests underground made them less visible to the public and therefore reduced the pressure of public opinion (Brooks, 1982).

Dynamics of the Arms Race

The United Nations Groups of Consultant Experts (UNGCE, 1982) contended that the arms race was progressively being an international phenomenon and, albeit its intensity differed obviously between regions and some nations, no major region has escaped it. The competition of arms race between the most powerful military states was especially associated to the ultimate diversion of incomes, the highest potential dangers and represented the main chief reason of the global armament race. It is for this purpose that this competition was actually life-threatening than we can imagine if we take into consideration the huge size and the rapid development of their artilleries, given that the competition takes place in the qualitative level, not in the quantitative one, each innovation in weapons being more sophisticated and more damaging than the previous arsenals (UNGCE, 1982).

As far as military technology is concerned, UNGCE (1982) claimed that the most significant and remarkable facet of the arms race in the 1960s was the invention and the complete deployment of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and the development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and the associated deployment of communication systems and satellite surveillance. At the end of the 1960s, there was a generalized anxiety about a new era of arms race that would eventually end with the invention of the ABMs and countermeasures in increasing the number of launchers, especially by amplifying the number of warheads per launcher in order to saturate ABM systems.

UNGCE (1982) indicated that the proliferation of nuclear weapons kept moving rapidly across the years. China and France possessed nuclear technology competency in the 1960s. In 1975, 19 countries acquired nuclear weapons capability, and another 10 countries had acquired them in the 1980s. With regard to developed and developing countries, designing a nuclear weapons program is no longer submitted to technological and economic barriers (UNGCE, 1982).

An important aspect to underline according to Ignatieff (1982) is the verification issue. In effect, when NWS negotiate an agreement on the limitation on certain arms development or test ban, the question is how the verification of the implementation of such agreement can enter in force with the guarantee of no violation. The writer underlined that sensitive seismological instrument, as well satellite surveillance, obviously provide accurate means of verification. Another aspect as for Brooks (1982) is that the development of satellite surveillance reduced the possibility that whether the U.S. or the Soviets could secretly set up strategic weapons. Satellites equipped with infra-red detection - satellite reconnaissance - guaranteed instantaneous warning of a missile attack launched from any one place of the world, which as well prevented possible effective anticipatory attacks from each side (Brooks, 1982).

Policies on Nuclear Disarmament


Watkinson (1999) quoted the Committee on International Security and Arms Control, arguing that to understand the history of policies concerned with nuclear weapons and to address the challenges of designing new policies for the future demand and understanding of diverse definition and applicability of “deterrence”. The author described deterrence or to deter as deriving from the Latin deterrere, meaning to frighten from. Therefore the author provided the following definition of deterrence: “to discourage from some action by making the consequences seem frightening.” Nuclear deterrence is normally employed not only to discourage nuclear attacks, but also attacks with conventional weaponries, attacks with bioweapons and chemical weapons (Watkinson, 1999).

The possession of nuclear weapons has basically three goals: (1) deterrence of intended nuclear attack; (2) deterrence of most important conventional war; and (3) compensation for possible inadequacies in nonnuclear forces, including deterrence or response to attacks with chemical or biological weapons (Watkinson, 1999).

Watkinson (1999) contended that neither China nor Russia would currently consider reducing their nuclear weapons, while they would like the United States to do it. Russia and China are presently modernizing their nuclear arsenals and nobody can imagine what sort of power their arsenals will possess in the future. Accordingly, the author believed that it would be wiser for the United States to keep up a strong military deterrent. An example can be provided, when the Iraqi government in the Gulf War attributed their decision not to use bioweapons and chemical agents against the United States for the reason that they knew they could undergo a nuclear counter-attack by the USA (Watkinson, 1999).

When considering the author’s views, it seems to us that possessing nuclear technology if not nuclear weapons is overwhelmingly crucial in this new context of international affairs. The acquisition of nuclear arsenals seems to be significantly important for the reasons of deterrence because a state can decide to attack another state when it knows that it cannot fear any threatening reprisals. Today possessing nuclear weapons constitutes a certain guarantee of security not to attack but to retaliate. Arguably, conventional weapons are good but not enough to ensure complete protection if an attack is carried out. However, it is not documented that a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) ever used preemptive measures against a non-nuclear-weapon- state (NNWS). In other words, a nuclear war has never been waged; this is why it is in the interest of states to make efforts to avoid such a disaster because as Gorbarchev said in 1988, a nuclear war would have no winner, nor looser, it will have as only outcome the total destruction of mankind.

In the meantime, states with nuclear arsenals know that it would be a mistake to eliminate all their nuclear weapons. The point at this stage is to have a dominant nuclear deterrent to discourage other states to attack them as in the above mentioned case of the United States. For example, North Korea has a nuclear arsenal but is aware that if it ever launches a nuclear warhead to the United States, it will undergo a tremendous military response from America. In addition, deterrence is a good strategy to ensure that a nuclear war is unlikely to take place.

Simpson (2013) argues about the challenges that are brought to deterrence. In effect, further challenges to the legacy of deterrence are evidenced by the amounting non-NPT parties that are self-declared nuclear power states, or those that are supposed to be going towards that direction (Simpson, 2013). In this respect, 3 states, North Korea, India and Pakistan have made tests on nuclear weapons and are supposed to be possessing operational capabilities. The problem is that in some decades, there might be as many countries with nuclear technology outside the NPT as there are inside it. In this direction, we have countries with nuclear capabilities which are not parties to the NPT, and have never been parties to any international legal agreement on disarmament (Simpson, 2013). One thing is certain, the non-NPT countries believe that possessing these nuclear arsenals guarantee their protection regardless of being vulnerable to a first nuclear attack by another state (Simpson, 2013).

The 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco

According to Goldblat (1982), the treaty proscribes the use, manufacture, testing, acquisition or production by any means, as well as the installation, receipt, storage, deployment of any kind of possession of nuclear weapons in Latin America. The treaty had been in force from the beginning of the 1980s and its main intent was to prohibit the rise of nuclear-weapon powers in Latin America. That objective had been reached albeit the treaty has been in force for nearly the majority of the states of that region. Undeniably, in 1977, that is to say a decade after signing the treaty, several countries were not still members of the treaty (Goldblat, 1982).


Excerpt out of 37 pages


The Challenges of Armament and Disarmament in Contemporary Politics
( Atlantic International University )
Article Scientifique
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Nuclear, weapons, states, Disarmament, Armament, security, Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, Nuclear disarmament, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), mutual assured destruction (MAD), World War II (WWII), Nuclear-weapon states (NWS), Nongovernmental Advocates (NGAs), weapons of mass destruction (WMD), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), low-enriched uranium (LEU)
Quote paper
Dr. Jean Cédric Obame Emane (Author), 2018, The Challenges of Armament and Disarmament in Contemporary Politics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: The Challenges of Armament and Disarmament in Contemporary Politics

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free