It's Business as Usual

Nuclear Summit or no summit, the possibility of the nuclear weapons free world is absurd. The world is not really changing in this area. US President Barack Obama's  rhetoric in Prague in April 2009 gave the world a tantalizing vision of a nuclear weapon free world: "The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War .... I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons".

Since then the world has had the anti-climax of four Nuclear Security Summits and repeated warnings about nuclear terrorism but no meaningful nuclear disarmament.

Pocketing his prematurely awarded Nobel Peace Prize, the US President has reverted to being the conventional leader of the greatest military-industrial complex in the world spending approximately $610 million annually of the global military expenditure of $1.8 trillion and a staggering $355 billion over the next ten years on nuclear weapon modernization.

After a modest new START pact with Russia in 2010 he has continued the policies of nuclear deterrence, aggressive NATO expansion and Ballistic Missile Defence systems emplacement making a rapprochement with Putin's Russian Federation, after the latter's annexation of Crimea and hostile policy directed at Ukraine, even more difficult. Faced with an implacably hostile Republican dominated Congress, Obama belatedly arrived at an agreement with Iran through a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action largely because of the principled position of the EU and the patience of the Iranian leadership under the liberal President Rouhani.

Other foreign policy "successes" are the yet unimplemented decision to close Guantanamo and the re-establishment of relations with Cuba. Both these achievements must be recorded as "incompletes" in Obama’s report card since the US Congress opposes the closure of Guantanamo and the cessation of the human rights violations that go on there—violations for which other countries are routinely condemned in the Geneva-based Human Rights Council by the US—while the embargo against Cuba continues even as diplomatic missions are ceremoniously re-opened after decades.

Amidst these non-events in the final year of the Obama Presidency is the fourth and final Nuclear Security summit held in Washington. The conspicuous Russian absence notwithstanding, the active participation of two of the largest countries in the world—China and India—with a collective population of over 30% of the world, both of them nuclear weapon armed, was seen as an accomplishment that salvaged the Summit.

While the flow of refugees from proxy wars and conflict-ridden Middle East countries challenges European unity and its moral value base, extremist ISIS terrorism strikes terror in European cities. Suddenly nuclear terrorism becomes more real than ever despite all that has been done implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the Obama-sponsored Security Summits of 2010 in Washington, 2012 in Seoul and 2014 in The Hague.

The key fact is that no steps are being taken towards the elimination of nuclear weapons despite the surge of international support for the "Humanitarian Pledge" and a Nuclear Weapon Convention.

And as long as nuclear weapons exist the simple logic is that their ownership cannot be restricted to the nine states that now possess them. Other states and non-state actors will want them. If there are no nuclear weapons there cannot be nuclear weapon proliferation to terrorists or anyone else. The Global Zero campaign put it bluntly : "There's no such thing as 'nuclear security' as long as nuclear weapons exist."

"The 2016 summit mars the end of the Nuclear Summit process in this format" leaving it to the incoming US administration to devise a new format. In other words for nuclear weapons states it is business as usual.

Vol. 49, No.5, Aug 7 - 13, 2016