10. The Legacy of Nuclear Apartheid
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10 The Legacy of Nuclear Apartheid Herman Kahn’s warning of 1960 that soon even a “Hottentot” would be able to produce nuclear bombs resonated in the decades following the NPT’s signature .The treaty’s passage seemed a harbinger of a safer world, one wherein the nuclear threat would be regulated and contained. Yet the terms of the accord left untouched incipient nuclear programs in numerous countries, including Israel, India, and South Africa, that anticipated using the threat of going nuclearas leverage in regional power struggles.Two recognized nuclear powers, France and the PRC, refused to sign the treaty and continued providing reactor fuel to non-nuclear nations without implementing international safeguards. U.S. presidents from the 1970s to the early twenty-first century faced the question of whether to coerce holdouts or initiate negotiations to remove the treaty’s discriminatory features. New countries did sign the treaty, especially following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, but important exceptions remained, most notably Israel, India, and Pakistan. Other countries , such as North Korea and Iran, renounced or threatened to withdraw from the NPT. Despite lip service to the need to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, U.S. nonproliferation policy repeated the pattern of the pretreaty period, remaining selective in enforcement and more concerned with protecting superpower hegemony than with eradicating the deadly threat of indiscriminate nuclear dissemination.1 286  The Legacy of Nuclear Apartheid Realist Illusions The spirit of the NPT dissipated almost immediately after Nixon’s inauguration . Nixon and Kissinger refused to pressure Israel,West Germany, or Japan to sign the accord. Both Nixon and Kissinger viewed the treaty as a moralistic endeavor divorced from the reality of power politics. Nations that desired and could afford nuclear weapons would produce them, they assumed. They were not alone in this thinking. Within the State Department and the CIA, many analysts believed that the NPT alone would not and could not prevent proliferation. Even before the treaty opened for signature, the State Department Policy Planning Council predicted that “many nations will develop their peaceful programs to the point where a bomb can be assembled and detonated in short order.” Such powers would thus “achieve an advanced state of nuclear ‘pregnancy’ while remaining within the strictures of the NPT.” But Washington could do little more than it had already done to stem the nuclear tide, and State Department analysts saw a robust U.S. military presence around the globe as the best check against proliferation.The Ford presidency also embraced this conclusion. In 1975, a CIA analyst observed that the “Great Powers” could not halt proliferation, which “in its current stage, at least, is largely a political phenomenon and as such is strongly influenced by the growing atmosphere of confrontation between the developed and less-developed countries.” The NPT had little effect because it had “become identified with superpower hegemony. And as long as [lesser-developed countries] interpret [it] as an instrument of such hegemony, they will not consider it as a binding international treaty.” Washington confronted a world of nuclear powers in various stages of development.The best means to ensure the securityof the United States and its allies lay not in treaties but in regional missile defense systems.2 It was in such an intellectual atmosphere that Kissinger and Nixon concluded that rather than pursue idealistic disarmament schemes, the United States should seek a favorable balance of power, both globally and regionally. Worldwide stability in a multipolar age could be maintained only if the five great economic powers in the world—the United States, Western Europe, Japan, the Soviet Union, and Communist China—operated as relative equals in global politics. If one or more of these states discerned that the international status quo discriminated against their national interests, war or grave instability could result. Eisenhower’s nuclear legacy loomed over the Nixon presidency. Ike had threatened nuclear strikes to cow China and North Korea in 1953. Nixon uti- The Legacy of Nuclear Apartheid  287 lized the same strategy in 1969 by secretly placing all nuclear forces on alert to signal to Moscowand Hanoi that he might use “excessive force” to end the Vietnam War. This first test of Nixon’s “Madman theory,” in which he tried to persuade his adversaries that he would abandon rationality to get his way, failed. Neither the NorthVietnamese nor the Soviets changed their stance on the conflict, and Moscow may not even have noticed the alert. Late in 1972, Nixon toyed with actually...


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Subject Headings

  • Nuclear weapons -- Government policy -- United States -- History.
  • Nuclear arms control -- United States -- History
  • Nuclear nonproliferation -- United States -- History.
  • Nuclear weapons -- Government policy -- Developing countries -- History.
  • Nuclear arms control -- Developing countries -- History.
  • Nuclear nonproliferation -- Developing countries -- History.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Developing countries.
  • Developing countries -- Foreign relations -- United States.
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