Academics, and students alike are all seeking to understand the route that nuclear development will undertake in the future- ‘Will proliferation accelerate? Who wants the bomb and why? How can the nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states prevent proliferation? Is the spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world inevitable?’
It is simply a case of uncertainty; ‘the future of nuclear proliferation is a political rather than strictly a technical question’– and I think it is safe to say that nothing is for certain when it concerns politics. A leading academic who specialises in the field of nuclear proliferation has kindly given his insight regarding the future of nuclear non-proliferation.
Dr Andrew Futter is a senior lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester. His research is focused primarily with contemporary nuclear weapons issues and how emerging technologies impact nuclear strategy, stability and arms control. He has published widely on nuclear issues, including his books; ‘The Politics of Nuclear Weapons’ and ‘Ballistic Missile Defence and US National Security: Normalisation and Acceptance after the Cold War’, as well as a range of journal articles such as ‘Iranian nuclear aspirations and strategic balancing in the Middle East’.
When asked about the importance of global denuclearization, Dr Futter stated that ‘global denuclearisation is unquestionably important given damage and implications of nuclear use – either deliberate or inadvertent.’ Yet the fear for foreign policy advisors, is not just merely non-nuclear states such as Iran preserving nuclear development- It is their reckless behaviour that could result in ‘nuclear proliferation, international disorder, and, ultimately, nuclear war’.
To address such fear held by the likes of Washington, I asked Dr Futter as to what steps he believes international organisations should take towards denuclearization- he highlighted the importance of ‘broader dialogue beyond simply nuclear issues – i.e., address the security challenges that underpin the desire to acquire or keep nuclear forces.’
The OEWG (Open-Ended Working Group) was set up by the UN and aims to ‘develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons’. However, nuclear weapon states, including the United States have not attended the OEWG meeting. And whilst the OEWG seeks global denuclearization, Dr Futter states that there are two main barriers to this; ‘(1) there simply isn’t enough trust between states with nuclear weapons; (2) several states continue to see nuclear weapons as essential to their national security.’
President-elect, Donald Trump heavily criticised the Iran Nuclear Deal that was negotiated by (current president) Barack Obama, during his election campaign. This caused concern amongst many academics, foreign policy advisors and the general public. In light of such controversial statements made by Trump, it’s worth noting whether academics have an optimistic or pessimistic stance on the future of nuclear non-proliferation, based on the policies current world leaders may undertake. Dr Futter believes that ‘there will be further proliferation, but this will be limited. It is conceivable to see another 3-4 nuclear powers over the next 20-30 years. This will not necessarily mean nuclear use, but will unquestionably raise the risks.’
Nuclear weapons were first created out of a perceived threat to security and the case remains for their continued maintenance and development. Hence, the concept of a nuclear free world can seem a little too ambitious, but this I think should not take away from its crucial importance; the fact remains that if a nuclear war was to happen- the repercussions are clear.
Foreign Policy. ‘President Trump and the Iran Nuclear Deal’ (2016) Accessed 4th December, 2016. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/11/16/president-trump-and-the-iran-nuclear-deal/
Glen Chafetz. ‘The End of the Cold War and the Future of Nuclear Proliferation: An Alternative to the Neorealist Perspective’ (2010): 125-158. Accessed 4th December, 2016. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09636419309347522?journalCode=fsst20&
Jacques E. C. Hymans. ‘The Threat of Nuclear Proliferation: Perception and Reality’ Ethics & International Affairs (2013): 281-298. Accessed 3rd December, 2016. Available at: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~hymans/Hymans%20Ethics%20and%20International%20Affairs%20FINAL%20PUBLISHED%20Sept%202013.pdf
Reaching Critical Will. ‘Open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament’ (2016) Accessed 3rd December, 2016. Available at: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/oewg
The New York Times. ‘Denuclearization must be Global’ (2016) Accessed 3rd December, 2016. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/09/opinion/denuclearization-must-be-global.html?_r=2
U.S. History. ‘The Manhattan Project’ (2016) Accessed 3rd December, 2016. Available at: http://www.ushistory.org/us/51f.asp