2009/07/14

Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty violations

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source : en.rian.ru

The NNPT has been violated many times by its signatories.

You do likely think of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, right?

Well, that's the kind of (alleged) violations that made the (Western) news.
The whole picture is different, and full of hypocrisy (as often in Western security policy).

Article I (no assistance to non-nuclear powers for nuclear weapons programs) was likely violated by the PRC with its help for the nuclear program of Pakistan.
I do also recall an erratic proposal by President Sarkozy made to Chancellor Merkel that could have amounted to shared control of nukes - in violation fo the treaty.

Article VI

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
This is a most interesting article, and no doubt one that was violated by most nuclear powers - for decades.
The few nuclear arms reduction treaties of the 80's and later are a poor excuse.
President Obama hinted at possible disarmament and raised significant domestic protest - as if the U.S. hasn't committed itself (by its own free decision and in its own interest) to pursue that goal for more than four decades already.

Non-nuclear powers didn't only join this treaty for preventing a world-wide nuclear arms race; they also did so because this treaty had article VI, and gave them the moral right to demand nuclear arms reductions among the nuclear powers.

The PR China and India both pursued a minimal deterrence strategy with nuclear arsenals not much larger than the nuclear armament of a single 80's or later U.S. or Soviet SSBN (now about 96 and 48 warheads respectively).

It's my impression that the PR China is the only official nuclear power and NNPT signatory power that did not violate article VI (yet). It was and is already at a minimum deterrence level (rumored to be about 150-200 nukes) and can legitimately wait at that level till the other nuclear powers of the NNPT have reached that level and are ready for a disarmament treaty as well.

The French and British are significantly above a "minimal deterrence" level, and this is in part a result of their SSBN-based strategy. The have one or at most two SSBN at sea (and therefore likely to survive a first strike) at any time. This requires additional nuclear weapons in docked SSBNs. Their SSBNs have nevertheless more nuclear warheads than necessary (UK Vanguard class "up to 128" but more likely 64, French Le Triomphant class "up to" 96 warheads).


Article X

1. Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.
The NNPT has been presented to the public as a kind of holy international law when Iraq, Iran and North Korea were under criticism (strangely, rarely so Israel - Israel is still no 'official' nuclear power because that would illegalize U.S. military aid due to a U.S. law).
It isn't. It's possible to leave the treaty on relatively short notice, and being bullied by a conventionally superior nuclear power counts as a valid reason.


There's a general problem with the slow and half-hearted nuclear arms reduction steps. Other nations with no or much less nuclear arms can reasonably and legitimately ask why they should stick to the NNPT and have no nuclear weapons when the conventionally quite unassailable nuclear power assert their need to have thousands or hundreds of nculear weapons. It's this hyprocrisy that damages the credibility of Western non-proliferation policies.


Whatever nation insists that another nation shall follow its obligations from this treaty should follow its own NPPT obligations, or be exposed as a nation of hypocrites.

Sven Ortmann

edit: OK, the arsenals of UK and France may be 'small' enough to be OK (preliminarily) under article VI.
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6 comments:

  1. "rarely so Israel - Israel is still no 'official' nuclear power"

    Of course you know Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear NPT, so you can't apply the statutes in the treaty to them.

    That's a pretty basic error.

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  2. I was fully aware of that, but you didn't read carefully enough.

    I was writing that politicians (and others) created the perception that the NNPT was international law, not a treaty that nations could get rid of. There was no perception that by simply getting out of the treaty countries like Iraq, Iran and North Korea could legally and legitimately produce nukes.

    That's relevant in regard to Israel because its behaviour outside of the treaty hasn't been criticized much (in the Western world).

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  3. Sven,

    I think you might have your figures on the UK's nuclear stockpile (and therefore your conclusions) a bit wrong:

    i) "British are significantly above a "minimal deterrence" level"

    So, what is "minimal deterrence"? Earlier, you gave China as an example, saying that "It was and is already at a minimum deterrence level (rumored to be about 150-200 nukes)"

    If 150 - 200 is "ok", then then UK is "ok", too: According to the UK NAO (their "Bundesrechnungshof"), the number of the UK's operational warheads is "fewer than 160". Likewise, SIPRI puts the number at 165. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_the_United_Kingdom#Number_of_warheads , please refer to the linked documents).

    ii) "UK Vanguard class "up to 128" but more likely 64" - you give that as the primary reason why the UK has more than the minimally required number of warheads.

    Actually, the number you give is not quite correct: Trident D5 SLBM deployed on the Vanguard class can carry a theoretical maximum of 12 warheads So, the *maximum* number of warheads on a Vanguard is 192. In the U.S., this number is limited to 8 warheads, due to the START I arms reduction treaty. However, as far as I know, the UK is not signatory to START.

    The real number of warheads per submarine is far lower, though. In 1998, the UK government announced that the Vanguard class would sail with a maximum number of 48 warheads per ship. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_Trident_programme#UK_nuclear_policy , please also review the official UK MoD fact sheet on the nuclear deterrence: http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/AE97B570-0E9A-48BC-9405-857F5E962507/0/Cm6994_Factsheet4.pdf )

    So with one ship at sea at any time plus one ship being prepared to sail, the total number of required warheads is 96. Well below "minimal deterrent".

    It is also noteworthy that the UK, to my knowledge as the only of the 5 "classic" nuclear powers, has disbanded the "nuclear triad" concept of a combination of air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons. Contrary to France, which maintains a "semi-strategic" nuclear weapon in the form of the ASMP/ASMP-A, the UK has limited itself to the really "big stick", a true form of strategic defense against nuclear attack.

    So, if anything, I would call the UK the most well behaved of the nuclear club.

    On the other hand, looking at China, their time of being a well behaved nuclear club member may be coming to an end rather quickly:

    http://www.informationdissemination.net/2009/06/jamestown-foundation-offered-quick.html

    Best,
    Christoph

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  4. "international law" is more of a jus inter gentes than a codified set of laws.

    International law is just about whatever a country makes of it.

    "There was no perception that by simply getting out of the treaty countries like Iraq, Iran and North Korea could legally and legitimately produce nukes." proves the NPT is just words on paper.

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  5. I wasn't sure about the UK's arsenal. The British Trident 2 D5 were IIRC always limited to a max. of eight warheads, even though 12 is technically possible. That's where the 128 came from.

    "So with one ship at sea at any time plus one ship being prepared to sail, the total number of required warheads is 96. Well below "minimal deterrent"."

    They need three boats for a full rotation (including long refuels and other major maintenance) and a fourth just in case of an accident.

    The necessary warhead count depends a lot on how many warheads are used per missile, how many missiles carried per boat and on how often they load and unload the missiles.

    I would consider 20-40 missiles with 1x150 kt each as enough deterrence if the provisions for their survivability are good and the cumulative reliability good as well.
    An aggressor that would be ready to sacrifice ten major cities would likely not be deterred by more nukes as well.

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  6. "International law is just about whatever a country makes of it."

    It's much less about what a country does about it.
    International Law is a line that a state crosses at its own risk. Other powers will either sanction it or remember the violation - and adjust their own behaviour.


    The purpose of this post was in part to show that the NPT is not just a club to wield at nuclear power wannabes - it's also a document that includes a negotiated agreement. All powers that signed it are legitimized to demand that the others adhere to the treaty - something that was much ignored in many discussions about the NNPT.

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