Wednesday, 5 December 2012

How to Achieve Global Zero in the Middle East

Since its initiation in December 2008, Global Zero, the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, has run up against some formidable challenges. One is related to the readiness of the two major nuclear powers, Russia and the U.S., to move from the stockpile reductions to which they agreed in the New START to complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals. Others concern smaller nuclear powers' willingness to go along and whether reliable inspection, verification and enforcement systems can be put in place.

But these issues are not the real problem. Although Russia and the U.S. possess roughly 90 percent of the world's nuclear warheads, their nuclear capabilities are less of a threat than is the danger of proliferation. It is this fear of a fast--growing number of nuclear-armed states, not the fine balancing of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, that the case for Global Zero must address. Indeed, addressing the underlying security concerns that fuel nuclear competition in regional trouble spots is more important to the credibility of Global Zero's goal of "a world without nuclear weapons" than is encouraging exemplary behavior by the two major nuclear powers.

After all, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran and Israel might not be particularly impressed by a reduction in the U.S. and Russian nuclear-weapons stockpiles from gross overkill to merely mild overkill. There is a stark lack of synchrony between the relative improvement in the bilateral relations of the two major nuclear powers' and conditions in volatile regions around the world.

This gap is bound to negatively affect the processes of nuclear disarmament that are now being envisaged. These states' flirtation with nuclear weapons is not just a quest for prestige or status. It is an attempt to counter the conventional superiority of hostile neighbors.

Consider Pakistan, for which repeated defeat at the hands of its sworn enemy, India, in conventional wars has been the catalyst for its readiness "to eat grass," as former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously put it, to counter India's conventional superiority and nuclear capabilities. Today, Pakistan possesses more nuclear warheads than India does. To get to zero in this region, the conflict over Kashmir must be resolved, and India must cease being perceived by Pakistan as a threat. More...

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