Despite overall reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons in the world – now at around 20.000 – a new report by the UK “Trident Commission” says that nuclear weapons programmes in all of the states possessing them are being modernised. This first discussion paper of the Trident Commission, an independent, cross-party commission to examine UK nuclear weapons policy and hosted by BASIC, summarises nuclear force modernisation and growth in all of the Nuclear Weapon States other than the UK. The paper, written by consultant Dr. Ian Kearns, concludes that none of the Nuclear Weapon States is actively contemplating a future without nuclear weapons. On the contrary, the potential for nuclear weapons use is growing.
Major development of nuclear force programmes or their modernisation are underway in China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, and the United States. Most worryingly, Israel is planning to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile and India is building new missiles with longer ranges. Several more states are looking into smaller nuclear warheads for tactical use.
The author concludes that the evidence points to new nuclear arms races and a huge amount of money (hundreds of billions of US$) being spent over the coming decade. The report criticises major powers for not cooperatively addressing the challenges of globalisation, and allowing nuclear deterrence thinking to remain very evident in their defence policies.
The New START treaty is welcomed as a return to arms control but contains a number of loopholes, meaning that its effect on disarmament is minimal.