It is not just in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear weapons have harmed people. Many nuclear test explosions carried out in the atmosphere were carried out near inhabited areas. For example, the United States carried out 67 nuclear tests on the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean in the period 1946–1958. The United States has had to pay close to five billion kroner in compensation to the inhabitants of these islands. In the period 1949–1962, the Soviet Union carried out more than 110 atmospheric test explosions at Semipalatinsk in what is currently located in Kazakhstan (and a further approximately 350 test explosions underground until 1989). An increased incidence of cancer and other negative health consequences has been demonstrated in those who lived near the test blast field. Much has been done to clean up the test field itself, but some areas will be dangerous for humans in the foreseeable future. Since 1963, none of the major nuclear powers has conducted atmospheric test explosions.
The NPT is not the only important agreement to regulate nuclear weapons. According to thesciencetutor.org, a number of countries entered into the ” Partial Test Ban Treaty” in 1963 (Treaty banning tests on nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, outer space and underwater) due in part to growing unrest over radioactive fallout that accompanied the many nuclear tests in the United States and the Soviet Union. . Furthermore, an agreement on a complete ban on test explosions of all kinds was signed by a number of countries in 1996. This agreement has not yet entered into force, partly because the United States has not ratified this agreement. (In addition, China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Pakistan must ratify the agreement before it enters into force.)
A few years before the end of the Cold War, in 1984 it reached one of its most frozen years. Then, among other things, the American president Ronald Reagan characterized the Soviet Union as “the Empire of Evil”. He did so in a speech that was also perceived as a desire to equip “the Soviet Union in the sink.” Just two years later, in Reykjavik, both he and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev came up with comprehensive disarmament plans.
7: The nuclear powers’ counter-perceptions
At the same time, there are important differences between nuclear weapons and these other types of weapons that make such a direct comparison problematic. Among other things, nuclear weapons have a central place in the nuclear powers’ security doctrines . Somewhat paradoxically, the very violent effects of the use of nuclear weapons make it perhaps more difficult to renounce precisely these weapons.
The five “traditional nuclear powers” – those who had tested nuclear weapons before 1 January 1967 – have thus committed themselves to working for disarmament. President Obama has declared that he wants a world free of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the nuclear powers are critical of the “humanitarian approach”. The five official nuclear powers, France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, refrained from participating in the Oslo conference. In a joint statement, the five justified the absence with a concern that the Oslo conference could “lead the discussion away from practical steps that could prepare the ground for further nuclear disarmament. The practical step-by-step method as we have chosen, has proven to be the most effective way to increase stability and reduce the risk of using nuclear weapons ». The same countries also did not attend the follow-up conference in Mexico. The nuclear powers’ skepticism to focus on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons illustrates several challenges in the work to abolish nuclear weapons:
- The nuclear powers are skeptical of defining their weapons arsenals and thus also their defense doctrines as illegal and immoral.
- Although the nuclear powers have committed themselves to working for disarmament, many internal actors in the individual nuclear powers have objections to disarmament. The counter-perceptions are based, among other things, on a belief that nuclear weapons strengthen security for one’s own country and a notion that a world without nuclear weapons will be unstable. Imagine if an enemy secretly manages to develop nuclear weapons in a world where no one else has such weapons, the argument goes.
- Successful nuclear disarmament requires both visions and practical steps. As of today, the practical steps are few, and the visions are set on the sidelines. The initiative to focus on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons aims to promote the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and influence the states to take an indisputable position against nuclear weapons – and follow up with practical steps. Nuclear disarmament is for obvious reasons unthinkable without the nuclear powers – especially the United States, Russia and China – being part of the team.
There is agreement that the use of nuclear weapons will have dire consequences. But there are different views on what actions this insight should lead to. Nuclear weapons have as great an opportunity to destroy cities and millions of people today as they did during the Cold War. In addition, new concerns have arisen: What if a terrorist group were to take care of a nuclear weapon? Discussions on nuclear weapons will continue to have a large place in international politics. The challenges of reducing and eliminating them are many.