The last error

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May 20, 2019 Pantelis Ikonomou, a former IAEA nuclear inspector, thinks out loud:

  • Though nuclear proliferation is a paramount global threat, super powers fail to demonstrate sufficient competence in responding.
  • World expectations based on the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that nuclear weapons states will preserve global peace in accordance with their responsibilities are plainly becoming wishful thinking.
  • The authority and competence of the world’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has been downgraded by its founders and historical proponents, the nuclear weapons states.
  • Denuclearization of North Korea is going nowhere. The pendulum-like rhetoric on both sides, Washington and Pyongyang, combined with the risk of miscalculation or a military error, enlarges the dangerous vicious cycle.
  • Washington might seriously consider the mitigation of Pyongyang’s fears for its security, as Beijing suggests, rather than playing the military threat card. This was after all the prevailing approach in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal
  • US withdrawal from JCPOA (2018) and Iran’s recent announcement of partial withdrawal from it lead to new risky situations. Tomorrow, no one should be surprised.
  • At the same time, US National Security Strategy (2017) and the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review (2018) both stated that American nuclear capability will be strengthened and its nuclear arsenal modernized. Reason given: deterrence of Russia.
  • On a precisely equivalent level are President Putin’s repeated statements (2018-2019): Russia needs to maintain its super power status through advanced nuclear capabilities.
  • The rest of the “legal” nuclear club – China, the UK, and France – follow suit. Why not? – they might ask.
  • In parallel, the de facto non-NPT nuclear weapons states, India, Pakistan, most probably Israel and now North Korea, keep developing their nuclear arsenals and ballistic capabilities.
  • Moreover, more nuclear candidates, are getting ready for their geopolitical nuclear race.
  • Unfortunately, nuclear issues are complex, making a sound solution of nuclear crises difficult even for strong, authoritarian, and ambitious world leaders.
  • Nuclear armaments are not a financial or political game. They are the leading global threat to human civilization.
  •  It is time to getting serious. The speed of developments makes derailing of constraints on nuclear weapons control likely. That would be the last human error.

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