The Unmaking of the Nuclear Arms Race
R. Rhodes (Invited Speaker)
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, more than 30,000 nuclear weapons have been removed from service by the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. Strategic weapons based in the new states of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have been consolidated in Russia. Programs of support between Russia and the U.S. continue to secure Russian nuclear materials, while highly-enriched uranium (HEU) sufficient for more than 10,000 warheads has been diluted and fissioned in U.S. power reactors, permanently removing it from world supply. South Africa has dismantled it small nuclear arsenal; Brazil and Argentina have foresworn nuclear weapons development; and all three nations have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Iraq has been prevented from weapons development, Libya has foresworn and Iran has probably been delayed. The NPT signatories made that treaty permanent in 1995, and agreed upon a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, currently being observed worldwide but not yet in force.
During the same period, however, India, Pakistan and probably North Korea have become nuclear weapons states, while mature nuclear infrastructures in some 30 countries make them virtual nuclear powers, capable of producing a small nuclear arsenal in a matter of months. The five major nuclear powers (the U.S., Russia, China, France and the U.K.) have made no serious attempt to negotiate eliminating their nuclear arsenals despite their commitments under the NPT to do so, and partly as a result, nuclear weapons status continues to be prestigious internationally. The U.S. signed but so far has failed to ratify the CTBT, preventing the treaty from coming into force. A private black-market network of nuclear proliferation based in Pakistan under the leadership of Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan has been revealed and curtailed. The September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorist attack on U.S. landmarks has raised the specter of terrorist use of nuclear weapons, prompting the administration of George W. Bush to adopt and apply a controversial policy of preventive war that postulates state tolerance or sponsorship of such groups. The Bush Administration has also withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty to pursue its goal of national missile defense, further challenging diplomacy as an approach to resolving nuclear conflicts.
Is the world safer today than it was during the Cold War? Will nuclear weapons ever cease to threaten accidental or deliberate catastrophe? Is a terrorist bomb a serious risk? Is abolition a utopian dream or a practical possibility, and if the latter, under what conditions? These and other questions will be discussed, with opportunity for questions and discussion after the formal presentation. A book signing will follow.
Richard Rhodes is the author of twenty books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award; Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, which was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize in History; an investigation of the roots of private violence, Why They Kill; a narrative history of the Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen killer task forces, Masters of Death; a personal memoir, A Hole in the World; a biography of the American artist John James Audubon; and four novels. He has received numerous fellowships for research and writing, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation Program in Peace and International Security and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and a host and correspondent for documentaries on public television's Frontline and American Experience series. An affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, he is currently researching a third volume of nuclear history, Endgame, which will examine the international politics of nuclear weapons across the past two decades.