There are only a handful of nations that possess the ability to manufacture and deliver a nuclear weapon. The US, Russia, China, UK and France are all members of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which is designed to stop countries from developing nuclear weapons in exchange for using nuclear technology for peaceful ends. That hasn’t stopped countries like India, Pakistan and North Korea from developing their own weapons, and given this, its probably time to reconsider the NPT, because it might not be in the United States’ best interest to stay in this club.
The first obvious consideration is that no country that is pursuing nuclear weapons is friendly to the US. Iran continues to pursue nuclear technology despite having signed the NPT. Iran is probably receiving assistance from Russia and/or China, mainly as a way to undermine the U.S. in the Middle East. North Korea certainly hasn’t followed through on any nuclear promises. None of these are friendly to the US.
There are a number of countries that could develop nuclear as a real deterrent to real threats. Japan and Taiwan continue to be threatened by China. Both of these countries possess the people and resources to build nuclear weapons. What about South Korea? Rather than continuing to negotiate with North Korea, South Korea could easily build more nuclear weapons than North Korea ever could.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait could simply buy nuclear weapons as a defensive measure against Iran. Even better, the U.S. could develop a leasing option for weapons. Those countries could pay money for the U.S. to maintain weapons in a secure facility in the region for defensive purposes. The lease keeps the technology out of their hands while maintaining a legitimate threat of nuclear response.
Now, one might argue that this scenario is exactly what the NPT was trying to prevent. We don’t want to lower the threshold for nuclear weapon use to the point they become commonplace. But will this actually happen? India and Pakistan have still not yet exchanged nuclear weapons despite their hatred and both not having signed the NPT. I also find it hard to argue that countries like Japan and South Korea wouldn’t develop nuclear policy consistent with current U.S. policy.
The NPT worked when the countries of the world chose to follow it. Much like the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, when Russia and China continue to find ways to undermine the treaty, it doesn’t make continued sense to stay in, especially when it places our allies at risk of invasion. Dropping out of the NPT and arming our allies might be the simplest way to bring countries like Iran and North Korea to the negotiating table.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. You can purchase my new book, To Build a House, through this link at Amazon.