Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nuclear Umbrella: Pick 40

Defense News recently ran an editorial arguing that the United States should build new nuclear weapons or run the risk of losing the skills necessary to build these weapons, and:
“That's simply unacceptable for a nation whose nuclear protective umbrella covers some 40 nations.”
The number 40 captured my imagination. I thought immediately of the 28 members of NATO. Then it occurred to me that this includes the United States itself, which is a provider of the extended deterrent usually referred to as the “nuclear umbrella” and thus might not be counted toward the 40. And, of course, the United Kingdom and France have their own independent nuclear deterrents, so 25 in NATO properly under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella.” But then I decided that coming to agreement about this will require a more cooperative spirit, so 28.

Japan is an oft-cited (if increasingly complex) case, and South Korea leaps to mind, but I started running out of steam in my effort to count to 40.

Then it occurred to me I might have the whole thing the wrong way round. I began again: 192 members of the United Nations, now subtracting:
  • 33 members of the Latin American Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,
  • 13 parties to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone,
  • 10 parties to the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,
  • 53 signatories to the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, and
  • 5 parties to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone
    And, of course,
  • 28 NATO members previously mentioned

This should leave 50 UN members not in NATO or an explicit nuclear weapon free zone agreement, right?

Of course, the devil is in the details, with Taiwan probably relevant and Niue party to Pelindaba and Brunei party to Bangkok all without seats in Turtle Bay – but building on the collaborative spirit referenced above, let’s say this is all part of a round 30, leaving 10 states to be named later under the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” from among (more or less) the follwing 53: Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Qatar, Moldova, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Plus, the Holy See.

This list certainly includes some of my favorites, but the point is that the who the United States has pledged to defend is potentially important at a moment when our negative security assurances (not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) will again be discussed critically at the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The stakes may not seem what they once were in extending our deterrent largesse in this way, but exactly which states we have pledged to defend with nuclear weapons under what conditions remains a worthy topic of public debate because it has implications for the effectiveness of our nonproliferation policy.

1 comment:

  1. I can't find the original article that you cite. Can you please pass along a link to the specific article? Thanks!