President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has many implications. It casts doubt upon the future of the nonproliferation regime. This could trigger a chain reaction. Here is the first result: as Iran threatened to restart its enrichment of uranium if the US pulled out, Saudi Arabia warned it would go nuclear.
Iran’s nuclear program is a response to the potential threat posed by America’s conventional capability. Tehran also wants to deter Israel. N. Korea’s nuclear program has prompted S. Korea and Japan to mull the idea of nuclear arms. That’s how chain reactions start. One state’s nuclear acquisitions drive its adversaries to follow suit. And once that capability has been acquired, there is only a slim chance of ever going back.
Brazil, Egypt, and Argentina halted their programs before, not after, they had the capability to produce nuclear weapons. South Africa is the only nation to eliminate its existing arsenal, no matter how small it was.
The two Koreas are moving toward rapprochement and the Trump-Kim Jong-un summit in Singapore is giving rise to great expectations. It is evident that tensions are easing, but nothing indicates that Pyongyang is ready to eliminate its nuclear stockpiles. N. Korea may curb its program but not disarm. It remembers well the lessons of Iraq and Libya, which rolled back their nuclear programs only to be attacked afterward. International law failed to protect them. The US-led foreign interventions that circumvent the UN prompt other countries to view nuclear capability as the only deterrent that is truly effective. Nukes appear to be the only way to protect one’s national security.
The US did little to keep India and Pakistan from acquiring atomic weapons or to punish them for going nuclear. It connived to help Israel with its program. But it threatened war against N. Korea and is siding with Israel against Iran. Is there any coherence in this approach to the problem of proliferation? Definitely not. There is no clearly defined policy. It is based on the principle of “whatever is convenient for me is right, and whatever isn’t — is wrong.”
The United States is violating the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT Treaty) right now by conducting "joint nuclear missions" with its European allies. The new B61-12 nuclear glide vehicle is scheduled for deployment in Europe around 2020. It will be delivered by US-built F-15 or F-16 aircraft or European-built Tornado fighters. The planes are operated by Belgian, Dutch, German, Italian, and US crews. The bombs will be adapted so that the stealth F-35 can join the air forces of the European allies. A lot of joint training is anticipated in order to prepare the crews of several nations to use these nuclear munitions in war. Such joint activities take place during the annual NATO exercise Steadfast Noon. Finland, a non-NATO country, is studying the possibility of purchasing the nuclear-capable F-35.
Thus, non-nuclear states are locked into a nuclear-weapon posture. Articles I and II of the Treaty state that nations may not "transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons" or hand over control over them. The fact that this is being violated is indisputable, but the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review eyes expanding this practice.
The F-35 that has been supplied to Israel, which is not a party to the NPT, is an addition to the air leg of the nuclear triad. Even NATO allies are forbidden to update or make any changes to the aircraft without US permission. Israel is the only exception to this rule. It is allowed to install any systems it wants, including those that would enable the aircraft to carry Israeli-made nuclear munitions. If that’s not a violation of the NPT then what is?
The United States is the only power to deploy nukes abroad. This is the definition of proliferation. US President Donald Trump put forward the idea that more countries, such as Japan and South Korea, may need to develop their own nuclear weapons. This is tantamount to calling on other states that are parties to the NPT to forgo their commitments and to expedite the erosion of the nonproliferation regime.
This is a hard time for arms control. The erosion of the NPT will greatly complicate the prospects for strategic arms agreements between the US and Russia. Global control over nuclear weapons is essential in order to make progress. The above-mentioned chain reaction may reduce all hopes to naught. The US non-compliance with its NPT commitments is an issue serious enough to be added to the agenda of the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.