One such development is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on non-nuclear Ukraine could persuade other non-nuclear states that they need nuclear weapons to guarantee their security. The perception that Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling has succeeded in deterring NATO’s direct intervention in the conflict — and in limiting the kinds of military assistance the West is willing to provide Ukraine — could encourage countries like North Korea and China to brandish nuclear weapons in a crisis in order to deter the United States from coming to the aid of its allies. And this perception of the success of nuclear saber-rattling could heighten fears by non-nuclear states that they might be abandoned by a nuclear-armed protector and left to fend for themselves.
A second worrisome development is the rapid expansion of North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities, which threaten both South Korea and Japan. Following the failed 2019 summit meeting in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, there have been no negotiations to eliminate or even limit North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The Biden administration has repeatedly called on the North to engage, but those appeals have been rebuffed.
Instead, North Korea has carried out an aggressive program to expand and diversify its arsenal, including by testing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. homeland and developing tactical nuclear weapons that it threatens to use preemptively against South Korea. One of Kim’s major goals is for North Korea to be accepted as a legitimate nuclear weapon state. He insists that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is permanent and non-negotiable.
The longstanding non-proliferation goal of denuclearizing North Korea is a lost cause. Now the main challenge North Korea poses to non-proliferation is as a potential driver of proliferation elsewhere in Northeast Asia — particularly in South Korea and Japan.
A third development is Iran’s advancement toward the nuclear weapons threshold. The Islamic Republic pursued a nuclear weapons development program in the late 1990s but suspended a critical part of it in 2003 and further put its nuclear ambitions on hold in 2015 by agreeing to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, with the P5+1 countries — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.
In exchange for relief from economic sanctions, Iran accepted strict limits on its nuclear program, especially its uranium enrichment program. Those limits meant that, if Iran decided to break out of the agreement, it would need around 12 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon. The JCPOA was working well, but Trump decided to withdraw from it in 2018. Iran responded by rebuilding its enrichment program and thereby shortening the time it would need to build nuclear weapons.
President Joe Biden came into office hoping to restore compliance with the JCPOA. Indirect talks between the United States and Iran, with Europeans serving as go-betweens, came close to a deal in August 2022. But Iran backed away, adopting the unacceptable condition that an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into possible past Iranian violations of its safeguards obligations first be dropped.
The stalemate solidified in the fall of 2022 with the regime’s brutal crackdown on Iranian protesters and its sale of armed drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. These developments made it politically difficult for the Biden administration and its European allies to reach a deal with Iran.
Hopes for JCPOA revival are now all but dead. Iran now has enough uranium enriched to the 60% level, which is near weapons-grade, to produce a nuclear weapon in a couple of weeks or less. An unconstrained Iran moving steadily toward the nuclear weapons threshold creates pressures for proliferation in the Middle East — first and foremost in the case of Saudi Arabia.
A fourth development that increases pessimism about the future of non-proliferation is the sharp deterioration of U.S. relations with Russia and China. In the past, Russia and China were often America’s partners in non-proliferation. They shared an interest in preventing additional states from acquiring nuclear weapons. In collaboration with Washington, they played constructive roles in the Six-Party Talks with North Korea in the 2000s and in the JCPOA negotiations.
Such collaboration is very unlikely today. China and Russia now appear inclined to prioritize their geostrategic interests over their non-proliferation goals. And their principal geostrategic interest is to undermine U.S. power and influence around the world. Beijing and Moscow have strengthened their strategic relationships with Iran and North Korea and have become reluctant to pressure them to rein in their nuclear programs.
They’ve made clear they’ll veto any additional U.N. sanctions against
either Iran or North Korea, and they’ve played a major role helping Tehran and Pyongyang evade existing sanctions. And now that both Iran and North Korea have become arms suppliers to Russia in its aggression against Ukraine, it’s even less likely that Moscow will cooperate with the United States to address the proliferation threats they pose.
A fifth reason for concern is the relative decline in post-Cold War U.S. primacy and widespread uncertainty about the future of U.S. overseas presence and commitments. Since the NPT negotiations in the 1960s, the United States has been the driving force in building and strengthening the global non-proliferation regime. It remains the regime’s leading supporter, but its clout has diminished — and its ability to persuade or pressure others to follow its lead on non-proliferation matters has declined.
When the United States dominated the worldwide civil nuclear energy market, it had leverage to compel civil nuclear recipients to accept strict non-proliferation constraints as conditions of supply. Today, countries embarking on nuclear energy programs can choose from a range of nuclear suppliers, including some that are less insistent on rigorous non-proliferation controls as conditions of supply.
The effectiveness of U.S. sanctions as a non-proliferation tool depends heavily on the dominant role of the dollar and the U.S.-led international financial system in facilitating worldwide trade and investments. But countries often targeted by U.S. sanctions are beginning to work together to develop alternative payment methods that would reduce their vulnerability to American pressures.
With the perception that the United States is pulling back from its overseas presence and commitments, especially in the Middle East, some traditional U.S. friends, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are more inclined to hedge their bets, reach out to others like Russia and China, and resist U.S. non-proliferation demands.
The Biden administration has sought to restore confidence in the international role of the United States, and it has had considerable success. But foreign audiences are aware that future presidential transitions could bring a return of America First policies.
In theory, the combination of these five developments might be expected to result in a significant increase in the number of countries with nuclear weapons. Indeed, that is what many pundits predict.
But nuclear proliferation doesn’t occur in theory. It occurs in particular countries — with particular relationships with allied states and potential adversaries, particular financial and technical capabilities, and particular domestic balances of political power.
To gain a better understanding of real-world prospects for proliferation, it is essential to focus on individual countries — and on their particular incentives and disincentives for acquiring nuclear weapons. I’ll briefly discuss several countries often considered the most likely to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.
The logical place to start might be Ukraine, the non-nuclear victim of Russian aggression. With Kyiv unlikely ever to be admitted to NATO, one might expect Ukrainians to want a nuclear deterrent to prevent Moscow from again seeking to erase their country. But I think it’s unlikely they will seek nuclear weapons.
Ukraine has major civil nuclear infrastructure, but it lacks the specialized facilities for producing the weapons-grade uranium or plutonium needed for nuclear weapons. Devoting the resources and time to build such facilities makes little sense. For the foreseeable future, national energies and resources will be devoted to rebuilding the country.
More fundamentally, Ukraine believes its future lies with the West. It knows that acquiring nuclear weapons could alienate its Western partners and reduce the likelihood of joining Western institutions such as the European Union.
And it may draw the conclusion from the current conflict that, with its own courage and resolve and Western military support, it can hold its own or even defeat a numerically superior, nuclear-armed aggressor — and it can do so without possessing nuclear weapons.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine doesn’t pose a direct threat to America’s Asian allies. But they’re concerned that it could embolden North Korea and China to act more aggressively in their region.
South Korea is increasingly alarmed by the North Korean nuclear threat. In January, President Yoon Suk Yeol said that, if that threat continues to grow, South Korea may consider acquiring nuclear weapons.
With the North now able to strike the U.S. homeland with nuclear weapons, South Koreans question whether the United States would come to their defense, including by using nuclear weapons, if it meant exposing U.S. cities to nuclear attack. They wonder whether Washington would risk Los Angeles to save Seoul.
Public opinion polls consistently indicate strong support among South Koreans for acquiring their own nucle
ar deterrent. But South Korea’s leaders are well aware of the major costs and risks of going nuclear. It could seriously erode the U.S.-South Korean alliance, increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula, trigger strong penalties by China, damage Seoul’s international standing, and terminate civil nuclear cooperation with other states, which would end South Korea’s reliance on nuclear power for 30% of its electricity.
For now at least, the Yoon administration would prefer to rely on U.S. security guarantees rather than pursue its own nuclear deterrent. But it believes the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent needs to be strengthened — including by giving South Korea a greater voice in its planning and execution. If current U.S.-Republic of Korea efforts succeed in boosting South Korean confidence in the reliability of U.S. security guarantees, the appeal of an independent nuclear capability will be significantly diminished.
Japan is also considering its nuclear options. While it shares Seoul’s concerns about the North Korean threat, it is also worried about China. And unlike South Korea, Japan already has uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities that would allow it to move toward nuclear weapons relatively quickly.
But Japan is even less likely than South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. Its public remains strongly opposed, reflecting its history as the only victim of nuclear attack. Tokyo is giving high priority to conventional means of deterring and responding to aggression by China or North Korea — planning to dramatically increase its military expenditures, pursuing long-range missile strike capabilities, and joining with Seoul and Washington to promote trilateral defense cooperation. Like South Korea, Japan is working with the United States to strengthen the U.S. extended deterrent. And like South Korea, it’s well aware of the many downsides of pursuing nuclear weapons.
Taiwan, like South Korea, once had a covert nuclear weapons program but was caught by the United States and forced to shut it down. It now faces a mortal threat from China and, like Ukraine, lacks a binding security guarantee from a nuclear power.
But it, too, is unlikely to pursue nuclear weapons. It was forced long ago to give up the specific nuclear facilities needed for a nuclear program. It knows it would forfeit the political support and military assistance it has received since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, mainly from the United States. While it will never receive a formal security guarantee from the United States, it is encouraged by Biden’s repeated personal statements of support for defending the island and by bipartisan political support in the U.S. Congress. And not least, Taiwan understands that China would regard a nuclear program as intended to ensure permanent Taiwanese independence and would almost certainly react by intervening militarily.
Putin sent condolences to Indian President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi following a horrific crash involving three trains in Odisha last evening, in which almost 300 people were killed in what was the country’s worst rail disaster in decades, says shortly after, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov announced to the world: “Russia, as well as the United States, will preserve the notifications on launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles under the 1988 agreement, which will make it possible to avoid dangerous escalations”.
As these events unfolded, this report notes, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE attended the BRICS Alliance meeting in South Africa, as the bloc mulls expansion—Saudi Arabia announced at the meeting that its trade with BRICS Alliance nations topped $160 billion in 2022, and it was revealed Argentina is one step away from joining the New Development Bank of the BRICS group of major emerging economies—External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar of India declared: “BRICS is no longer an alternative, it is an established feature of the global landscape…The message of reform that BRICS embodies must permeate the world of multilateralism…BRICS is not only an expression of multipolarity but of the many and diverse ways of meeting international challenges”—and as to why the world is rapidly moving into the BRICS Alliance, historian and China expert James Bradley most accurately observed: “China is building bridges while America builds military bases”.
In response to the declining socialist Western colonial powers waging war in their corrupt puppet state Ukraine in a failing bid to maintain global hegemony, this report continues, President Putin ordered a partial mobilization, about which the Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced yesterday: “The call-up amid the Ukraine conflict has swelled the army’s ranks by 300,000 personnel, creating up to 280 new units”—an announcement joined this morning by the MoD reporting that Russian military forces over the past 24 hours killed over 360 Ukrainian soldiers while obliterating tens-of-millions of dollars more worth of Western weapons, and revealed: “In total, the Russian Armed Forces have destroyed 431 Ukrainian warplanes, 235 combat helicopters, 4,436 unmanned aerial vehicles, 424 surface-to-air missile systems, 9,356 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 1,108 multiple rocket launchers, 4,971 field artillery guns and mortars and 10,598 special military motor vehicles since the beginning of the special military operation”.
In a just released Wall Street Journal interview, this report details, former comedian turned puppet leader Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said he was now ready to launch a long-awaited counteroffensive but tempered a forecast of success with a warning: “It could take some time and come at a heavy cost”—a warning that followed the news: “America’s top military officer says training for Ukrainian forces on advanced U.S. Abrams tanks has started, but those weapons crucial over the long term in trying to expel Russia from occupied territory will not be ready in time for Kyiv’s imminent counteroffensive”—and in the just published leftist Washington Post article “Europe Is Committed to Rearming. Why It’s Not Simple”, sees it revealing: “Governments across Europe have committed to significantly increasing military spending to prepare themselves for the kind of prolonged, high-intensity conflict being fought by Ukraine…The results, however, have been uneven, raising the questions of whether and when Europe will be ready for future security challenges…Whether governments will be able to pay for ambitious defense upgrades is an open question. The calls for more spending come at a time of rapid inflation and high demand for public sector wage increases as well the subsidies and investment needed to meet targets for addressing climate change”.
While socialist Western colonial weapon makers gleefully rake in their bloodshed profits, this report notes, it was just revealed: “Only 42% of Britain’s military personnel are satisfied with their service…The UK military’s morale continues to fall, with servicemen disgruntled over poor housing and low wages, a new survey conducted by the country’s Ministry of Defence shows”—is a plummeting morale that caused antiwar populist forces in Spain to wipeout their socialist leaders in last week’s election—and today it’s reported: “Alternative for Germany rejects claims that it is linked to extremists, but head of domestic intelligence has warned of ‘astonishing parallels’ with the 1920s and 1930s…Prominent figures in Germany’s political mainstream are raising the alarm after a new poll showed support for the country’s leading far-right party at a record high…The latest release from the DeutschlandTrend survey, which is conducted monthly by infratest dimap for public broadcaster ARD, clocks voter support for Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) at 18%, putting it on a par with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats”
Among those understanding the grave implications of world renowned Professor Emeritus Yakov Rabkin of history at the Université de Montréal warning: “Just as the Soviets justified their jamming of Western radio broadcasts with the need to protect against “ideological sabotage”, NATO and its member states have created many institutions in recent years to protect citizens from, so-called, “Russian disinformation””, this report continues, is European Parliament member Clare Daly, who in knowing the truth that so-called “Russian disinformation” is nothing more than the excuse used to stifle all debate and censor facts, declared to her fellow lawmakers: “We need to put a stop to this madness now!”.
The “madness” railed against by European Parliament member Daly, this report details, was put on full display this week when British police detained and electronically strip searched Grayzone journalist Kit Klarenberg because he factually reports on matters relating to Russia and Ukraine—but is truthful reporting standing in stark opposition to the leftist New York Times revealing: “Ukraine has become a testing ground for state-of-the-art weapons and information systems, and new ways to use them, that Western political officials and military commanders predict could shape warfare for generations to come”—and is truthful reporting standing in stark contrast to the leftist Washington Post gleefully proclaiming: “Vanquishing Russia in Ukraine will produce a Russian “defeat dividend”, allowing the United States to redeploy resources from Europe to the Pacific theater to counter China…A Ukrainian victory will also create conditions of peace and stability in Europe that will expand trade and investment with our largest trading partners…Over time, it will allow the United States to supplant Russia as the primary energy supplier to Europe…The financial benefits to Americans will be enormous”.
Following the fake news socialist Western media falsely reporting that the UAE was leaving OPEC, this report concludes, the UAE retaliated by withdrawing from the American-led naval coalition, delivering a blow to US military prestige—and was a blow against fake news leftist Western media propagandists joined by the news: “The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has refused to invite reporters from Bloomberg News and Reuters to a scheduled event in Austria later this week…Correspondents from the Wall Street Journal were also snubbed”.
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