RMIT examines the tensions between the US nuclear force modernisation and the global non-proliferation regime, and options for keeping disarmament momentum ‘alive’ under challenging conditions.
Nine countries in the world possess a total of 15,375 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia account for 93 per cent of them. Since their peak in the mid-1980s, global arsenals have shrunk by over two-thirds.
More countries have given up weapons and programs in the past 30 years than have tried to acquire them.
So it is surprising that the US has embarked on a 30-year program to modernise its nuclear arsenal and production facilities which includes redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapon laboratories and production plants.
This program violates the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires the nuclear powers to engage in nuclear disarmament.
Despite the fact that the US government already possesses roughly 7,000 nuclear weapons that can easily destroy the world, the program is set to move forward.
RMIT researcher Dr Aiden Warren from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies has just returned from a visiting fellowship at the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies in Washington DC where he worked on a project investigating the extent to which US nuclear modernisation will impact the NPT and broader global security implications.
"Given that Russia and China are also steadily modernising their stockpiles, it is anticipated that the findings will inform scholars, analysts, academics and policy-makers by advancing policy solutions and reforms that could support the legitimate security interests of the US and its allies whilst also implementing its disarmament obligations under the NPT," Warren said.
"It will help generate constructive proposals on how to address disarmament challenges in the 2020 NPT review cycle, including on how it can help inform the approach of US allies in this important area.
"It is also designed to contribute to the generation of ideas for the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) and other potential NPT groupings."
Warren attended associated meetings in preparation for the recent Nuclear Security Summit 2016 held in Washington DC with senior policy makers from the United States Department of Defense, the United States Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security.
"I had similar discussions with senior policy analysts at research institutions such as Brookings Institution, Hudson Institute, Carnegie Endowment, Association of Arms Control, and Federation of American Scientists.
"In addition, meeting with academics from Georgetown University, George Washington University, American University, Howard University and John Hopkins University provided me with empirical data on the tensions between policy and implementation, particularly when considering the impact modernisation will have on disarmament principles and mobilising political will," he explained.
"Studying the US administration’s nuclear weapons strategy will lead to findings designed to inform and strengthen the disarmament leadership of the US, whilst ensuring that the US arsenal remains a credible and safe deterrent on its journey towards zero arms reduction."
Story: Petra van Nieuwenhoven