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Without any doubt nuclear technology has molded the modern world. Political and military power has been redefined, so too have alliances and enmities been reshaped to fit a world defined by such a destructive technology.
On examination of various sources, it will become evident that the introduction of nuclear power not only led to the definitive shift of super-power status from France and Britain to America, but also the struggle to emerge as and the eventual prevalence of America over the Soviet Union as the unstated ‘world leader’.
In light of this political and military hierarchy, nuclear technology has been the foundation for alliance and antagonism between nuclear states, non-nuclear states and suspected nuclear states. The non-proliferation treaty and the terms it encompasses have created a mitigating body of confederates – but also the alienation of non-conformist countries.
Below it will be discussed with reference to multiple sources how our world has we know it has evolved into a sensitive scale; held in balance by Mutually Assured Destruction, and at constant risk of tipping due to the decreasing applicability of M.A.D. theory to newly empowered nations.
Review Of Literature
Summary Of Evidence
Source A: The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy”
Evident immediately in the source is the role nuclear capability had in arousing tensions, but preventing an escalation into all out war, between the United States and The Soviet Union. The military capability on both sides of the Iron Curtain dictated that ‘hot’ war would lead to the annihilation of both super-powers. Thus, the immense fear of the opponent led to massive tensions arousing between the two largest military powers of the time.
While it can be argued that M.A.D. resulted in a relatively stable environment, due to the absence of direct, armed conflict between the nuclear giants, many have criticized the restrictions that M.A.D. placed on America. In fear of self-destruction, the U.S. was unable to topple the Soviet regime, and therefore M.A.D. propagated the survival of “an evil empire”.
However, the balance of military capability is beginning to favor the west. America is on the verge of surpassing the nuclear ability of China and Russia. Consequentially, the United States sits at the top of the international hierarchy; emerging as an unstated ‘world leader’.
Source B: Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear technology has opened up a forum for discussion and engagement between many, otherwise unrelated, countries. Originally signed by fifty-nine states and the three primary signatories; the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty has led to an alliance between the world powers and many developing nations.
As a tacit requirement of the treaty, countries with nuclear capability are obliged to assist developing signatories in the pursuit and construction of civilian nuclear power. This cooperation was unseen before July 1968 and can be attributed to the discussions around the restriction of nuclear armament.
Conversely, those who have not opted to accept the treaty have imposed a rift between themselves and the signatories defined by a distrust of their nuclear intensions. India, Pakistan and Israel are the only three countries to have refused to partake in the NPT, and later North Korea (a former signatory) renounced the treaty in the name of pursuing a nuclear program. Thus, the alliance and cooperation amongst signatory states does not extend to the aforementioned outliers.
The inequality of the NPT outlines the international hierarchy established within the confines of nuclear politics. The nuclear powers (in effect, America) were not required to renounce their nuclear arsenal whereas nonnuclear nations were obliged to forgo any nuclear development. This preferential agreement displays the influence and authority accompanying nuclear ability.
Source C: Iran Tests Missiles Amid Nuclear Tensions
In September of 2009 two noteworthy events occurred in Iran. President Ahmadinejad announced Iranian intention to build a second uranium enrichment facility, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began testing a range of missile-launching systems.
Normally, the USA tends to encourage the development of defense forces in order to build good will between nations. However, coupled with Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology (of military capability disguised as a civilian power program according to American theory) has led to an incredibly fearful and skeptical response from the west. “I see it as a significant step forward in terms of Iran’s capacity to deliver weapons.” Said Gary Samore – special assistant to the president on nonproliferation.
Most worrying is the news that Iran may now possess surface-to surface missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to parts of Europe. The cautious view of Iran and its intentions would undoubtedly have escalated tensions within Europe, and further Alienated the United States.
Source D: Saudi Arabia Won’t Wait For West On Iran’s Nuclear Program
Revealed through ‘wikileaks’ was the growing tension within the Middle East between previously allied states. Countries such as Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have gravitated towards The United States in the hope of a military intervention in Iran. However, the circumstances of the time (economic and political) have led to America Taking a far softer stance in regard to the Iranian nuclear program – sanctions.
This approach has been largely dismissed by Iran, which has now revealed a third nuclear reactor and has declared no intention to forgo their nuclear projects. The growing confidence of Iran, which has faced no tangible consequences, has bolstered the certainty of subversive groups. The backing of these “protégés” by Iran has led to an increasing threat from terrorist organizations and separatist groups – further exacerbating tensions and fear within the Middle East.
This fear has led to two scenarios: Firstly, many countries have gravitated towards the nuclear power Pakistan; in the hope of protection and deterrence. Secondly, countries such as Saudi Arabia have opted to join the nuclear ranks and enter into the arms race for themselves. In order to kick-start this project, the close relations between Pakistan and its allies have led to discourse regarding the assistance in nuclear development.
The primary fear is the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of illegitimate groups, where the threat of an attack is exponentially compounded. The logical course of action is the continued decay of stability, relations and security the world over – all due to the nuclear development in previously unintimidating countries.
Source E: Iraq Defeated Militarily
26th February 1991 Iraq gave way to United Nations forces and surrendered. This marked the end of the official the Persian-Gulf War of 1990, although lesser fighting continued to take place until the 28th. Iraq was being dominated militarily and was left no choice but to retreat under fire from a primarily American, armed attack. Extensive force was used to the point where Iraqi militants were being annihilated. Many attacks were thought to have left no survivors. Between twenty and twenty-six thousand Iraqi militants are thought to have been killed, as well as two thousand three hundred civilians.
This military defeat is considered to have been a total domination favouring the Western forces. This source outlines the tangible impact of military force where diplomacy and discourse have failed. Although Iraq refused to abide by the demands of the UN to withdraw from Kuwait, there was no other choice by February 1991.
Source F: Member States of the IAEA
The International Atomic Energy Association was founded on29th July 1957 by 18 states – amongst which were America, Russia and South Africa. Following Dominica and Papua New Guinea’s joining of the Agency in 2012, the IAEA now has 154 members. India and Pakistan are both members of the IAEA and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea withdrew from the agency on the 13th June 1994.
Source G: The IAEA Mission Statement
The IAEA is a branch of the United Nations that serves as a forum for “nuclear cooperation”. The agency assists its member states with the development of nuclear technology for peaceful uses – i.e. generating electricity. All member states are bound by the non-proliferation treaty and are bound to only use their acquired knowledge for non-military purposes.
As the IAEA is made up of many different countries of varying nuclear capabilities, there would be a large amount of interaction between countries with otherwise few connections.
Source H: Nuclear power: If Japan and Germany don’t need it, why does anyone?
Japan and Germany are the world’s third and fourth largest economies respectively. Following the Fukushima disaster, Germany and Japan discarded plans to build a number of new nuclear reactors.
Currently, 30% of Japan’s electricity is provided by nuclear reactors and 25% of Germany’s. The United Kingdom relies ofar less on nuclear power but aims to increase their nuclear electricity supply by building a number of new reactors.
This article shows a movement away from nuclear energy and towards renewable recourses. A counter-argument is therefore put forward stating that the time of nuclear technology could be coming to an end, or at the very least nuclear technology is not as important as it may seem.
Evaluation of Sources
The Rise Of Nuclear Primacy
www.foreignaffairs.com is a reputable website dedicated to the interpretation of international incidents and the discussion thereof. This particular article was penned by Kier A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press in 2006.
The article was written specifically to clarify the international pyramid. Where previously America and the Soviet Union stood on equal footing, followed closely by China, the world paradigm is now defined by American supremacy. This shift in authority and power has had a significant impact on world politics and diplomacy and needed to be outlined.
Revealed by this source is the primary importance of nuclear power over almost all resources at a country’s disposal. Although both Russia and China outnumber America in manpower, the slightest nuclear advantage has dictated America to be the inevitable victor of a confrontation. In their military confidence, the US carries far more authority over the world, as displayed in unilateral action in Iraq in 2003 and America’s primary position within the NATO operations in Libya.
The source further reveals that the uneasy ‘alliance’ that existed between the US and the during the cold war Soviet Union was a direct result of nuclear capability. Should the threat of nuclear annihilation of both parties be absent, many incidences would have undoubtedly led to armed conflict. So although the relationship between the US and the USSR was astonishingly hostile, in comparison to the all-out clash that would have occurred on the battlefield, the relationship was a civil alliance.
The limitation of this article lies in its theoretical foundation. There has never been an actual nuclear conflict in order to validate a claim that either party has absolute supremacy. However, the factual basis behind these theories (the comparative size of each nations nuclear arsenal) leads the source to maintain a great deal of validity.
Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
This source was taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica; entry by Laurence D. Freedman. The Encyclopedia Britannica is amongst the most notable reference series in the world. Covering a wide range of topics, Encyclopedia Britannica is considered a reliable source of information covering a wide variety of topics.
This article serves to clarify the history, nature, requirements and signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Evident from this article is the primary importance of three actors, The USA, the USSR and the UK, in the treaty. All three are nuclear powers and considered the primary signatories of the treaty. Thus the weight of a nuclear arsenal is identified. More so, as the treaty has been signed by all but three countries (Israel, Pakistan and India) we can see how central nuclear technology is to global politics. By refusing to participate in the treaty and thereby excluding themselves from the international forum, these three nations have alienated themselves and eliminated any negotiating authority or legitimacy that would accompany signing the treaty.
“The Non-proliferation treaty is uniquely unequal, as it obliges nonnuclear states to forgo development of nuclear weapons while allowing the established nuclear states to keep theirs.” This one statement outlines the crux of the primary argument: with nuclear power comes great authority. The nuclear powers have dictated the terms of an unequal treaty and nonnuclear states have accepted these terms in the hope that the superpowers will assist them in developing nuclear power. Even though this inequality has been a great target for criticism it remains prominent due to the pull and influence of the primary signatories.
Even though the NPT is widely accepted, the prospect of nuclear technology has led several countries to disregard it and pursue their own nuclear programs. Iraq, for example, is suspected of building uranium enrichment facilities and North Korea has simply left the treaty. This proves the value of nuclear technology over international coherency and cooperation.
The source is both credited and limited by the lack of interpretation. The mere statement of facts minimizes the bias that would occur; however as these facts are not discussed they may be misinterpreted. Furthermore, the author of the article had carte blanche in deciding which information would be included. Therefore, it is highly probable that information, which would create a negative perception, or an overly positive perception, of any party, was excluded in order to maintain the image of objectivity. I.e. accuracy of the source may have been sacrificed to preserve illusional impartiality.
Iran Tests Missiles Amid Nuclear Tension
CNN, an internationally acclaimed news agency released this article in 2009 on their global website. This article was written by one of their many journalists and is available to the public under the “World” heading of their website.
In order to emphasize Iran’s deliberate aggravation of hostility during an already aggressive period, CNN publicized their testing of missile systems that could potentially be used for long-range nuclear attack. The article also served to exhibit America’s stance on Iran. Namely that Iran is perusing nuclear weaponry and the capacity to utilize it in warfare in the near future.
From this evidence we can conclude that Iran is gaining significance within international politics. Until now a relatively unintimidating foe, Iran has gained status as a formidable force. This was achieved through the mere suspicion of a nuclear arsenal, highlighting the weight behind this destructive technology.
As a reputable media agency, CNN is committed to uphold a journalistic ethic that would minimize the bias exhibited in the article. As much as possible, the facts are merely stated and personal agenda is set aside. Nevertheless, as a western news agency there is a high likely hood of a minimal bias exhibiting itself within the article, as the article tends to insinuate that Iran is a substantial threat to international security.
Saudi Arabia Won’t Wait For West On Iran’s Nuclear Program
This article was originally published on a website dedicated to discussion revolving around the Middle East: http://ww.al-monitor.com. It was written by an Israeli author; Eli Avidar and published by Maariv in Israel.
The purpose of this article was to demonstrate that it is not only the West that fears the Iranian nuclear power; there are multiple Islamic nations that denounce the project and wish to see the end of Iran’s nuclear projects. This information enhances the gravity of the Middle Eastern nuclear crisis by reinforcing the danger radiating from Iran.
In light of this incredible danger, the tensions are clarified and the significance of nuclear power in global politics is made explicit. The source goes further to highlight the importance of nuclear powers in the global hierarchy. America is sought after as a protector and this proves fruitless Pakistan is identified as a valuable ally purely due to their nuclear knowledge.
However, there is clear bias in the source. The article was written by an Israeli and published by an Israeli company. Since Israel is a traditional enemy and antagonist of Iran, it is certain that the article would denounce Iran and present a point of view opposed to any project that could place Israel at risk. Thus, there is a distinct lack of fairness with regard to the representation of Iran’s intentions or capabilities. Consequentially, it is not well-defined whether or not there are such exasperated tensions in the Middle East, or if nuclear weapons play such a significant role in a nation’s international standing.
Nuclear technology is a broad area with many applications. I chose to examine how nuclear technology has affected global relationships, both military and diplomatic. The reason why I chose this topic is because of past material covered in class; outlining mutual assured destruction, the Cuban missile crisis as well as the general hostility between the USA and the USSR. Before I began my investigation I read a number of useful Internet sites in order to better my background knowledge of nuclear weaponry. I also watched a documentary detailing the events of August 6th and 8th 1945. These sites had information regarding which states are seeking nuclear power, which states already have nuclear power, past uses of the technology (both civilian and military), as well as conflicts that have resulted (both indirectly and directly) from nuclear technology. Ultimately, I chose eight of the aforementioned websites to Include in my project. I then summarized each source and selected exactly which information was most relevant to my topic. This information would then be used to make specific points and draw conclusions within my assignment.
For me, the primary benefit of this project was the discovery of vast quantities of historical information. Through this enlightenment, I was able to rationalize and clarify the impact of nuclear technology on the world I live in. Furthermore, this project afforded me the opportunity to develop argumentative skills using a reservoir of knowledge to ground and substantiate my ideas. Although I had a general direction in which I wished to proceed when I began my project, I lacked the necessary knowledge. This assignment therefore allowed me to develop my ability to research and enlighten myself in order to present enlightened and concise arguments. I enjoyed to opportunity to delve into a historical archive and make the connection between the world that was, the world that is and the factors that have shaped it as such.
Processing of Findings
Nuclear power is the defining characteristic of the twenty-first century. Political and military interactions are embedded with nuclear agenda, which has both shaped alliances and seen to their erosion. Below it will be discussed, with reference to multiple sources, how the USA has capitalized on their nuclear supremacy in order to establish themselves as the dominant, global super-power, the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) has set the foundation for the alliances and hostility present today and how the destructive capacity of nuclear weaponry has outweighed all other agenda and held the world in ‘balance’ when chaos seemed imminent.
The only definitive method of implementing global policy is armed conflict. Although the UN is able to pass binding resolutions, should a country merely dismiss these policies there is little the international community can do to ensure their implementation. Such was the case in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Despite international condemnation of the move, Iraqi occupation of Kuwait continued until 1991 when the US general Powell announced the “liberation of Kuwait as having been achieved.” This ‘liberation’ was achieved through a massive military intervention resulting in up to twenty-six-thousand Iraqi military casualties. (Source E) From this it is evident as to the rudimental nature of military supremacy in dictating international affairs.
So what can be concluded of modern day supremacy? According to source A, America has surpassed Russian and Chinese in nuclear capability. In the past, there was a tangible prospect of America suffering a defeat due to the equal nuclear power of the USSR. The USSR therefore served as the only regulatory body on the United States in terms of limiting action through military force. Today, that regulation no longer exists. Should America act in a way that would ignite such large-scale warfare, the destruction of any opposition would be guaranteed by the US’s military arsenal. The US is willing to resort to nuclear options; should the situation become so dire – as demonstrated in 1945 with the nuclear strike on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Effectively, America holds Carte Blanche and sits atop the global hierarchy of superpowers, and until such a time as a realistic opponent emerges; the American way is the only way.
In light of depleting energy sources, nuclear energy has become a focal point for developing nations. Since 1957, one hundred and fifty-four nations have joined the International Atomic Energy Agency with the primary aim of developing nuclear power in their own country, and a secondary goal of assisting the construction of atomic power by signatory states. (Sources F;G) This international co-operation is on a massive scale; rarely seen in past politics. The pursuit of nuclear power has led to diplomatic relations between highly unlikely parties, such as India and Pakistan (both having joined the agency in 1957) outlining the notable impact that nuclear technology has had on transnational politics.
The IAEA is a shining example of how nuclear technology has brought nations together; similar to the non-proliferation treaty. The primary objective of the NPT is nuclear disarmament and a hindered development of nuclear weaponry. (Sources B) This treaty consists of signatories ranging from superpower status, such as the USA, to non-nuclear countries and has provided a platform for diplomacy and mutual progress. Thus, a basis for alliance has been formed which serves as a deterrent for any member to act in detriment of NPT – signatory nations.
Conversely, the NPT has embedded a fault between member and non-member parties. Those countries that have refused to sign the treaty (i.e. Israel, Pakistan and India) and those that have opted out (i.e. North Korea) have severely limited their ability to interact with the global community and form such alliances. (Source B) Consequently, the alliance and beneficial cooperation that exists due to membership of the NPT do not extend to these rogue nations. The question looms: “Why would they refuse to sign the treaty if their nuclear intentions were peaceful and condonable?” This question would give rise to substantial fear and tension towards the NPT outliers.
While it is evident that nuclear technology has set the foundation for the interaction and collaboration of global parties, as well as the minor disassociation of other states, nuclear power continues to provoke hostility and antipathy today. In September 2007, Iran launched short, medium and long ranged missiles in a series of tests they called “The Great Prophet 4” (Payghamber-e Azam 4). These tests closely followed an announcement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – informing the world that Iran had begun construction of another uranium enrichment facility. There is already speculation, primarily by Israel and America, that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weaponry, and this suspicion has realigned the perception of Iran’s missile test. (Source C) Without a nuclear threat, the international community would have respected advancements in the military capabilities of a nation. However, the intensive fear surrounding atomic arsenals has lead to a defensive reaction by the West, as well as an escalation of the tensions that today are feared will lead to all-out war. This is a primary example of how nuclear technology has forced a rift between Iran and the USA and reshaped international politics in favour of a substantial enmity.
However, nuclear technology has not only reinforced the relationships that were in place previously. The Arab nations of the Middle East have been able to preserve relatively stable relationships with one another. Nevertheless, Iranian nuclear pursuits have lead Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and The United Arab Emirates to seek closer ties to the West in dread of the consequences should Iran reach nuclear superpower status. (Source D) Thus, there has been a substantial shift in the Middle Eastern paradigm that has lead to the dissolution of what has previously been considered an unwavering coalition.
Faced with growing unrest, the world has looked to find any mitigating force to prevent the implosion of modern society. Ironically, the only force powerful enough to prevent nuclear action is the threat of nuclear action. Referring once again to source B, it becomes obvious that large-scale warfare between the USA and the USSR was prevented by the prospect of the other resorting to nuclear attack. Due to the magnitude of the nuclear arsenals on both sides of the Iron Curtain, a nuclear strike would be met with equal force before the strike could be completed. This back and forth of nuclear warheads would ultimately result in the annihilation of both superpowers. The prospect of reciprocal ruin was coined MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction. (Source A) MAD has been a pinnacle point in the peace process by preventing warfare at a level scarcely imaginable. Nuclear weaponry is the only foolproof asset in assuring that cold war remains cold. Clearly, the ultimate power in our world today is nuclear power; whether it is destruction or peace, alliance or hostility, nuclear weaponry is an irremovable part of the political process.
There are many who believe that the impact of nuclear technology is lessening. Recently, Germany and Japan have taken substantial to reduce future dependency on nuclear energy. Both countries have aborted projects to build further nuclear power stations despite nuclear power’s enormous contribution towards their total energy provision. (Source H) This displays a different mentality; nuclear technology is replaceable. There is obviously very little regard for the value of nuclear power on behalf of the aforementioned countries and in such they have removed all ability for other countries to base alliances, enmities or any negotiations on nuclear leverage short of a direct threat. It can be argued that the only power nuclear power has is that which we give it. By giving nuclear power no standing, Japan and Germany have freed themselves from the bonds of an atomic civilization. From this point of view, nuclear power is largely irrelevant.
However, this stance has ignored the weaponry aspect of nuclear technology. As nuclear weaponry is the most powerful to date, it still plays a pivotal role in armed conflict – both preventative measure and as a tool for leverage. Furthermore, the article that discusses Germany and Japan’s valiant move to halt nuclear development also considers the sizeable nuclear infrastructure already in place. The existing nuclear power plants provide Thirty percent of Japan’s electricity and twenty-five percent of Germany’s. Therefore, the source contradicts itself and highlights the immense importance of nuclear technology.
From the evidence presented it is conclusive that nuclear power has been central to the evolution to an American – headed world governed by nations of power and undermined by unpredictability. The extent of nuclear threat remains unknown, due to factors such as MAD theory, however one thing is certain: society lives and breathes at the discretion of the men with artillery.
A century ago this was unimaginable, but with the development of nuclear weaponry the total destruction of cities, countries and more has become an all too real possibility. In the forthcoming years Russian nuclear threat is minimal, however the West is wary of the rapidly advancing Iranian nuclear program as well as nuclear ability of nations such as North Korea. However, the world is dominated by the most formidable of the nuclear giants – the United States of America. Through their dominance, the USA holds a trump card in dictating the ultimate end of any global decision. After all, the only definitive force in international politics is military force.
The subject of nuclear development has led to the formation of alliances and cooperative, as is the case for Pakistan and India, America and Israel and much more. It has also severed ties between the closest of friends and reinforced the hostility between the bitterest of enemies. For example, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and America and Iran.
Nuclear power has also presented itself as a means of preserving peace, as unstable as it may be, rather than only being a tool for war. This was exhibited in the cold war in the unstable, but non-violent relationship between America and Russia.
While many believe that nuclear technology is becoming decreasingly relevant, the entrenchment of nuclear power, weaponry and diplomacy in society today cannot be ignored.
There is no dodging the issue; we live in an atomic world governed by nuclear politics. We rise and sleep under the protection of a nuclear blanket that exists to counteract a nuclear threat. Nuclear technology has shaped the world in conformity with the convenience of nuclear powers and set the foundation for many expanding nations to develop. Nuclear technology has played such a pivotal role in the development of modern-day Earth, that the sun may as well be a light bulb powered by Koeberg Nuclear Power Station.
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