Understanding Nuclear Deterrence

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Robert Monroe is dead wrong on the Nonproliferation Treaty ("Defining deterrence," Commentary, Thursday). The treaty does not "approve" of the United States' and four other countries' possession of nuclear weapons. The treaty merely acknowledges the existence of nuclear weapons states at the time it was signed, in 1970. Further, it requires that "Parties to the Treaty undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ..." This cannot mean that the United States is "expected to design, test and produce new nuclear weapons as needed," as asserted by Vice Adm. Monroe. Nor could there be any rational basis for interpreting the underlying bargain of the treaty as one where nonnuclear weapons states agree not to acquire nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons states agree "to try to prevent them from acquiring them." The bargain we made was to give our weapons up in return for a promise from others not to acquire them.

Indeed, the treaty was due to expire in 1995. …