Nonproliferation and U.S. Foreign Policy

Nonproliferation and U.S. Foreign Policy

Nonproliferation and U.S. Foreign Policy

Nonproliferation and U.S. Foreign Policy

Excerpt

The world has lived with nuclear weapons for a third of a century. Despite earlier fears that these weapons would spread rapidly, the number of states with full-fledged and overt nuclear weapons capability has remained at five for sixteen years. If India with its "peaceful" nuclear device and Israel with its reported "bombs in the basement" are counted, the number is still only seven. Yet concern about the possibility of uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons has recently increased.

This concern is based on the realization that a growing number of countries have the technological skills and the economic resources needed to produce nuclear weapons and the incentive to do so. Moreover, the development of civil nuclear energy has reached a stage at which it may significantly increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. As more countries develop their own reprocessing or enrichment facilities, they will gain access to the explosive component of nuclear bombs and will be able to develop nuclear weapons quickly if some future domestic upheaval or international crisis overrides present inhibitions on their doing so.

In these circumstances, the problem of checking the spread of nuclear weapons has become more difficult. Reducing incentives to acquire such weapons continues to be of prime importance, but the threatened increase of sensitive fuel cycle facilities, which could give more and more countries what amounts to a near-nuclear weapons capability, must also receive attention.

Nonproliferation of nuclear weapons has been an important goal of U.S. foreign policy since the dawn of the nuclear age. After the failure of . . .

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