More & More States Are 'Going Nuclear' Soon
At a recent meeting of members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Ukrainian chairman sought to strike an upbeat note about the future, highlighting the "public and political momentum towards a world free of nuclear weapons."
Volodyrmyr Yelchenko was right: Statesmen as diverse as Henry Kissinger and Mikhail Gorbachev have taken up the cause of "nuclear abolition." And this year's U.S. presidential contenders both support a more favorable American stance toward arms control.
But other forces are pushing back. Renewed interest in nuclear energy, to stem global warming, is expected to give more states the technological building blocks for a bomb. The continuing revelations about the Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan's network, which reportedly had blueprints for a compact weapon, show that globalized nuclear smuggling is growing more sophisticated and dangerous.
As much as anything, the perpetuation of the exclusive club of "accepted" nuclear powers from old hands America and Russia to newest members India and Pakistan may lead others, frustrated with such a two-tier world, to consider challenging the doomsday cartel.
Even if North Korea follows through on Friday's destruction of the cooling tower at its Yongbyon complex and fully dismantles its weapons program, giving up its handful of bombs, it will still belong to another club of nuclear-capable states.
Those are the 40-plus countries with the scientists, engineers and infrastructure for building bombs and in at least one other case, that of South Africa, a history of having done so.
About a dozen are nuclear "rollback" states, ranging from Sweden and Switzerland, which seriously researched the weapon option in the 1950s and 1960s and then pulled back, to Iraq under Saddam Hussein, which desperately tried, and failed, to produce a bomb before the 1991 Gulf war. …