In a Twitter post released in June 2019, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the North Atlantic Alliance planned to develop its own “space strategy.” According to Deutsche Welle, NATO experts are certain that future military conflicts will inevitably affect near-Earth space, “for example, through an attack on satellites of strategic importance or through the use of a weapon in space.”
NATO explains the need to “declare space a separate territory for military operations” by the emergence of new threats posed by technological progress. The argumentation is of a standard military-bureaucratic nature: as new technologies keep coming along, “exploring” their potential military application becomes imperative. Moreover, NATO’s core members – the United States, France and Britain – clearly go beyond purely theoretical “research” in the field of weaponization of outer space. In December 2019, President Donald Trump issued an order to create the US Space Command with an eye to turning space into a domain of warfare.
Judging by the information available in open sources, it could be safe to assume that in its space warfare plans, the North Atlantic Alliance could move along a path similar to its policy in the field of cyberspace operations. Indeed, in 2016, NATO outlined a common view whereby a cyberattack can, under certain circumstances, be considered a reason for implementing Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, thus activating the principle of collective defense, which is at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. Computer networks, infrastructure and software were designated as a separate area for developing the tactics and strategy of combat operations on land, on high seas and in the air. A unified coordination center for cyber operations was set up in Mons, Belgium, in October 2018.
However, NATO has not yet been able to agree a cyber security doctrine that would suit all of its members. According to The Economist, plans are apace to do this within the next “year or two.” So far, there has been no mention of any joint offensive operations in cyberspace, which are within the exclusive competence of the NATO member states. The Allied Command Transformation, responsible for the development of promising concepts of warfare, will work out a doctrine of cyber operations already within the next few years, although this work has just begun. NATO is thus moving on to the next task even before it has solved any one from the list of “new challenges.” According to German media reports, once the planned “space strategy” has been duly implemented, NATO will move on to the allocation of “additional resources,” and view “possible space attacks” as “attacks on the ground, in the air, at sea and in cyberspace.”
Here NATO may hit several serious snags, the first being President Trump’s open distrust of the alliance. Trump has on several occasions expressed his doubts about NATO’s value for the United States. During his election campaign he described NATO as “obsolete,” and already in office he has repeatedly put in question his commitment to the organization’s fundamental collective defense principle. Reports about Trump’s desire to pull the United States out of the North Atlantic Alliance started leaking into the media from the very start of his presidency. He openly hinted about his readiness to dramatically downsize US military support for Europe, and even warned that Washington could go it alone” if its European allies failed to “cooperate.” In April, Washington did not invite the heads of government of NATO member states to celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Alliance in what many Western media outlets described as a sign of the diminished status of NATO.
The past experience of overcoming a similar period of “cooling” in Washington’s relations with Europe under President George W. Bush, is prodding the leaders of some European NATO member states to fall into Washington’s line. In the field of defense, one of the Trump Administration’s priorities was to undermine strategic stability, including by reviving the concept of achieving “decisive superiority” in the militarization of space. Unhappy about the European NATO members’ “inadequate” defense spending, President Trump demanded and obtained in 2014 their promise to increase their defense outlays to 2 percent of GDP.
However, only a handful of them have managed to meet this target to date.
Meanwhile, more and more European experts now fear that Washington’s desire to decrease its commitment to the existing system of Western alliances could stay on even after Donald Trump has left the White House. Moreover, the political and diplomatic steps taken by the Trump Administration indicate a desire to use NATO to advance US, rather than Western-shared geopolitical interests in Europe. Many Europeans also suspect that Trump’s verbal attacks are meant to disguise Washington’s true desire to undermine EU unity and geopolitical prospects. As if to justify these suspicions, Washington started openly calling the EU a “weak” and “incapable” union and pitching the idea of a US-adjusted North Atlantic Alliance to replace the new “unifier of Europe.” During the 2018 NATO summit, these disagreements boiled over to an extent that in the fall of that same year the French and German leaders called for creating an independent European army.
The Europeans’ intention to expand NATO’s “zone of responsibility” to space might look like an attempt to meet Washington’s demands, though in its own way – to increase spending under the 2% NATO quota not by buying more US-made arms, but by expanding national and continent-wide space programs. After all, many space R&D and technologies have a “dual” potential and can be used for military and civilian purposes alike.
Technology-wise, NATO’s space plans face another hurdle, since when it comes to “military” space, the United States is way ahead of all of its allies combined. The US military space budget for this year exceeds $12 billion, with $14 billion requested by the Pentagon for 2020. By contrast, the similar budget of France, which is second among NATO countries in terms of “military” space spending, is a mere 3.6 billion euros for the next five years. By the end of Trump’s first year in office, Washington’s missile defense policy was “radically revised” with significant spikes in related spending added to the country’s defense appropriations list. The US Space Command is in the process of being set up.
On January 17, the United States released the National Missile Defense Review, which prioritizes, among other things, the deployment in the near-Earth orbit of combat lasers capable of shooting down ICBMs. It outlines an essentially global task of covering the entire territories of the United States and its allies that comes in place of the previous goal of ensuring protection against a “limited ballistic missile strike.”
The Pentagon is mulling a constellation of small and cheap satellites placed in a low-Earth orbit to track ICBMs at every stage of their flight, as well as “non-kinetic means of influencing space vehicles,” speeding up the development and launchings of dual-purpose satellites, and influencing foreign spacecraft under the pretext of dealing with space junk. According to Western and Russian experts, the United States plans to study the possibility of placing in orbit missile or laser interceptors, along with “cluster groups” and anti-missile weapons.
For comparison, France, which is NATO’s second biggest space power, doesn’t come even close to this. In order to finally keep up with America, Paris recently unveiled a “Space Defense Strategy” with an eye to developing new orbital weapons, creating a “single command” and establishing the armed forces’ “direct control over military satellites.” When unveiling the Strategy in July, President Emmanuel Macron said: “We will better protect our satellites, including in an active way”. Still, the French military’s growing interest in space “exploration” does not necessarily mean that it is ready to follow in America’s wake. A well-known pragmatist, President Macron has recently been emphasizing the objective need for Europe to offset US influence. In June, Macron spoke in favor of mending fences with Russia.
“Europe, that I believe in… must build new rules of trust and security with Russia, and should not only agree with NATO. It needs to build only between Europe and Russia,” Macron stressed.
Finally, NATO has once again been pointing to Moscow’s alleged “aggressiveness” to justify its military preparations of the past few years. However, it is Russia – one of the world’s leading space powers that has consistently been opposing attempts to militarize outer space. Russia and China have spent many years promoting a draft treaty that would ban the deployment of weapons in space, and the use of force or the threat of force against space objects. The Russian-Chinese initiative is based on a political commitment not to be the first to place weapons in outer space. As for the United States, it is the main opponent of any international legal initiatives aimed at preventing an arms race in space. On April 1, 2019, it became known that Washington had blocked the final report by a team of UN experts on measures to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space. Most recently, during a July 26 meeting of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, once again warned Washington not to bring “weapons into outer space, which would lead to a new qualitative turn in the global arms race” .
With the demise of the Cold War, NATO lost the two key elements that had justified its existence, namely “the enemy” and “the mission.” During the past thirty years, however, the North Atlantic Alliance has been desperately searching for those past priorities for which its members would have to keep sacrificing a considerable portion of their own interests. Will the new “space” plans be able to keep the alliance alive, or will they become a new confirmation of NATO’s chronic problem – the inability to identify the right challenges, priorities and tasks of this day and age?
From our partner International Affairs
India’s Maritime Security Strategy in the ‘Century of Seas’
21st century has been very aptly called the “Century of the Seas”. The core argument of the “Father of Sea Power,” Alfred Thayer Mahan’s- “The Influence of Sea Power” was that the secret to Empire building was the Sea Power or the Naval Strength of a nation. This has been proved repeatedly and still holds a lot of relevance today, specifically for a country like India which possesses a very strong maritime asset having a coastal length of 7516.6 km with world’s second largest peninsular area of 2.07 million sq. km. Regrettably, India has suffered from an intellectual vacuum historically with regards to policy making in the maritime domain in spite of being one of the oldest seafarers in the world, its maritime history dating back to 3000 BC (Indus Valley Civilization). But with the shift in power dynamics from Euro Atlantic to Indo Pacific, it has realized that its geopolitical aspirations cannot be fulfilled without giving the due importance to Maritime domain. The Government certainly thinks that India is ready to explore and expand its maritime domain by not just observing from the shore but by obtaining a larger stake in it.
India’s approach to Maritime security is quite holistic, it is not just about deploying battleships or policing the seas like Britain did in 19th century and China is doing now. Our intentions were made noticeably clear on the international forum when Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high- level debate on maritime security in the United Nations Security Council in the month of August last year. This unanimous adoption of the “Presidential statement” was the UNSC’s first ever outcome document on this theme in which issues like piracy, economic development, marine environment, and illegal fishing were discussed. SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region) initiative taken in 2015, focused on Sustainable use of oceans with cooperative measures. As a part of this policy, our Navy assisted many countries in the Indian Ocean Region in tackling piracies, disaster relief, search and rescue. A framework for security, safety, and stability in the region was the key objective of this mission. India aims to create a holistic and congenial maritime environment for not just its neighbors but for all the international players.
India’s soft power was always ahead of its hard power but for the last decade it has been trying to strike a balance by cautiously and carefully expanding its Maritime Power so that it does not threaten its neighbors while protecting its interests. Indian Navy has stepped up its overseas deployment by securing agreements with other strategically located nations for military access to their bases which include Indonesia’s Sabang Port, Oman’s Duqam port, America’s base at Diego Garcia and French base on reunion island. India has also invested in commercial ports like Chabahar which is under controversy at present but to build a large information radar network and boost cooperation with partners across the region, investment in commercial ports present in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, and Mauritius etc. must be given priority.
To demonstrate its pursuit through interoperability, India has become a part of various bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral partnerships and has drastically improved its Naval Diplomacy. It conducts and participates in a plethora of complex Naval Exercises with countries which share common interests and strategic convergence like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Vietnam, Britain, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, Brazil, and Quad members. These exercises serve the objective of demonstrating a shared vision of free and open Indo-Pacific. India also hosted the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) meet where the respective NSAs
discussed and agreed to setup their cooperation around Marine Security in 2021, it also invited these members were also invited to be a part of MILAN 2022 exercise in which more than 40 countries participated. Walter Ladwig argued that Indian Naval Expansion, thus shaping the maritime strategy existing today, involves three things: prevent intrusion from hostile powers, project power based off India’s interests, protection of the SLOCs.
The Naval Strategy forms a major part of Maritime Security Strategy, and the latest Doctrine by the Indian Navy released in 2015 -” Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy” is the revised and updated version of the previously outlined strategy released in 2007- “Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime Military Strategy”. A bold change in tone and sharpening of India’s Maritime aspirations can be observed. Primary areas of interest as understood from the doctrine involve India’s immediate coastal neighborhood, the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, the Andaman Sea, the gulfs of Aden and Oman, Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. A significant amount of emphasis is given to the commanding of the sea and controlling of the chokepoints thereby securing the sea lines for open trade and communication. Indian Ocean has a roof over its head, which is not a good thing for a water body because the only entry and exit points in it are through 9 choke points or the navigational constrictions. These can easily give rise to transnational crimes which are dangerous from geostrategic aspect. From developmental aspects in the Indo-Pacific and the Asia-Pacific regions, the major chokepoints to be protected are Strait of Malacca which hosts 50% of world’s merchant fleet capacity, the Bab-el-Mandeb, which has principal oil shipping lanes, and the Strait of Hormuz, 40% seaborne crude oil passes through it.
Secondary area of India’s Strategic Maritime interest includes the South and East China Sea, Southeast Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, the Western Pacific Ocean, Antarctica, and the West coast of Africa. To increase its Naval presence in these areas, India has started pushing towards marine expansion, power projection and naval modernization. India’s maritime force is transitioning into a “building navy” which was previously considered as a “buying navy”, that confirms its alignment with India’s “Make in India” for attaining self-sufficiency and self-reliance. The strategy of modernization and indigenization of the aircraft carriers, frigates, destroyers, submarines, corvettes, combat aircrafts and patrol crafts may sound promising but will only be effective if the delay gaps between the dates of delivery and actual commissioning are reduced. Ensuring Secure Seas states that “in order to ensure sustained presence, the Indian Navy will comprehensively address the twin issues of ‘reach’ and ‘sustainability’ of naval forces.” This will include the concepts of longer operational cycles, mixing the force ratio between strike groups, enhancing logistical support and extending reach through naval air power.
There are many driving actors that influence the changing paradigm of India’s Maritime Security Strategy. The nuclear-powered countries, Pakistan, China, United States, and other non-state actors play a vital role. Pakistan Navy’s face value does not seem to be capable of posing a threat to India, but it does possess sea-based nuclear armament and under-sea warfare elements which present a significant challenge. Just like any other nation in the region, Pakistan also has economic stakes in the Indian Ocean. Typically, it does not have any “Blue-water” aspirations but when combined with the strength of PLAN, it can indeed become formidable to be countered. China, is clearly marching towards becoming the global superpower by directing its energy towards the sea
1 Walter Ladwig, “Drivers of Indian Naval Expansion,” in The Rise of the Indian Navy: Internal Vulnerabilities, External Challenges, ed. Harsh V. Pant (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 25.
2 Directorate of Strategy, Concepts and Transformation, Ensuring Secure Seas.
or in theoretical terms following the Mahanian principle. It has exponentially increased its footprint in the Indian Ocean region in recent years which is directly posing a threat to the stability of this area. But the document ‘Ensuring Secure Seas’ see China as a partner in maritime cooperation and not as a threat. According to John Garver, the PLAN has sufficient capability “to seize the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal as an effort to control the Strait of Malacca chokepoint.” In terms of technology, Indian and Chinese navies are equally equipped but India has an advantage in aircraft carriers whereas China in undersea warfare.
US Navy is one of the most powerful navies in the world, and being an economic superpower, Indian Ocean Region is of great strategic concern for US. PRC’s growing relations with Pakistan has strengthened US’s relations with India, it has emerged as a strategic maritime partner. Deals signed between Ministry of Defence, India and American contractors have further built up the cooperative security in the region so even after being capable, US navy certainly does not have the intent to dominate India in the maritime domain. India’s Naval Doctrine has mandated that the “Indian Navy will project combat force in and from the maritime domain, and undertake offensive action for national defence.” This projection of combat force will involve a consolidated effort across the spectrum of maritime warfare to include anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare demonstrated from all platforms in the navy’s inventory. The Indian Navy’s aspirations for power projection and sea control are similar in maritime doctrine to the United States, whose proven combat operations at sea can attest to success of said doctrine. This conceptual mirroring will allow for better cooperation among the two maritime nations.
The maritime strategy of a country must be in alignment with the economic and political realities of it. Indian Navy’s new doctrine “Securing the seas” elevates it above its previously assigned ‘Cinderella Service’ role. India has high diplomatic, economic, and military stakes in the Indian Ocean Region. Interestingly, last decade has witnessed the shifting contours of India’s attitude, it has become more aggressive, upfront, and competitive in this domain. India is already a key player and the main security provider in the region, if it sustains the momentum that it has set, China’s assertiveness cannot stop it from becoming the leader in the evolving Maritime architecture.
 Walter Ladwig, “Drivers of Indian Naval Expansion,” in The Rise of the Indian Navy: Internal Vulnerabilities, External Challenges, ed. Harsh V. Pant (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 25.
 Directorate of Strategy, Concepts and Transformation, Ensuring Secure Seas.
 Century of the seas- unlocking Indian maritime strategy in 21st century
The Profits Side of the War in Ukraine
The war business is extremely profitable, because governments are willing to spend anything in order to win. In a country such as Russia, where all of the weapons-manufacturing firms are 50%+ owned by (controlled by, and serve) the Government itself, profits are not the main objective, national-defense is; but, in a fully (or nearly fully) capitalist country, such as the U.S. and its allies, the people who control the decisions are actually private investors, and profits are their main (or only) objective; and, so, the controlling investors in ‘defense’ firms hire agents (including politicians) in order to control each of their main markets, which are their own country and the countries that those investors are allied with. Also, in order for their weapons to be able to be used, target-nations are needed, whom those armaments-investors (and their news-media) declare to be their nations’ “enemies” and consequently to be lands that their weapons should be targeted against (if “enemy”) or to defend (if “ally”). Both “allies” and “enemies” are needed, in order for these investors to have a thriving armaments industry; and both “allies” and “enemies” are needed in order for those companies to have markets (their own nation, and its “allies”) and to have targets (the “enemies”). The key here is that in order to maximize the profits of armaments-firms’ investors, they need to control their own Government, because that Government will determine which other nations are also markets (“us”), and which other nations are instead targets (“them,” or “enemies”). These investors therefore need to control, above all, their own Government, in order for them to succeed, to be, themselves, “winners” at the investing-game. These investors also tend to control their nation’s ‘news’media, because those businesses validate the Government’s “allies” and “enemies”; and thereby validate its invasions (so as to pump their weapons-sales). And this is the way that capitalism functions; and it is the way that imperialism (which is a natural adjunct to capitalism, because capitalism serves investors above all — not workers, nor consumers, but specifically investors) has always functioned, in order to produce wars (which serve only the wealthiest).
Perhaps the world’s largest and most effective marketing organization for U.S.-and-allied armaments manufacturers is NATO, but many others (perhaps not so well known) also exist, and sometimes provide more candid information to the public.
Here are relevant highlights from an interview with Ukraine’s Government, at a major recent international trade-show by U.S.-and-allied weapons manufacturers, as published by the trade magazine for America’s armaments-industry, National Defense, whose publisher is the National Defense Industrial Association:
by Stew Magnuson, 15 June 2022
The war-torn nation desperately needs artillery and artillery rounds, but what can truly give it the upper hand over its Russian invaders are long-range precision weapons such as armed Predator drones, loitering munitions and the multiple launch rocket system.
Denys Sharapov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of the defense in charge of procurement, support for weapons and equipment, and Brig. Gen. Volodymyr Karpenko, land forces command logistics commander, spoke with National Defense Editor in Chief Stew Magnuson and other reporters through an interpreter in the Ukraine Ministry of Defense’s booth at the Eurosatory conference in Paris on June 15. …
At Eurosatory this week, you’re meeting a lot of defense companies. What are your expectations since they normally sell through their own countries? What’s the purpose of talking with companies and not countries?
Sharapov: So those are parallel processes. There are constant government negotiations on all levels, diplomatic levels, military levels, ministry-to-ministry — both ministers of foreign affairs, ministers of defense — I believe this is not only an ongoing dialogue, but this is unprecedented dialogue.
It doesn’t matter whether we work with private enterprises or government enterprises, any weapon transfer is made upon the decision of the government. So that’s why we are really hoping for the support of those governments. …
Our readers are about 1,800 corporate members of the defense industrial base in the United States. What message do you have for them? And what do you need from them urgently?
Sharapov: The [Ministry of Defense] is concentrating currently on fulfilling all the needs of the armed forces. You asked a question about needs. First, you have to understand that the frontline is 2,500 kilometers long. The frontline where there is active combat in more than 1,000 kilometers long. That’s like from Kyiv to Berlin. … As of today, all the people in all of our armed forces and within the defense and security sector is up to one million people. And we have to support them all. We have to supply them with small arms, with personal protection gear and with the means of communication. …
We have received a large number of weapon systems, but unfortunately with such a massively expendable resource, it only covers 10 to 15 percent of our needs. We need artillery, we need artillery rounds, infantry fighting vehicles, combat vehicles, tanks. We really need air-defense systems and the multiple launch rocket system.
Also, high-precision weapon systems, because we believe that high-precision weapon systems will give us an edge over the enemy, the upper hand in this war.
There is a debate in the United States about whether to send Ukraine armed Predator drones. How important are they to your fight?
Sharapov: The party that will win in this war will be the party that will first start using contemporary high precision equipment and weapon systems. And those drones that you mentioned, they are a part of the modernized, highly accurate, highly precise, modern equipment. …
As of today, we have approximately 30 to 40, sometimes up to 50 percent of losses of equipment as a result of active combat. So, we have lost approximately 50 percent. Approximately 1,300 infantry fighting vehicles have been lost, 400 tanks, 700 artillery systems. …
Equipment that has gone to the rear of the frontline is maintained solely by Ukrainian specialists that have been trained by different foreign companies for that specific purpose. …
Quite unfortunately for us, we have become the biggest consumer of weapons and ammunition in the world. And we’re hoping to receive support from the entire Europe and the entire world. …
At Eurosatory this week, you’re meeting a lot of defense companies. What are your expectations since they normally sell through their own countries? What’s the purpose of talking with companies and not countries? …
We really expect that the governments we’re cooperating with will fully support their weapons factories in support of Ukraine.
My first Eurosatory was 20 years ago. And all those years Ukraine was a seller of weapons. And this is the first exhibition when instead of being a seller of the weapons, we have become the largest consumer. This is the first year of Eurosatory where we are represented not by our industry, but instead by our ministry of defense, who is the consumer, who is the client, the purchaser of all these weapon systems. …
You can trust us with your weapons, your technologies, to use them to best of our abilities. We know how to use them. We know how to fight a war with them.
And it is largely due to the efforts of the Ukrainian armed forces that many foreign brands are currently on the front pages of newspapers. People are naming their children Javelin.
A good example of how this works is that Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, which is one of America’s leading marketers of U.S. invasions and wars; and his Amazon Web Services subsidiary supplies the cloud-computing services to the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and entire Intelligence Community; so, he, himself (as Amazon’s top stockholder), is a major U.S. Government contractor. Subscribers to news-media in America are paying subscription fees in order to be inundated constantly with propaganda to increase the sales by contractors to the U.S. Government. The controlling investors derive part of their wealth (in Bezos’s case, a major part of it) from their Government, and another part of their wealth from selling to the subscribers to (and advertisers in) their publications and news-networks the propaganda that will cause the U.S. public to vote for their preferred political candidates and against the ones that those investors don’t prefer. This makes the entire operation “democratic,” even if the winning candidates of each of the two political Parties — both candidates — back even larger ‘defense’ expenditures by the one government in the world, the U.S. Government, that already spends approximately half of the entire world’s costs for ‘defense’.
The United States Government, and the Governments in Europe, don’t have enough money to protect the health of their people, and to provide the educational systems that they need, and to reduce crime, and to maintain and improve the infrastructure for them, but instead are prioritizing weapons-production, in order to defeat Russia on the battlefield of Ukraine, which borders Russia. That is their top priority. Ukraine has threatened Russia ever since Obama’s coup there in 2014. That was the opening round of World War III. Ukraine is an authentic national-security interest of Russia, because it’s on Russia’s doostep. That’s why Obama grabbed it. But Ukraine isn’t an authentic national-security interest of the United States, nor even of other nations in Europe. None of them were not only on Russia’s border but couped by the U.S. Government in 2014 and thereby transformed from being neutral to being rabidly anti-Russian. Russia struck back on 24 February 2022, which precipitated the current explosive boom for U.S.-and-allied armaments firms and their investors. Those investors are being well served by their Governments. But those nations’ publics are not. Is this democracy? Or is it instead fascism? Will one find reliable, trustworthy, evidence on that matter, in the newsmedia to which one has subscribed? In a time of war, should one seek-out to access, on a regular basis, especially newsmedia from countries that one’s own Government labels as being “enemies”? In a capitalist country, how can a person intelligently seek-out truth regarding international relations? It’s a real problem. Therefore, it is a problem that’s ridiculed (as ‘conspiracy theory’ or such) by all of the mainstream media in those countries. Sometimes, some things are too true to be publishable within the mainstream. That’s especially common in a dictatorship. Anyway, it is the case in U.S.-and-allied countries today.
The New Nuclear Arms Race
Nuclear weapons are currently an international security issue. Lessons learned from past events have contributed to a global fear of such weapons. Simultaneously current events are indicating a global trend in nuclear proliferation, especially among powerful actors. States in possession of nuclear weapons are focusing on developing their nuclear capabilities and expanding their programs. Why is that so? Why are states still building nuclear weapons? Are these states conscious of the dangerous consequences involved? Are we experiencing the threat of a nuclear war?
In this paper, we will first define the term nuclear proliferation since it is key to understanding the different aspects of international security. Next, we will look at the different existing models explaining the current trend of nuclear proliferation and link these models to past events. Eventually, we will try to understand the recent developments in the field of international insecurity and analyze whether there is currently an international source of a nuclear threat.
It is important to understand the term nuclear proliferation. To do so, we need to define “proliferation”. The Cambridge Dictionary offers the following definition: “the fact of something increasing a lot and suddenly in number or amount“ (Cambridge Dictionary 2022). To simplify this definition, proliferation can be understood as “growth and propagation” (Rizky 2022).
So, what is nuclear proliferation? Nuclear proliferation is “a spectrum of possible activities related to the exploration, pursuit, or acquisition of nuclear weapons by states” (Rizky 2022). Therefore, it refers to the sudden rise in the number of weapons in circulation. Indeed, powerful states are focusing on developing their nuclear capabilities by building new weapons, perfecting their capability to build such weapons as well as investing financially in nuclear technology and its sophistication.
The main actors currently owning nuclear weapons are Russia, the United States, China, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, France, and the United Kingdom (SIPRI 2021). However, not all of them are taking part in this pursuit of nuclear proliferation.
Reasons for the proliferation of nuclear weapons
Now that the meaning of nuclear proliferation is clear, another question emerges. Why do states still build nuclear weapons? International relations studies often offer an “obvious answer” to this question. Namely the idea of national security. States justify the building of nuclear weapons to ensure their national security in case of an external military threat. It is assumed that no alternative can guarantee their national security like nuclear weapons do (Sagan 1996).
However, this is an important question regarding the current global events and needs a more precise explanation. It is necessary to have a wide range of possible answers to envision the future of international security and its potential nuclear threat.
The answers can be divided into four different categories, respectively models. Namely the Security Model, which refers to the simple and basic answer found in most studies. The second one is the Norms Model, followed by the Domestic Politics Model and finally the Model we will be referring to as the Technological Race Model (Sagan 1996).
In Sagan’s article “Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?” (Sagan 1996), he explains the three first models mentioned above. The first model refers to a state’s response to an external threat. States that have the financial resources, build nuclear weapons because it seems to be the safest option to ensure their national security. Weak states, however, states that could not invest in such expensive weapons, have the option to join alliances, such as an alliance with a nuclear power that would become an ally in case of a nuclear threat (Sagan 1996).
Under this category, I believe there is also the idea of international anarchy. A powerful state hearing about another one building a nuclear weapon might consider this as a sign of potential threat. George Shultz explains this phenomenon as “Proliferation begets proliferation” (Shultz 1984).
Indeed, the proliferation started by one state will encourage another one to do the same and therefore take part in this nuclear proliferation as well (Sagan 1996). This phenomenon can be perceived as a post-war strategic reaction. In World War II the United States launched nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events provoked the current trend of nuclear proliferation. The USSR, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan all reacted in a similar way. They invested in the development of nuclear weapons, widened their nuclear capabilities, and intensified their national research in nuclear technology (Rizky 2022).
This leads us to the next model, namely the Norms Model. Sagan explains this category as followed: “Nuclear weapons decisions are made because weapons acquisition, or restraint in weapons development, provides an important normative symbol of a state’s modernity and identity“ (Sagan 1996).
Indeed, nuclear weapons nowadays are a symbol of prestige and power. Therefore, powerful states follow this unwritten, international norm to ensure their global recognition. They take part in this nuclear proliferation race to show what they are financially and technologically capable of.
Sagan argues that the symbol of possessing nuclear weapons is similar to the symbol of a state’s Olympic team or national airline. In some states, national airlines are established more to demonstrate their technological capabilities and valuable human capital of scientists than to offer an additional domestic mode of transportation (Sagan 1996).
I believe this is also the motivation behind the third model of Technological Race. Globally, the United States (US) has been recognized as the leader in advanced technology and artificial intelligence. Especially when looking at Silicon Valley and its potential. Nonetheless, in the past few years, the US has been caught up by China, which has now become its biggest competitor. This indeed provoked the US to invest even more in its research and that is exactly what it did in its nuclear technology sector (Rizky 2022).
As we can see, this model refers to one country’s whole image as a leader in technology. But, this is only the case from a technological perspective. There exists another model from a political perspective, namely the Domestic Politics Model.
This category demonstrates nuclear proliferation as a tool to ensure domestic political interest. Not necessarily national interest, but the personal interest of at least one politician respectively, one political actor. Indeed, it could be the military influencing a political decision to get a larger national defense budget and acquire nuclear weapons. In such a case, the perception of an external threat could be worsened to promote the necessity of nuclear weapons (Sagan 1996).
For decades, the world has been focusing on disarmament and reducing the number of nuclear weapons in circulation. Especially the main actors mentioned above were dedicated to promoting different treaties to avoid the spread. However, these public announcements, coming from wealthy, powerful nations in possession of such arms are contradictory to the current trend in nuclear proliferation (Al Jazeera 2022).
Even more surprising is the fact that the idea of disarmament has suddenly disappeared after the Russian attack on Ukraine. In fact, in a matter of months, actors in possession of nuclear weapons have announced to invest in nuclear arms in order to increase, modernize and optimize their arsenal. Countries that wanted to get rid of nuclear arms are now putting strong importance on the capability of their weapons. Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons against Ukraine has provoked a common global reaction to get ready for potential danger (Al Jazeera 2022).
Therefore, it seems like Russia’s war has already activated a nuclear proliferation trend, stronger and faster than in the past decades. A new nuclear arms race has started, altough this time it is not about technological capability and artificial intelligence. This time it is about being prepared and ready for a potential attack from a country possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenal (Hille 2022).
To conclude, the Russian attack on Ukraine has provoked large, powerful nations to rush toward the development and modernization of their nuclear arms. This reaction has not only accelerated the proliferation of nuclear weapons but also created a threatening environment.
Nevertheless, I believe there will not be a World War III, even if Russia threatens to use its arsenal against Europe, because too much is at stake. The world is aware of the catastrophic consequences a nuclear attack can cause and has learned from the past lessons. Putin’s behavior is his way of showing the world how powerful he is, what resources he owns, and what he is capable of. There is no need for fear since his announcements are pure arrogance and bluff.
The large nations who joined the nuclear arms race are reacting to his threats as the world expects them to. Namely, appearing to act, preparing, and making sure their arsenal could be operated at any time, even if they are not sincerely planning on doing so. Governments expect to reassure their population by taking action and guaranteeing national security.
Therefore, the reason this nuclear arms race is happening is due to Russia’s threat of nuclear attack and led to international governments taking actions such as discussed in the Domestic Politics Model.
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