The End of the Proliferations Regime- Why the Russia- Ukraine war might undo years of Nuclear Non-Proliferation efforts?

The End of the Proliferations Regime- Why the Russia- Ukraine war might undo years of Nuclear Non-Proliferation efforts?

Rishav Gupta

SSIS Batch 2021-23

30 April 2022

Nuclear weapons are clearly the most destructive and inhumane weapons ever created. Within seconds they can vaporize millions into ashes and spread poisonous radiation which could make life a living hell for the survivors of such a tragedy. The world has seen more than 75 years of non-usage of nuclear weapons and there have been years of efforts to rein in and reduce nuclear weapons. However present circumstances present a different picture and it clearly seems that history has turned back its clock and we might again witness the most precarious days of the cold war which led to the birth of nuclear weapons in the first place.

The US still is the most powerful country in the world however the system it created 75 years ago seems to be disintegrating and unravelling with every passing day. The present world faces multiple levels of threats and crises however instead of bringing nations together it seems the present crises have further exacerbated the divisions and mistrust between major powers of the world and even made middle powers more apprehensive about their security.

Such a scenario clearly presents bad news for the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Russia's nuclear sabre-rattling in recent months has clearly turned the logic of nuclear non-proliferation on its head. At present, the logic of nuclear non-proliferation only appears to be that it guarantees security to some states who can do anything with a non-nuclear weapons state and if any other nation dared to come in the way they could just issue nuclear threats. President Vladimir Putin's announcement to put Russian nuclear forces on alert and issuing ominous threats to anyone getting in Russia's way would clearly be the reason why no other nation would trust the NPT regime. If the international system would only mean that the nuclear powers can do anything they wished to then this would be a clear death letter for the NPT treaty and that of nuclear non-proliferation. The effects of the non-proliferation regime have been that vast numbers of countries have abstained from obtaining nuclear weapons and have not tried to develop their own capabilities. However, what Russia is presently doing in Ukraine would clearly make several countries think about whether Russia would have dared to attack Ukraine in the first place if it had nuclear weapons and also that the NPT only fetters weak countries and prevents them from obtaining nuclear weapons while allowing the major powers to retain their nuclear arsenal for their national security. It is very likely that with such rogue behaviour by a major nuclear power the world may not agree to nuclear non-proliferation ever again and we could see efforts by nations to acquire nuclear weapons. Well, what would such a world look like? We can only imagine it at present but the answer may be available to us in the near future.