The Collapse of Global Denuclearization

As treaties fall one by one, the chances of nuclear disaster increase.

Written by Anthony Constantini

What’s happening: Russia’s recent withdrawal from a global treaty banning nuclear tests is the latest sign of a collapse of nuclear weapons restrictions.

Why it matters: As a world with several nuclear powers emerges, the chance for instability increases, and without guardrails, so does the chance of disaster.

Defense: In 2001, former President George W. Bush pulled out of the bilateral Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limited anti-nuclear missiles. Bush claimed the treaty hindered America’s War on Terror.

Offense: Former President Donald Trump ended participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying Russia was not complying with it. The treaty reduced the amount of short-range nukes, many of which were in Europe and would likely be the starting grounds for a nuclear war.

  • Chinese threats: Trump also wanted to be able to place short-range weapons against China if needed. Because it was not a major player in the Cold War, China was not party to any American-Russian nuclear treaties. This puts it at a significant advantage today.

What’s left? The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (banning countries from developing nuclear weapons) still exists. But it failed to stop Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and India from becoming nuclear states and has no effective means to punish states that violate it.

  • The end of START: This year, Russia also suspended its participation in New START, which cut the number of missile launchers for Russia and America. Signed in 2011 and extended for five years in 2021, it is the last remaining bilateral treaty between the two nations.