Can a nuclear weapon hit Canada

Background current

At the beginning of March 1970 the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty came into force. It should end the proliferation of nuclear weapons, promote disarmament and ensure greater global security. In recent years, however, the long-standing success story has stalled.

The International Atomic Energy Agency monitors compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It was founded in 1957. (& copy dpa)

In the middle of the Cold War and the arms race between the two leading powers, the USA and the Soviet Union, the "Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons", also known as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, came into force on March 5, 1970. Ireland had proposed to the UN General Assembly in 1961 that the proliferation of nuclear technology should be banned. In the same year, US President John F. Kennedy also declared before the United Nations: "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles hanging by a thread that can be cut at any time by chance, miscalculation or madness . "

The doctrine of nuclear deterrence had apparently lost credibility. It says that there will be no nuclear attack as long as the opposing side can expect a counter-attack that is at least as destructive. So far, the US and the Soviet Union had aimed for a balance of horror through mutual armament. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, there has also been a risk that nuclear weapons could end up in the possession of other states or even non-state actors.

Forerunner nuclear test ban agreement

The nuclear powers USA, Soviet Union and Great Britain signed the first arms control agreement of the Cold War in 1963: In the Moscow nuclear test ban agreement, these states committed themselves that nuclear explosions for test purposes could only be carried out underground and no longer in the atmosphere, underwater or in space.

In 1965 the international community took up further negotiations which ended with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (English: "Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons"). The first government representatives, including those of the USA, the Soviet Union and Great Britain, signed it on July 1, 1968 - their signatures and those of forty other states were necessary for the treaty to come into force in 1970. Germany signed in November 1969.

In 1992 the nuclear powers China and France were added. After the collapse of the USSR, the successor states of the Soviet Union also recognized the agreement. To date, 191 states have signed the treaty - most of them have ratified it.

Four nuclear weapon states have not signed the treaty: South Sudan, India, Pakistan and Israel. North Korea dropped out in 2003. While South Sudan does not have nuclear weapons, India and Pakistan are among the nuclear powers. Israel is also said to have nuclear weapons, but has not yet confirmed this.


One contract, three pillars

The treaty is based on three pillars: First, states with nuclear weapons undertake not to pass them on to other countries, while states without nuclear weapons guarantee that they will not attempt to gain possession of them (Articles 1 and 2). Second, the nuclear states are committed to a complete dismantling of their arsenals (Article 6). Thirdly, the states agree to cooperate on the civil use of nuclear technology, for example for energy generation (Article 4).

The treaty also provides for the creation of nuclear weapon-free zones (Article 7), such as those created later in the South Pacific (1985), Africa (1996) or Central Asia (2006). The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, monitors compliance with all articles. She reports to the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. Every five years, the signatory states discuss the status of the implementation of the treaty objectives. International organizations and civil society actors are also allowed to participate. The next of these review conferences will take place in New York from late April to late May 2020.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty divides the world community into three categories: The USA, Russia, Great Britain, France and China are officially recognized nuclear weapon states. The other signatory states are those without nuclear weapons, but with the right to civilian use of nuclear power. The third group is made up of the states that have de facto nuclear weapons but have not signed the treaty (India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea).

Current challenges

North Korea, which according to the International Atomic Energy Agency has nuclear weapons, announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003. Meetings between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un raised hopes for nuclear disarmament, but did not lead to an agreement.

In 2003, Iran was accused of attempting to use nuclear technology for military purposes. With the nuclear deal of 2015, Russia, Germany, the USA, France and Great Britain achieved a great diplomatic success. Iran agreed to significantly reduce its nuclear activities and enable comprehensive controls by the IAEA - in return, the UN, EU and US lifted their economic sanctions and offered support for the civil use of nuclear energy. Although the IAEA reports that there was no evidence of a violation by Iran, the US government denied its nuclear disarmament. The US canceled the nuclear deal in May 2018 and imposed new sanctions. Iran thereupon announced in May 2019 its gradual withdrawal from the obligations of the agreement. The Europeans recently triggered the treaty-provided dispute settlement mechanism to bring Iran back to the negotiating table. This could result in further sanctions. In return, Iran threatens consequences.

After the INF treaty on medium-range nuclear missiles was terminated by Russia and the USA last year, another important disarmament treaty between the major nuclear powers will expire in 2021 with the "New START" agreement.
Estimated number of nuclear weapons worldwide, source: SIPRI 2019 (& copy dpa, Globus Steps 13269)

Half a century after the Non-Proliferation Treaty came into force, humanity is far from a world without nuclear weapons. According to estimates by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, there were 13,865 nuclear weapons worldwide at the beginning of 2019 - around 4 percent fewer than a year earlier. The US population is estimated at 6,185 and in Russia at 6,500. The USA and the successor states of the Soviet Union reduced their arsenals after the end of the Cold War, but they are far from complete nuclear disarmament. In addition, the nuclear powers are modernizing their arsenals or planning to do so.

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