Sputnik discussed the refusal to sign the nuclear treaty with James D.J. Brown, Associate Professor and Academic Program Coordinator for International Affairs at Temple University in Japan.
Sputnik: How justified is the five nations' reasoning behind their rejection of the ban?
James D.J. Brown: Well frankly it's no great surprise; the position of these established nuclear powers has long been that the basis for nuclear issues should be the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 and in the process of this agreement being negotiated at the UN, in the General Assembly, those five established nuclear powers have always made it clear that they didn't support this approach and indeed that they saw it as destabilizing.
Sputnik: How conducive is a nuclear weapons ban to peace, especially if we talk about a ban that would be applied to nuclear powers?
James D.J. Brown: It really depends on your perspective. The five established nuclear powers, their argument is that we don't live in an ideal world and the alternative to having these five established powers is not for nuclear disarmament instead; their argument is that it would lead to nuclear proliferation, and the position of these five established nuclear powers is that by having these recognized nuclear powers, by having them as upholding the Non-Proliferation Treaty, that's actually the best way to keep a stable status quo when it comes to nuclear weapons. And I keep going back to the Non-Proliferation Treaty because it really is seen as very much the key point when it comes to nuclear arms and the agreement that makes is that you get these five established nuclear powers having the right to maintain their weapons for the time being and other countries by agreeing not to pursue nuclear weapons, in exchange, they gain access to civilian nuclear power, and that's very much the approach being supported by the five establish nuclear powers.
Sputnik: Is that pretty much a working approach, has that been successful from your point of view?
James D.J. Brown: In some ways it has really, but earlier in the 20th century there were many people who were concerned that now that the nuclear genie was out of the bottle you were going to get nuclear proliferation to almost every country around the world, now obviously that has not occurred, it hasn't remained as just being the five established nuclear weapons states, it spread beyond that to the unofficial nuclear powers — India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — but nonetheless, it is still a relatively limited list. So I suppose you can make the case that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty supported by the five nuclear weapon states has had some success.
Sputnik: Other hand would you say that a blanket nuclear ban is pretty much a utopian idea especially on the back of the US threat of withdrawing from INF right now?
James D.J. Brown: I think denuclearization throughout the world remains the ideal, but I don't think it's far wrong to describe it as utopian because we are so far away from that. As you say, we have, if anything, a move towards a reduction on limitations on nuclear weapons with the US likely withdraw from the INF, and also if you just look at the incentives for the establish nuclear powers, it's very hard for them to make the case to their own public that they should give up their nuclear weapons. Their nuclear weapons give them not only defensive benefits, deterrence but also significant international status, and it's very unlikely that any of those five established powers or indeed the unofficial nuclear weapon states would actually give up that status and that defensive benefit.
Sputnik: So now we have the upcoming NATO-Russia summit, what do you think will be the primary topics on the agenda? Do you think that there will be talk about this rejection of the nuclear ban at all?
James D.J. Brown: I think when it comes to the rejection of the nuclear ban, on that point probably the leading NATO states and Russia somewhat see eye-to-eye. The INF is different, but when it comes to the United States, UK, France and Russia they're very much in agreement in rejecting this nuclear ban, so it's actually an area of some agreement.
I think when it comes to NATO and Russia, the big issue at the moment is the large scale military exercises. And just beginning a few days ago NATO began the so-called Trident Juncture military exercises with about 50,000 NATO troops involved and NATO sees this as a defensive move preparing, training to defend a NATO ally against an attack, whereas from the Russian point of view it is seen as a rather provocative, offensive act. So that seems to be one of the main issues at the moment.
Sputnik: Obviously, I think there'll probably be some attention to the US threat to withdraw from the INF treaty. What are the prospects for some kind of a conversation on that? Do you think there will be any movement forward in terms of pressuring or convincing the US to stay in that treaty until another one, a better one, a more widespread one would be introduced?
James D.J. Brown: President Trump didn't entirely rule out the possibility of renegotiating the INF. Previously with his foreign policy he has been open to the renegotiation of deals that he has previously spoken against. But here the problem is the US reason for rejecting the INF is not only because the US accuses Russia of breaking the boundaries of that agreement, but also because of China. The INF treaty was an agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States, it doesn't include China and that's one of the reasons why the US feels that it's essentially become outdated.
If China were to say that they were to be willing to join a revised INF then in some way it could be re-instituted, but that is extremely unlikely. The majority of China's nuclear missiles would fall within the banned range within the INF treaty and they're simply not going to agree to that, so I think that it looks like the INF treaty is going to be rejected by the US, and this also create some divisions within NATO. The leadership of NATO has spoken out essentially in support of the United States criticizing Russia for alleged violations of the INF, but within Europe itself, there are many people who are very critical of the US move and believe that this is a very large-scale mistake.
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