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June 23, 2021


Read The World Today

Why are Some Countries Allowed Nuclear Weapons and Not Others?

7 min read
Nuclear Weapons

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

what nuclear weapons are the big mushroom cloud creating bombs that spell absolute disaster for the areas they hit oversimplification sure.

it’s generally agreed that nukes aren’t a great thing and that’s why there’s whole agreements to stop them from being made or proliferating the thing is those agreements don’t fully apply to everyone and there’s a handful of countries who are just allowed nuclear weapons.

why these countries have nuclear weapons

Currently there are five recognized nuclear states the countries which are just allowed to have nuclear weapons effectively this is because they created their nuclear weapons before the signing of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons treaty the agreement which essentially prevents new countries from creating nukes.

So they’ve just been allowed to keep theirs these five countries are the united states russia formerly the soviet union the UK France and china however that’s not the end of the nuclear list all of these countries signed the non-proliferation treaty agreeing not to develop nuclear weapons.

But you’ll notice some gaps there now these countries haven’t found a clever loophole or something it’s just that if you don’t commit to not developing nuclear weapons well then you can develop nuclear weapons so there are three countries in addition to these five who claim to have nuclear weapons India who didn’t sign up to the npt Pakistan.

Who also didn’t sign up to the npt and north Korea who did sign up to the mpt but then withdrew from it in 2003 taking the total up to eight countries there are two other countries worth mentioning here though firstly israel.

Meanwhile israel has a policy of neither confirming nor denying the existence of a nuclear arsenal many experts believe that the country does indeed have one this policy of not actually discussing the existence or non-existence of their nuclear weapons may actually be part of their nuclear strategy they may have a small or possibly even non-existent nuclear arsenal.

They’re still able to enjoy the benefits of deterrence israel also didn’t sign the npt though meaning that their potential possession of nuclear weapons wouldn’t be breaking this international agreement that’s if they have any the second country worth mentioning is south africa while they did at one point possess nuclear weapons they became the first country to disassemble their nuclear weapons arsenal in the early 1990s.

That brings us to a total of nine nuclear states if we believe that israel does in fact possess nuclear weapons and one state who’s disassembled their own nukes but hold on a second we’re just accepting that these countries can have nuclear weapons because what they got there first well it’s a little more complicated than that but kind of let’s rewind and find out how we got to this nuclear map the best place to start is 1933.

following some speculation about nuclear weapons in the early 20th century such as from h.g wells who wrote a novel about them in 1914.

the scientist leo syllard theorizes about the possibility of a chain reaction of neutron collisions to release energy then in 1939 niels bohr announces to the public that fission has been discovered this same year einstein signed a letter to the then president fdr warning him of the potential for this new discovery to create an incredibly powerful bomb somewhat ironically.

Soon after that the manhattan project began which was a joint effort between the us canada and britain they were worried that the nazis might get to nuclear weapons first and as such poured huge amounts of money into research in total costing two billion dollars equivalent to about 23 billion pounds in 2019 then on the 16th of july 1945.

the first nuclear weapons test trinity took place soon after two nuclear bombs were dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki the first and last time that nuclear weapons would be used in an armed conflict the us wasn’t the only major power attempting to create a functioning nuclear weapon though although nazi germany did attempt nuclear fission.

it was never really with the aim of creating a bomb however the usa’s next enemy soviet russia was very keen on creating this technology throughout world war ii soviet spies tried to infiltrate the manhattan project and eventually after emulating the us approach,

rds-1 was detonated with the cold war only encouraging them to increase nuclear production so that’s how the two adversaries ended up getting nukes but what about the other three well.

The UK were one of the first nations to start a nuclear research project which had the delightfully quaint code name tube alloys this was merged into the manhattan project but despite the help they provided the manhattan project the us got more secretive with britain.

in the years after the war regardless the UK still managed to create their own weapons and in 1952 successfully designated their first nuclear weapon in Australia becoming the world’s third nuclear power while the former three gained their nuclear technology at least in part during the second world war france didn’t as they’d been invaded.

and were living under a puppet nazi government they were a little bit behind in the nuclear race following the war though they did begin research then in 1956,

the suez crisis occurred which ended up with the us punishing the french israelis and british for acting against their advice in britain this went down as a turning point the first real-world demonstration of the UK demotion from superpower status.

no longer able to act unilaterally without u.s support for france though it demonstrated that they needed to advance their nuclear weapons program to remain a global power working with israel france successfully tested their first nuclear weapon in 1960 with israeli scientists allowed to observe the test.

They have unlimited access to their technical data there’s one more country on the list though china the last country who created their nuclear weapons before the signing of the mpt again their nuclear research began after the second world war and following a conflict with taiwan.

Chairman mao realized that they wouldn’t be able to match the us but they knew that even if they had a modest arsenal it might be enough to balance things out and stop the use of nuclear weapons against them and due to the relationship between china and the Ussr at the time china received a lot of help in the creation of their bombs and their first nuclear bomb test occurred in 1964.

So that covers the five countries who are known to and under npt are allowed to hold nuclear weapons that must be it then well not quite as we mentioned at the beginning just because only five countries are allowed nuclear weapons that doesn’t mean that other countries don’t have them too.

India saw these new highly destructive weapons as essential for self-defense as early as 1946 a group of scientists convinced indian politicians to invest in nuclear energy although the first indian prime minister originally committed simply to nuclear research for energy purposes.

it’s been suggested that this approach changed in the 1960s that’s at least in part because india decided not to sign the mpt on the grounds that it created nuclear haves and have-nots and this makes more sense when you consider that those who are considered haves were those who were members of the un security council something.

They weren’t even able to join at its inception due to the fact that india hadn’t even gained its independence yet anyway this led the way 4 in 1974 the detonation of what the indians called a peaceful nuclear explosion clearly other countries cottoned onto the obvious oxymoron here and condemned the act a potential justification from india for developing the bomb was its border disputes with china and its dispute with pakistan speaking of pakistan they also didn’t sign the npt and while they showed little signs of wanting to become a nuclear state in the immediate aftermath of the second world war they certainly did after a lost war with india in the early 1970s this bolstered by india’s successful nuclear weapons test in 1974 demonstrated to pakistan that they needed to speed up their nuclear research program and fast and they were able to start research on it soon after during the 1979 invasion of afghanistan by the soviet union pakistan fought against the soviet union and in turn the u.s largely turned a blind eye to their nuclear weapons development finally let’s move to north korea back in the 1950s and 60s north korea requested help from the soviet union and china in creating nuclear weapons unfortunately for them though this was rejected by both countries they did however receive help in developing nuclear energy and in fact north korea signed up to the mpt in the 1980s in order to receive nuclear reactors early in the 1990s north korea even signed an agreement with south korea promising to keep the peninsula free of nuclear weapons soon after this international inspectors wanted to gain access to certain sites in north korea to ensure that they didn’t have nuclear weapons they refused access to some of these sites claiming they were military sites and thus off limits which certainly sounds like they shot themselves in the foot then so soon after this they withdrew from the npt

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