Profileration Of Nuclear And Biological Weapons

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The proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons in USA and the world

The proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons

in USA and the world


Given the immediate explosive and incendiary force of the atom and the long-term human and environmental consequences from release of radiation, curbing nuclear weapons use has been of special concern since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Atomic energy can serve military purposes (weapons of mass destruction [WMDs] and powering submarines) or peaceful purposes (nuclear power to light the land).

Major multilateral treaties seek to discourage proliferation of the former while facilitating the latter: the 1956 Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT); the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT); the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996 (CTBT), not yet in force. Other efforts against proliferation include the so-called Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the related initiative of the UN Security Council to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and other WMDs to non-state actors. Particular countries are also subject to current council attention, namely the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran, seen as backsliding from the basic nonproliferation instruments. Iraq was subject after 1991 to (apparently successful) efforts to strip it of nuclear weapons (and other WMDs).

The Arms Race

The United States was the sole atomic power until 1949, when the Soviet Union successful tested its own atomic bomb. Three years later, the United States tested the world's first thermonuclear device. The Soviets followed with a thermonuclear test in 1955. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the United States and Soviet Union engaged in a desperate race to surpass one another in the number and destructive power of their nuclear arsenals.

Each side also developed ever-more sophisticated systems to deliver nuclear weapons. In the 1940s and 1950s, long-range bombers were the only means of delivering a nuclear weapon to the enemy's homeland. The development of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the late 1950s and early 1960s made it possible to strike targets thousands of miles away from bases in one's own country. Later developments included the invention of multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs) that allowed a single ICBM to deliver several warheads to different targets.

By the 1970s, both the United States and Soviet Union were willing to address the issue of their runaway nuclear rivalry. In the late 1970s, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) produced the firstever reductions in the superpowers' nuclear arsenals. These negotiations were followed up in the 1980s by the Strategic Arms Reductions Talks (START). The START treaty continued the arms reduction work begun in the SALT talks.

Proliferation and Nonproliferation

By the late 1960s, the arms race between the United States and Soviet Union was increasingly being seen as a threat to peace. By 1968, Great Britain, France, and the People's Republic of China (PRC) would also conduct nuclear weapons tests. The rapid growth in the number of nuclear weapons and nuclear states was seen as an alarming ...
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