Friday, July 27, 2012

International Law, the NPT, and The Nuclear Black Market

Unfortunately, nuclear existence has adapted seemingly well to the chaos of our society; with the break-up of the Soviet Union, nations witnessed the birth of the nuclear black market- selling nuclear capable materials, ranging from low enriched uranium to nuclear triggers. Now, amiss recent US- led Summit talks revolving around nuclear security, nuclear terrorism has surfaced as an absolute threat to all countries.  Where do these rogue rebels and militants acquire their materials?  The black market of course…where anything and everything can be found at cheap rates.  Due to the large stockpiles of nuclear materials in Russia, a lot of the smuggling and trading of nuclear-materials can be found in this country and in/around the Baltic region states. 
            Nuclear terrorism, “the illegal use or threat of use of radioactive materials” spawned like a contagion due to the easy access to the nuclear black market.  Small and moderate homemade bombs are going off daily at the hands of rebel insurgents across the globe: from bombings in the Middle East to large-scale attempts in Russia by the Chechen rebels from the volatile Russian Caucasus.  Hence the hasty attempt by leading countries, both nuclear and non, to strengthen securities against this growing enterprise through centers focusing on training country security forces to detect and take action against unwarranted attack arising from this illegal practice.  If we do not significantly curb the selling of nuclear materials in the black market, which then facilitates nuclear terrorism, the likelihood of large-scale nuclear-weaponry in rogue hands will transpire. 
However, I think it would be imprudent to ignore the latent link between the failure of article VI of the Non Proliferation Treaty and the growth of nuclear terrorism.  The NPT came into force in 1970 with a mission to end proliferation.  It is comprised of articles in which each member state is bound to adhere to for the treaty to be successful.  In spite of this, article VI- the good-faith clause has been manipulated, ignored, or misused.  As long as nuclear states party to the treaty fail to abide by Article VI, all of the honest measures to discontinue nuclear smuggling to rogue groups will at no time reach its full potential.

Article VI of the NPT reads:

Each of the parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good-faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control (emphasis in bold is not part of text)

Foreseeably, disagreements over how to interpret this article is still debated between nuclear weapon states who believe that mere agreements to lower the quantity of their nuclear stockpiles satisfied article VI and the ‘beneficiaries’- non nuclear weapon states who believe that these states have not met the requirements of the good-faith article.  With today’s ever advancing technology, quantity is no longer the best gauge of nuclear disarmament.  We all know that modern technology has replaced quantity of nuclear weapons with quality of nuclear weapons.  Thus, the nuclear weapon states really should consider a different avenue in advocating their supposed steps in meeting article VI.
If in good-faith, honest steps are taken to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and subsequently, nuclear material (not used for peaceful purposes), proliferation by rogue groups will be much more difficult and the nuclear black market will run itself out of business.
Perhaps if those states party to the NPT, and as suggested previously, nuclear weapon states such as the United States spend a little more time critically assessing their part in the growing danger of nuclear terrorism/smuggling by not adhering to article VI of the NPT then they would have less to discuss at the round table about every other country that needs to work on its nuclear security.  A big part of nuclear security is certainly following an international treaty aimed at non-proliferation.  In supplement, if these same states place international law above their geopolitical agenda’s significant progress can be had at removing stockpiles of weapon-usable nuclear material from the black market. 
Not to go too far astray, but recently I delved into the contentions of the 1996 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion: Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, which I encourage anyone interested in international law as it relates to nuclear weapons to read, and found it remarkable how quick countries avail themselves of the privileges of international law to assign guilt or scrutiny to an adversary at one instance, but the next manipulate that very same law as to render it inapplicable to their own guilt in the mirrored instance.  For the nuclear states, the ambiguity in article VI of the NPT is a convenient inconvenience for they can use this ambiguity to fuel their ongoing actions absent anticipatory consequences of a breach.  This convenience-scheme by nuclear states undermines international law, and in consequence will only undermine efforts to use international law in other instances, such as against the nuclear black market and nuclear terrorism.


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