Nuclear weapons testing is mostly a thing of the past: The last nuclear weapon test explosion on US soil was conducted over 25 years ago. But how much longer can nuclear weapons testing remain a taboo that almost no country will violate?
In an official statement from the end of May, the Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) expressed the belief that both Russia and China were preparing for explosive tests of low-yield nuclear weapons, if not already testing. Such accusations could potentially be used by the U.S. to justify a breach of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The CTBT prohibits all signatories from testing nuclear weapons of any size (North Korea, India, and Pakistan are not signatories). But the CTBT never actually entered into force, in large part because the U.S. has still not ratified it, though Russia did.
The existence of the treaty, even without ratification, has been sufficient to establish the norms and taboos necessary to ensure an international moratorium on nuclear weapons tests for a couple decades. But will that last? Or will the U.S., Russia, or China start testing nuclear weapons again?
This month, Ariel was joined by Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and founder of armscontrolwonk.com, and Alex Bell, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Lewis and Bell discuss the DIA’s allegations, the history of the CTBT, why it’s in the U.S. interest to ratify the treaty, and more.
Topics discussed in this episode:
- The validity of the U.S. allegations –Is Russia really testing weapons?
- The International Monitoring System — How effective is it if the treaty isn’t in effect?
- The modernization of U.S/Russian/Chinese nuclear arsenals and what that means
- Why there’s a push for nuclear testing
- Why opposing nuclear testing can help ensure the US maintains nuclear superiority
References discussed in this episode: