Among the existential threats to humanity, the threat of nuclear armageddon is both the most immediate and most controllable of them all. When studying the behavior of nations throughout history, particularly within this domain, their reactions palpably resemble childish emotional outbursts hidden behind political jargon. There have been a handful of of international agreements to reduce nuclear proliferation throughout the decades, but the reality is that the dismantling of nuclear weapons, specifically by the US and Russia, has slowed to a crawl.
I recognize that international security concerns necessitate the deceleration of disarmament as the total number of nuclear weapons worldwide approaches zero, but current trends will asymptote in the thousands. Regardless of how the math is modeled, a majority of countries feel that progress has waned and the ultimate result has been negative, specifically the threat of new nations becoming nuclear-arms states.
“We had already taken the resolute action of pulling out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and have manufactured nuclear arms for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle [North Korea].” — North Korean Foreign Ministry in regards to pulling out of the six-party talks to find a diplomatic solution to disarmament in 2005
North Korea has repeatedly stated that the actions and inactions of the US have exasperated and perpetuated their need for nuclear arms, and North Korea isn’t the only nation that feels this way. If we want a world without nuclear arms, the US needs to take disarmament seriously in addition to dramatically reducing foreign military interference. The world does not trust the US or other nuclear-arms states, which is why the UN pushed forward with the most recent international treaty: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Also called the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, the TPNW prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons. The treaty passed with 122 votes in favor, with every nuclear-arms state choosing not to vote. The TPNW provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons programs in nuclear-arms states, so if US leaders truly believed their stance that this treaty was the wrong move, they should have voted against it. Instead, they hid behind not voting because they wanted to continue to use nuclear weapons in military and security concepts without admitting that it’s unethical.
If the US and Russia continue to stall disarmament, nuclear proliferation will increase, this time across a much greater number of nations. Humanity cannot afford to allow the previously-thought-squashed existential threat of nuclear armageddon to resurface as we deal and prepare for newer threats like climate change, genetic engineering, and artificial general intelligence.