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Today’s situation is one of nuclear multi-polarity. It is characterised by the existence of several groups of countries:

  • officially recognised nuclear powers: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States

  • nuclear states not officially recognised as such but that openly declare their possession of nuclear weapons: India and Pakistan

  • Israel: a country that does not admit to possessing nuclear weapons

  • countries with nuclear ambitions and the necessary scientific and technological potential to develop nuclear arms: North Korea and Iran

  • so-called ‘latent’ nuclear powers: countries that have the ability to develop nuclear weapons but that refrain from doing so for reasons of political or military inexpediency: Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and others

This situation of nuclear multi-polarity creates the following main threats and challenges:

  • perpetuation of the motivations for possessing nuclear weapons

  • possibilities for carrying out ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons

  • the risk that nuclear weapons will be used

In this situation, guaranteeing international security requires the creation of a comprehensive system for nuclear arms control and nuclear non-proliferation.

Several main objectives emerge in reducing the risks posed by nuclear multi-polarity:

  1. reducing the motivations for non-nuclear states to acquire nuclear weapons

  2. preventing efforts by countries overtly or tacitly seeking to obtain nuclear weapons to manufacture or acquire such weapons

  3. reducing the likelihood that countries possessing nuclear weapons will use them

The current nuclear arms control system is focused primarily on only one of these objectives – preventing non-nuclear countries from developing nuclear weapons. This is the objective pursued by the NPT, and so it is entirely natural that most proposals for improving the nuclear control regime remain with the nuclear non-proliferation framework set out by the NPT.

Some aspects that have emerged in the nuclear non-proliferation situation today provide a basis for proposals regarding the other two objectives for reducing the risks of nuclear multi-polarity, namely, reducing non-nuclear countries’ motivations for developing nuclear weapons and reducing the likelihood of such weapons actually being used. Coming up with ways to reach these objectives requires first identifying the means for reaching each goal separately.

Two main tasks need to be accomplished in order to reduce the motivations of countries to obtain nuclear weapons:

  • non-nuclear states need to be given security guarantees against the possible use of force by countries with overwhelmingly superior military power

  • regional disputes and conflicts need to be settled in such a way as to exclude the need to possess nuclear weapons

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