the capacity to rebuild nuclear weapons also would diminish the incentive for states to keep a few concealed nuclear weapons as a hedge against the possibility that other states might do the same. Under the regime of permitted activities, it might be necessary to protect the weapons-building capacity of each state against preemptive attack by other states, through a combination of multiple sites, deep burial, or provisions for rapid dispersal.
There are two potential problems with this type of arrangement, however. First, allowing states to maintain the capability to build nuclear weapons on short notice would make it easier for a state to cheat while at the same time making it more difficult to detect cheating. Permitted weapons-related activities would be of great value for a clandestine program and would create a background of legal activity against which it would be more difficult to detect illegal activities. Second, having states poised to resume manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons could create dangerous instabilities in which states might rush to rearm during a crisis, thereby worsening the crisis. Drawing the demarcation line closer to the other end of the spectrum would simplify verification, allow more time to respond to signs of breakout, and build a larger firebreak to nuclear rearmament.
This discussion illustrates the importance of ensuring the stability of a comprehensive nuclear disarmament regime. If, in a crisis or other foreseeable circumstances, a prohibition on the possession of nuclear weapons created incentives to cheat or strong pressures to rearm, the risk of nuclear war could be higher under disarmament than with small national arsenals. In order for the balance of risks to favor moving to comprehensive nuclear disarmament, the three factors mentioned above—international politics, verification, and safeguards—must interact in ways that do not create such perverse incentives or pressures. Unfortunately, it is not possible to be much more specific without knowing more about the political and technical circumstances in which comprehensive nuclear disarmament would be pursued.
The risks and benefits of comprehensive nuclear disarmament also would be affected by the way in which the transition away from small national arsenals is implemented. The committee has considered a number of possible means to achieve a prohibition on the possession of nuclear weapons and does not mean to suggest that these approaches are the best or only ways to deal with the challenge. Any such proposal would require extensive study by the states themselves and intensive negotiations among them over an extended period. When the time came, the nuclear weapons states and other states might find some other arrangement more appropriate to the conditions and norms of international politics then in existence. The committee's treatment of possible routes to prohibition is thus necessarily exploratory, in contrast to the analysis in previous chapters that resulted in specific recommendations.