Phoenix Media Co-op asked nuclear policy specialist Joe Cirincione about the upcoming prospects for progress in de-escalating the global nuclear arms race. And for now, he lamented, “the future of arms control is bleak”.
The arms race is “completely unchecked”
Cirincione outlined the current situation, saying:
We right now have a global nuclear arms race. Each of the nine nuclear-armed nations are building new weapons. Some are replacing weapons that are getting old. Others are expanding their arsenals. But all of these new weapons represent new capabilities for these countries. So you’re seeing a qualitative and a quantitative arms race that is completely unchecked.
According to the Arms Control Association, the US and Russia own over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. But China, France, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea also possess such arms.
‘No interest in arms control from either the US or Russia’
Cirincione also explained how, despite progress around the end of the Cold War, the control of nuclear weapons has stalled:
if you look at the data that’s collected by the Federation of American Scientists, for example, you see that – since the 1980s at the height of the Cold War – we have slashed the global nuclear arsenals. We went from a world in 1986 where there were almost 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world down to where we are now where there’s just about 13,500 nuclear weapons. Tremendous progress. … [Note from 26/04/21: Cirincione initially said this was an “85% reduction in the stockpile”, but later corrected this to 81%.]
But it’s flattened out. There really haven’t been significant reductions for years. The 2010 New START agreement was the last successful arms control agreement. That was 11 years ago. There’s been no reduction agreement since then. There’ve been no talks about new reductions agreements. Now I think the future of arms control is bleak. It’s bleak. And I see no interest really in a new round of arms control either from the United States or from Russia. So I’m pessimistic about our prospects.
More about the interviewee
Cirincione is a ‘distinguished non-resident fellow’ at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He previously worked as non-proliferation director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is also the author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World before It Is Too Late; and of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons.