Apr 1, 2021 in Analysis

Analysis of Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons


NPT is a multilateral international document issued by the United Nations Disarmament Committee in 1968, starting its action from March 5, 1970. Hasselbach states that more than 170 countries-participants on May 11, 1995, agreed to extend the contract for an indefinite period without any additional conditions. Post-war events as well as the Cold War led to the formation of a nuclear club with five main nuclear powers. The first were the Americans, then the USSR, Great Britain, France, with China joined the group much later. The danger of the new technology posed a threat to the population of the entire planet. Especially the nuclear club considered the possibility of prohibiting the development of nuclear weapons by Germany, taking into account the terrible history of Nazism. Despite the obvious predominance of the positive results of the 47 years of the Treaty, it would be wrong to assume that it is an ideally thought out document. The treaty became the reason for the creation of nuclear-free zones and stopped the exchange of technologies. However, some states refused to take part in the treaty guided by national security issues or the preservation of influence in the region. The doctrine of political realism reveals the nature of the agreements on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons built on the initial balance of power of the states of the communist and capitalist bloc and their intention to limit the proliferation of WMD to reduce the likelihood of unpredictable conflicts. Thus, the states of the nuclear club used the realism principle of defending their own interests to restrict access to weapons that could pose a threat to their domination; however, the non-compliance of the Treaty with modern realities and the change of balance led to the appearance of a counterforce in the person of North Korea.

Realism Theory

A key feature of political realism is the emphasis on the interests of geopolitical players. It is necessary to take into account the imperfect nature of man in order to create a rationally grounded political order. Hence, the principle of existence of all pluralistic societies considers the balance of interests with a system of restraints and counterbalances. Therefore, the first principle of political realism implies the probabilistic nature of political activity in the sphere of international relations. It considers the contradictory aspects of human nature and recognizes the limited possibilities for building a just and moral political order. Political realism comprises the notion that any action for the improvement of society is an action with great risk.

It is important to note that the original creator of the idea of ??political realism was Thomas Hobbes. He actually formed approaches within the framework of the concept of war of all against all that realists use. The key foundation of his theory is the recognition of the fact that the state of war of all against all is preserved in the international arena and this state is permanent. War is a constant with the shifts of its active and passive manifestations.

The doctrine of political realism includes six key theses that form its conceptual meaning. Firstly, it is the recognition of the imperfect nature of man with all the ensuing consequences. This means that the leadership of the countries is guided only by personal interests and perceives the international arena as a field of agreements and confrontations. This leads to a second principle called the principle of national interests, understood in terms of power and influence. The concept of national interest serves as the lens that view international politics as a relatively independent sphere from economics, religion, and ethnic relations. Morgenthau notes that it is impossible to create a theory of politics without such a theoretical assumption. The concept of interest, interpreted in terms of power and power, provides an opportunity for a theoretical understanding of international relations.

The third principle of political realism discards studies of the motives and intentions underlying political action as well as the study of ideological preferences of subjects of international relations. Foreign policy can not be analyzed through psychological lenses. Therefore, the personal factor of the head of the state does not play a significant role. Politic motives are based only on the will, intellect and resoluteness of the ruler, so excessive application of psychology leads to irrational analysis. The fourth principle relates to a dynamic understanding of national interests. The concept of interest is not a constant but a dynamic unit, which is volatile and depends on many factors.  Different types of interests form in a specific historical period coupled with a specific political and cultural context. Morgenthau argues that the activities of the state include the ethics of responsibility, not the ethics of persuasion. This does not mean referring to the universal moral law for the state but means taking into account the consequences of possible alternative political actions. The fifth and sixth principle of realism are interrelated. The fifth says that the state's action in the international arena is not necessarily political because there are also legal, economic, humanitarian, and cultural relations. The sixth principle emphasizes the unequal conditions of the states. Their actions can be seen as a dynamic category that depends on the internal political situation in the country and the transformations that affect the more profitable positions in the international arena. Considering all the previous points, it should be noted that consideration of the problem of nuclear disarmament takes into account several additional concepts. Firstly, a balance of power takes into account the starting capabilities of states, spheres of influence and their allies. Secondly, it is a politics of prestige. It focuses on a demonstration of military force to intimidate opponents. Thirdly, the concept of power is a key determinant of foreign policy relations based on the image and influence of subjects.

Main Points of Treaty

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons limits the possibility of creating nuclear weapons, secures possession of nuclear weapons only by the counties of nuclear club, and also prohibits the trade in technologies related to nuclear weapons. These obligations also include limiting the opportunities for armed conflict with the use of nuclear or hydrogen weapons. In addition, the treaty emphasizes only the peaceful use of nuclear energy. According to the Treaty, each of the participating states with nuclear capabilities agrees to avoid transfer of its or any other nuclear explosive devices to a third party. In addition, the Treaty approves control measures as well as avoidance of any cooperation in the field of nuclear weapons. Nuclear states must abandon the motivation of any state that does not have nuclear weapons for production or acquisition. The participating states, in turn, refuse to cooperate in the field of nuclear weapons as well as to refuse assisting in the production of nuclear weapons. The countries have an opportunity to conduct research in the area of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. International Atomic Energy Agency underlines its role as the negotiation and controlling platform over the nuclear disarmament. States that do not have nuclear capabilities also signed an agreement with the agency. The DPRK declared withdrawal from the NPT, but many states proceed from the fact that the exit procedure was incorrect from a legal point of view. The UN Secretariat de jure continues to consider the DPRK as a participant of the NPT. However, de facto, North Korea violated the treaty and began developing its own nuclear program. Hasselbach states that an important addition to the treaty is the UN Security Council resolution of June 19, 1968 on the issue of security guarantees for non-nuclear states. The resolution includes the option of a response in the event of a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear state or the threat of such an attack. In addition, the right of states to individual and collective self-defense is confirmed in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter. The Security Council should come up with a reasonable resolution of the conflict. However, the country has the right to defend its land and provide a military response until the final the final decision of the Security Council.

In addition, it is necessary to mention the new treaty of 2017 on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. It provides a complete ban on nuclear weapons. However, it does not prohibit the use of nuclear weapons by the original nuclear club. Nevertheless, the initiative may not be effective enough. The United States, Great Britain, France and several other countries boycotted this event at the annual meeting of world leaders at the UN. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons obliges the nuclear states to negotiate effective measures for nuclear disarmament so there was a need to discuss the complete ban on the use of nuclear weapons. The initiators of the treaty believe that its adoption will force the nuclear states to respect the disarmament. Member states can not develop, transfer, receive or possess nuclear weapons. According to NTI the UN Convention prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests on the territory of the participating states. Although the nuclear states did not participate in the elaboration of the treaty, the NPT was a cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime. This approach, on the one hand, has reduced the potential for future conflicts, and on the other, increasingly shifts the potential of Convention towards a declarative document.

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Analysis of the Nuclear Club

The nuclear club is the official name of the countries that developed and conducted the tests of WMD before January 1, 1967. Hasselbach explained that the United States were the first with the first test in 1945 and China was last in 1964. The world community recognizes the legitimacy of possessing nuclear weapons only for these five countries. All other states are considered more or less violators of international law. Such violators are young nuclear powers. This is India, which conducted nuclear test in the desert of Rajasthan in 1974, but confirmed the existence of WMDs only in 1998. Pakistan conducted tests with a difference of three weeks demonstrating its potential to Delhi. Israel is a fairly controversial subject that may have allegedly 200 nuclear charges. The Israeli authorities do not deny the existence of nuclear weapons, but they also do not confirm it. Hasselbach mentions that North Korea withdrew from the Treaty in 2004 and in 2005 declared that it had created nuclear weapons. Myanmar is also a potential possessor of nuclear weapons because there is evidence that the military initiated a nuclear weapons program in 2007. 

Potential owners of nuclear weapons include South Korea and Japan. They do not possess them but have technologies and capabilities to produce them in a short time. Hasselbach underlines that the crisis on the Korean peninsula resulted in sharp statements by the Korean and Japanese authorities. They insisted on the need to create an atomic bomb. In addition, there are countries that developed WMD, but then stopped research or development process. These are Algeria, Egypt, Libya under the rule of Gaddafi, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Argentina, and Brazil. Moreover, terrorist organizations as Al Qaeda and the Aum Shinrikyo sect shared the information that they possess the atomic charges.

Analysis of Treaty Using Realism Theory

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has become one of the cornerstones of the international security system and the basis of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The regime of nuclear non-proliferation with all its institutions was formed largely because states managed to develop, adopt and follow the rules of the NPT. This correlates with the fifth principle of political realism, which emphasizes responsibility as one of the key qualities of international politics. This shows that all states of the world are interested in pursuing a policy of security and nuclear energy in accordance with this treaty. It is clear that this is the main criterion of security for the states themselves since it creates an international guarantee, sets universal rules of the game and punishes players who conduct "illegal" activity. However, the very fact of the emergence of states that have developed their nuclear arsenal or have the potential indicates that the treaty is failing. Rather, it shows that the international community does not have enough tools to completely prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. This also confirms the presence of political interest to increase the influence as states consciously violate the treaty they signed. As the barriers to nuclear proliferation grow, new opportunities arise for those who are interested in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Latent nuclear powers or countries that are interested in continuing the development of the program are adapting to a weak control system.

Political realism uncovers that the root of this problem lies in the creation of the cult of nuclear weapons because of the logic of scientific and technical progress coupled with the personal interests of influential states. Technological development has become an indicator of the strength of the state and significantly influenced the level of competition between states at the global and regional levels. In general, the level of technology development has become a demonstration of the strength, which led to the creation of nuclear weapons and the Cold War. This fact correlates with the politics of prestige because states tend to present their interests above others with the help of military-technical and economic development, which creates the prerequisites for pressure on the international arena. In addition, the process of violation of the treaty includes the principle of the dynamic nature of international relations. The nuclear club did not take into account the fact that the process of approaching industrial-type countries to the nuclear threshold is absolutely unavoidable from the point of view of science and technology. Firstly, nuclear technology acted as a threshold that simultaneously intimidated other states and formed a closed club of developed countries with great influence. Unfortunately, this does not mean leveling development levels, which would create a favorable background, and then objective prerequisites for resolving a whole series of contradictions in the system of international relations. On the contrary, the configuration of inequality remained the same and only shifted to the nuclear coordinates.

Secondly, it is quite logical to increase the importance of the scientific and technological frontiers of political power. The NPT excludes the possibility of technology and nuclear explosives trade as well as the spread of military technology, which correlates with the fifth principle of responsibility. The level of the connection between nuclear weapons and the scientific and technical development of the state declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The bomb can be imported in parts by separate technological chains and components. Thus, the participants in the regional struggle for dominance now have the opportunity to copy technologies. It provides the basis for the creation of advantage at the regional level. In addition, this allows them to join the global arms race.

The primary reason for the creation of the NPT regime was the national interests of the United States and the desire to maintain the status quo. The doctrine of nonproliferation has become a hidden interpretation of the broken hopes for a nuclear monopoly. The United States wanted to narrow down the circle of nuclear weapons holders even at the expense of its closest allies in NATO. Reducing the number of subjects of nuclear threat increased the number of its objects. In addition, everything boiled down to confronting the communist bloc.  A large number of nuclear states, multiplied by the diversity of their goals, tasks and behavior patterns, would greatly increase the risk of nuclear conflict. This correlates with the fifth principle of maintaining a responsible politics. In addition, the United States was guided by the intention to preserve a nuclear domination, hence their technical superiority, which correlated with the first and the sixth principle of political realism. Initiation of the treaty had a priority to freeze the main results of the Second World War. The existing nuclear powers were victorious and were solidary in their intention to prevent the development of WMD in the FRG and Japan. The third reason is the prevention of loss of power over the world peripheries. The further spread of nuclear technologies would inevitably capture politically unstable regions. The situation of unpredictability and lack of control would have a drastically negative impact on all aspects of world politics. Consequently, the political content of the nonproliferation regime always results from the dynamism of international relations. Thus, the nonproliferation regime itself can not be unshakable because this would mean its end. It evolves along with the evolution of political approaches to global security issues. Therefore, the problems of non-proliferation reflect the dynamics of political laws because they are based on deep political issues like the preservation of global dominance or the struggle for power.

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The NPT can be regarded as a treaty of preservation of the monopoly of the planetary power of the nuclear club with a reference to the terminology of political realism. Non-nuclear countries renounced attempts to acquire nuclear weapons, while nuclear ones would negotiate the liquidation of their arsenals.  However, this requirement was not fulfilled because it would violate the possible balance of power, which would then result in an unstable situation or a change of the key power in the region. However, this led to the horizontal proliferation and withdrawal of North Korea from the Treaty. The problem lies in the fact that the category of weaker states has never been the main concern of superpowers, since it was infinitely far from the possibility of unauthorized acquisition of nuclear weapons. However, DPRK saw the possibility in every failure of the real nuclear disarmament of the bigger powers. Moreover, the lack of a necessary balance of interests adversely affected the situation in the Near East, Iran and the Korean peninsula. The regional forces tried to take advantage of the weakening of key states and the failure of the Treaty to create their own arsenals and secure their own leadership in the region. The nonproliferation regime is the sum of the relations between all the participants in the nuclear club. The broken balance of power, Russia's intention to return to the international elite and the political course of Donald Trump have led to an escalation of confrontation within the club North Korean crisis. Korea's actions are an open demonstration of force to the US and its allies. Kim Jong-un has a personal interest in preserving the regime in the country so he blackmails neighboring countries and the United States in order to gain a diplomatic and strategic victory. North Korea successfully applied the second, fourth and sixth principles of realism, taking advantage of the inertia of the global confrontation in order to reach its narrow-egoistic tasks.  The world community was suddenly faced with the fact of the emergence of the second echelon of nuclear danger, and much less predictable than the first. North Korea, like Israel, used an immanent contradiction between the key forces. The balance of forces implies a constant threat of disruption but also the constant need for reconstruction. Therefore, the collapse of the Soviet Union had a negative impact on the balance of power, which led to the emergence of a new counterweight in the face of North Korea in the Far Eastern periphery. It was an American mistake. Americans use disarmament impulse as a channel for extrapolating the doctrine of deterrence to stronger countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia.

In addition, security guarantees provided by nuclear states to non-nuclear states have no legal force. Despite the emergence of the Korean crisis, the clearly demonstrated political will allowed to keep other countries from the official nuclear status. The nuclear club refused to provide legal evidence for the sake of achieving a gentlemen's agreement built on the principle of responsible politics and balance of interests. Political realism does not consider the perfection of legal norms but the question of the correlation of forces.The global forces understood their own strength and responsibility, which led to the victory of the balanced approach. It resulted in mutual deterrence and a ban on other states to introduce an element of unpredictability into the global confrontation. The absence of legal guarantees in practice meant the preservation of space to protect their own interests. The overall balance of forces compensated this deficiency, since this would lead to an increase in tension. However, the unfair use of guarantees did little to encourage the further accession of the other countries to this Treaty. On the other hand, the balance of forces maintained the necessary stability in the frames of established regime. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the lack of adaptedness to new realities. Theoretically, the regime should not depend only on the existing superpower, but this is impossible in the conditions of the monopoly of the United States and its allies.


In conclusion, the regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons was fully compatible with the theory of political realism. The fragile balance of power balance ensures a stable and safe preservation of the regime. The nuclear club countries had previously represented two different systems and thus created a system of counterbalances that restrained the further escalation and emergence of new nuclear powers. Their own interests and the principle of responsibility played the major role, trying not to expand the list of countries that can use nuclear weapons. However, the nuclear nonproliferation regime has proved to be a fragile construction due to the monopoly of the United States in the modern world, which focused its attempts to ban the creation of nuclear weapons in the Near and Middle East. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the redistribution of power in the world led to the creation of a nuclear program on the periphery of the sphere of interests of the US and its allies. This underlines the dynamism of international relations, but also the weakness of the Treaty, which needs substantial addition and new resolution approaches. The Treaty was consistent with different historical realities. Violation of the balance of power and the reduction of control by the United States led to a redistribution of power in the world and the emergence of aggressive counterbalance to the current dominant force.


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