Ukraine crisis could push nations to opt for nuclear weapons

What are the challenges facing nuclear non-proliferation?

Dr James Jay Carafano:

Well, the challenges are the countries that have the capacity to proliferate technology, weapons technology, missile technology that show no sign of not wanting to do that [engage in nuclear disarmament], in particular Pakistan and North Korea.

How can states, for example in the Middle East and Central Asia, be encouraged to opt for nuclear disarmament?

Dr James Jay Carafano:

That’s the real challenge, I think. As countries like North Korea build up their nuclear arsenal, and as people aren’t convinced that Iran is not getting a nuclear programme, they look at a nuclear capability as a deterrent to that.

That’s very, very difficult thing to address, and there are only two ways: one is to convince the countries that are getting the nuclear weapons, like Iran and North Korea to get rid of them; or to create an alliance structure where people feel they are comfortable under the conventional nuclear deterrent of other countries. Because the only other option is to have their own nuclear weapons.

Is this likely, given the current global climate?

Dr James Jay Carafano:

No, I think it’s actually exactly the opposite. I think that the indicators and drivers for proliferation are actually growing.

For example if we look at what happened in Ukraine, many countries would interpret that as ‘Ukraine gave up it’s nuclear weapons and people started taking pieces of their country away’.

So if I’m in a serious regional confrontation, like we saw with Pakistan and India, or that we might see with Iran and Turkey or Israel, countries might feel they need nuclear capability to offset those threats.

What is the likely outcome if global nuclear proliferation continues?

Dr James Jay Carafano:

The greatest danger is regional nuclear proliferation, so for example in the Middle East or North East Asia where you have multiple nuclear powers all feeling that they need their own nuclear deterrent.

Why that becomes incredibly unstable is, it’s not like a two-player scenario where people can size each other up. It’s not like you’re playing football or baseball where you have two teams opposing each other. It’s like you have a bunch of teams on the field at the same time, all playing different sports.

So you have a nuclear Turkey, a nuclear Israel, a nuclear Iran and a nuclear Saudi Arabia, all eyeing each other and asking what’s Russia doing? What’s the US doing? What's China doing? The potential for miscalculation and accidental war goes up considerably.

(photo credit: dpa)