Trump’s nuke rhetoric: New proliferation threat

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Manan Dwivedi
With US President-Elect Donald Trump attempting to expand the ambit of the nuclear capability of Washington and Russia intending to build up forces, the possibility of the revival of Cold War-era arms race looms large
The ideals of non-proliferation of nuclear weaponry and attestations by the nuclear weapon owners were established upon the nuclear trade and larger nuclear policies of the developing world.
However, with the arrival of President-Elect Donald Trump in the United States, the equation becomes rather interesting with Trump attempting to expand the ambit of the nuclear capability of Washington.
The Kellog’s Briand Pact and the related “proportionate Arms Reduction pacts” in the period between the two World wars were characteristic of the idea of disarmament as initiated by the victorious war powers of the international system.
A differentiation between the nuclear haves and have nots became the defining order of a largely multi-polar international system and the matrices of a nuclear powered world. The US found itself on the cusp of a significant defining moment.
The Pokharan-I nuclear tests invited the working of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Act ( NNPA) on the Tarapur Nuclear Reactor in the seventies, and the Pokharan-II nuclear explosions in May 1998 too invited American sanctions against India.
The protectionist and restrictive American positions in the decade of the nineties were chaperoned by the likes of President Bill Clinton who unleashed the bogeys of terrorism and non-proliferation-disarmament advocates on New Delhi.
It was through the Conference on Disarmament in 1996 that India was given another indication to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which were considered as the testing qualifications if the nations such as India and Israel were to be included in the various nuclear groups such as the Wassenar Agreement, the Australia Group, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
All these transnational arrangements were significant for New Delhi and now in a deteriorating regional and global environment, these memberships have become “critical” for the fusion of the nation with the global non-proliferation and nuclear regime. The Obama Presidency too turned around the entire debate and attempted a resolution of the Civil Nuclear Liability Legislation as part of the Indian domestic legislation and
lent crucial support to India in the run up to the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic ingenuity.
As the critical truth, it must be understood that the “transition phase” of the Trump’s journey of claims and portrayed policies and his “America First dictum” tend to bring the global audience in a lurch. If Washington now intends to move away from the entangling alliances, then the global expansion in the nuclear ambit needs to be recalibrated through a different lens. Is this the restoration of normalcy for the land of mélange?
A present reading of Trump’s nuclear standpoint has this to showcase to the larger international system. The question that international nuke observers might ask is whether the American stance is going to initiate a re-run of the legerdemain of the Cold War nuclear confrontations with their “End of Days” nature. A commentator writes in the New York Times, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” What is surprising is that with the American strategic resolve apparently congealing with Russia in the context of West Asia and the Syrian conflict, why Trump desires to posit a nuclear rivalry with the Soviet Union, reminiscent of the hoary and conspiratorial years of the Cold War. The US communications in-charge makes it crystal clear that there is a critical need of the hour to attend to the threat of global and multifarious proliferation of nuclear weapons which will place the entire state of affairs in the context of the terrorist non-state actors and the rogue nations. The idiom of the smuggled nukes to non-State is not a mere pet peeve with the Hollywood script writers with American connections in the “city of Ross” in the US, but it amounts to a glaring concern for the American think tanks and specifically, the US President-Elect, Donald Trump.
With the Republican symmetry with the Putin phenomenon during the American election trail, the recent statements of Trump should not be simplistically read as a traditionally rhetorical counter move vis-a-vis President Vladimir Putin. The Russian Premier recently declared that Russia intends to modernise its armed forces and might not hesitate to be part of an arms race. Anyway, it might be a costly endeavour for the US to enhance the number of deployed warheads and enhance the qualitative capability of the delivery systems present at any engaging time with the US.
The lingo of what the President-Elect contends in the context of the America’s nuclear stance leaves a lot to imagination as the specificity of the nuclear lingo and nomenclature, normally, leaves little to imagination.
The tangible clarity and the adversarial correctness of a well calculated and acutely calibrated American response in the face of a nuclear misadventure against its interests has once again resurfaced in the American nuclear narrative.
The Obama speech in Prague in 2009 talked about the presence of an effective deterrent for the US, while Trump goes a step ahead when it attempts to bring about a global and discernible need to make the entire nuclear capable world to disarm. This could be read as either the sustenance of a global nuclear status quo or the overtly and public stance of aggressively erecting a novae American overarch in the context of a nuclear race and weaponry.
The issue is about signaling. A nation worth its salt might depict itself as brandishing a sword in the case of a positive lead or might initiate a retreat in the face of a massive congregation of superior military strength and unfurl a white flag. Still, the question which can be stringently asked is: Was a recalibration of the nuclear stance before January 20, an essentiality? It is in more ways than one not an attempt at gerrymandering but a striving to re-emphasise a new and reinvented “America First” approach in the sphere of nuclear policy as part of the other “set pieces” of policy changes which are symptomatic of the “transition time Presidency” of Trump.
Nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of nukes to the unregistered non-state actors and the ambitious nuclear state-actors such as North Korea and China are the seemingly significant concerns of the US President-Elect’s nuclear standpoint. Going by the remark by India’s Foreign Secretary, “If the American trumpet was certain in the region, it would be helpful.” India can be satisfied with the historical fact that it was President George Bush who legitimised India’s nuclear programme through the civil nuclear cooperation agreement.
(The author is faculty, International Relations and International organisations, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi)

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