Arms Control

With the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty yesterday following an alleged breach by Russia, there is an increased risk that the whole arms control framework could eventually collapse. This would be a disaster for all concerned, and that is all of us. It could lead to a new arms race. It could lead to a new cold war. It could also increase the risk of strategic arms accidents.

People may say that the risk of collapse of the arms control framework is minimal because all the countries involved are now dependant on each other, certainly economically if not socially. On the other hand, the evidence, including trade wars, proxy wars and so on, appears to indicate otherwise.

New forms of strategic weapons are constantly being developed and may take many and varied forms so really, during this time of frenetic technological development, arguably we need more control not less.

Control should apply not just to states but to all “actors” carrying out such developments. Some of these “actors” could be commercial enterprises which may be more powerful than several combined nation states. They also tend to operate in many different countries so they can only ever be policed by the international community. Thus, it is essential that international enforcement agencies are set up and fully supported by the international community. In the long term, this is good for everybody as it allows legitimate developments to continue under appropriate supervision and should stop rogue developments from taking place. It should also provide assurance to the public that they can have confidence in systems that are designed to protect them.

Contrary to popular belief, the Outer Space Treaty does not prohibit the weaponization of space.

We should be concerned about arms control because, if this goes badly wrong, the effects could be far more significant and more immediate than those brought about by climate change, which, in itself, is every bit as important.

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