In March of last year the Norwegian government convened a gathering of 129 nations in Oslo for a two-day Conference on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear War. This week there will be a follow up meeting in Mexico to further examine the scientific data now available documenting the devastating global impact of even a very limited use of these weapons.
The United States and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council, who together possess 98% of the world’s nuclear weapons, boycotted the Oslo meeting and have not yet indicated if they will attend the meeting in Mexico. In a joint statement issued before the Oslo meeting, the P5, as they are called, said that a conference that examined what will actually happen if nuclear weapons are used would somehow “distract” them from their efforts to reduce the nuclear danger.
The administration has expressed particular concern that these conferences will somehow endanger the 1968 Non Proliferation Treaty, which makes it illegal for states which do not possess nuclear weapons to build them. But Article VI of the NPT also requires the existing nuclear powers to engage in good faith negotiations to eliminate their own nuclear arsenals.
A recent statement by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sheds light on the real threat to the NPT. Speaking after a tour of nuclear weapons facilities in Albuquerque earlier this month, Hagel called for the US to 'upgrade' its nuclear warheads and the submarines, bombers and missiles that deliver them.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in late December these plans would cost $355 billion over the next decade. The Center for Nonproliferation Studies predicts the new weapons will cost $1 trillion over 30 years.
Meanwhile, the Russians are in the middle of a similar major upgrade of their nuclear forces.
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