Ever since United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama’s speech in Prague on April 5 2009, there has been growing attention to the topic of nuclear disarmament throughout mass media. The foundations for his speech, however, where set by an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by four elder U.S. statesmen: Schultz et al. (2007) drew the academic community’s attention to a renewed vision of A WORLD FREE NUCLEAR WEAPONS . The article’s impact waves OF have since rippled through numerous institutes and think-tanks to give birth to a number of publications debating GLOBAL ZERO. Governments seem to have been caught up in this vision, as can be seen from the 6 for ATTAINABLE STEPS an eventual ban on nuclear weapons by the BRITISH FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (see Cole 2009) or JAPAN’ S MINISTER FOREIGN FOR A FFAIRS HIROFUMI NAKASONE’s (2009b) 11 to accomplish global BENCHMARKS nuclear disarmament.
In order to escape arms control dilemmas and attain a, in constructivist terms, viable solution, institutions will have to be reformed and norms created. The possibility of a world free of nuclear weapons needs to be considered under social-constructivist premises. Realist theories would have us remain in a vicious circle of power balancing and extended deterrence and cannot sufficiently explain what role norms, expectations and perceptions play in a state’s (un-)willingness to disarm.
Still, this means that the norm would need to be created by a body capable of instituting, verifying and enforcing such prohibitions and giving it a legitimacy that would be recognized and respected by the international community. Although it has been suggested repeatedly that the UN and its Security Council (UN-SC) watch over nuclear disarmament, they are, by definition, not eligible for that task. One of the reasons why India went nuclear, its seeking of a shortcut to
great-power status, to becoming a permanent member of the UN-SC (Tertrais 2009, 182), is a prime illustration of the fundamental flaw vis-à-vis nuclear abolition inherent in that institution. How can an institution that rewards nuclear weapons with permanent UN-SC membership and veto rights be expected to promote and enforce nuclear disarmament? Also, the 5 de jure nuclear weapons states (P5), as the UN’s norm entrepreneurs, would almost certainly veto the
setup of a nuclear prohibition, should they fear a loss of influence.
Moreover, we have seen that nuclear disarmament must become desirable and thus a norm of the international community in order to keep states from considering cheating as a viable and fruitious alternative to abolishing their nuclear capabilities. It is therefore important to note that, even if the goal of global zero seems to unreachable under the current circumstances, “[...]
invoking the idea [of nuclear disarmament] has political value if it embeds in global consciousness an understanding of the direction in which policies and actions should move.” (Walker 2009, 16)
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