Courtesy Reuters

Guarantees to Non-Nuclear Nations

Since the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, American arms-control policy has been dominated by efforts to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons capabilities. Proposals for a non-proliferation agreement-a treaty which would prohibit signatory states not already having nuclear weapons from acquiring them-have recently been put on the table by both East and West in the form of draft treaties, but beyond that little real progress has been made. Meanwhile, the growing nuclear capability of Communist China has led a number of non-nuclear countries to reassess their strategic security positions and to ponder whether they, too, do not want to manufacture nuclear weapons. To deter them, the nuclear powers have intensified their search for something to sweeten the non-proliferation pot.

The United States has held out the prospect of support against nuclear threats to countries which continue to refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons of their own. On October 18, 1964, before the dust from the first Chinese nuclear explosion had settled, President Johnson declared that the United States would continue to work against "nuclear spread." He then said: "The nations that do not seek national nuclear weapons can be sure that, if they need our strong support against some threat of nuclear blackmail, then they will have it."[i] The United Kingdom has also included in its negotiating position the possibility of some form of guarantee against nuclear attack for those nations willing to pledge themselves to a course of nuclear-weapons abstinence. To date, however, no nuclear power has been prepared to be specific about how such guarantees might work.

To guarantee the security of a nation without nuclear weapons against nuclear attack seems at first glance to be a reasonable, in fact minimal, price to pay to avoid proliferation. However, the deeper implications of nuclear guarantees need to be examined before we decide to move from the domain of the speechmaker, where the matter presently rests, to the kind of foreign policy upon which nations act.

First, we should clarify what we

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