20 February 1992

Letter on nuclear proliferation to the Editor of the International Herald Tribune

Regarding "Nuclear Proliferation Will No Longer Be Stopped" (Opinion, Jan. 30) by William Pfaff:

While nothing in history is forever, nonproliferation policies have made a difference. It was commonly believed in the early 1960s that there would be at least 25 nuclear states in 20 years' time. Today there are only six. Whether deterrence may work or not in the future does not depend on the size of the parties concerned but on their political stability, their interest in not altering the status quo, and their leaders' rationality, some or all of which would be wanting in most new nuclear aspirants. An "isolated event" like a nuclear war somewhere in the Third World that might hit cities, or nuclear power plants, would surely not be as tragic as an all-out nuclear superpower confrontation. But immediate and delayed effects could cause death and destruction quite comparable to the holocaust. By far most non-nuclear states do believe that they are better off without nuclear weapons, and they are making no effort to acquire them. A few, significant ones do, but they are increasingly isolated because of that. Nonproliferation policies have proved to be far from flawless, but they have contributed to slowing down the spread of nuclear weapons. Recent revelations about incipient nuclear programs around the world call for the further tightening of those policies.

Published on the IHT on 20 February 1992