The emergence of nuclear weapons was brought about by distrust amongst states, following progress in nuclear research into uranium fission. Fearing that Germany would create a nuclear weapon first, the United States employed vast resources into nuclear research and developing the first nuclear weapon. The Soviet Union followed by testing its first atomic bomb in 1949, thereby beginning a nuclear arms race amongst countries that continues to the present day.
The official nuclear countries, Russia, France, United States, United Kingdom and China have shown no plans of giving up their nuclear weapons, fueling proliferation by non-nuclear states. Although numerous non-nuclear countries have sought nuclear weapons, few are known to have succeeded. Those with nuclear weapons programs include India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan.
There are fears that other countries such as Iran, South Korea, Taiwan, Syria, as well as Libya may be actively seeking nuclear weapons, or may decide to do so in the future. Reasons for seeking nuclear weapons vary from country to country, but the key reason remains national security. Other countries are driven by the need for prestige associated with owning nuclear weapons. In volatile regions such as the Middle East, countries seeking nuclear weapons are mainly driven by the need to balance power with neighboring countries, in order to avoid attacks.
The search for nuclear weapons is often shrouded in secrecy, therefore making it difficult to know just how many countries are doing so. Some countries such as South Africa and Iraq have ended their nuclear programs, but even this was done in a veil of secrecy that makes it difficult to determine an inventory of nuclear weapons in the world.
Motivations for Seeking Nuclear Weapons
There are varied reasons as to why states seek nuclear weapons, but the principal reason remains security threats presented by other countries, as well as by the official nuclear states. In ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ Samuel Huntington argues that states will continue to be at loggerheads as they compete for military and economic power, and control over international institutions. Religion has also been a source of conflict between states and civilizations, as some states seek to impose their religious values on others.
These sources of conflict have led to fear by states that the security of nations could be compromised at any time. This is more so in regions with a poor security record, such as the Middle East. Fear creates a need to enhance security, and many countries have opted to go nuclear so as to accomplish this task. A good example is in Pakistan, a country that came to be following it’s secession from India under religious guise. Pakistan has been engaged in confrontations with India which have led to wars in the past.
The country chose to seek nuclear weapons to protect itself from the threat it felt came from India’s larger military capabilities. Being a...