Unblocking the Road to Zero: Pakistan and Israel

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Two Tough Cases: Persuading Israel and Pakistan to Relinquish Nuclear Weapons

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have jointly pledged to renew talks for a treaty to reduce their nuclear arsenals with the ultimate goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. As the two largest nuclear powers, it is incumbent that these nations take the first steps. Eventually, however, the other seven countries that possess nuclear weapons will have to be persuaded to join the disarmament process.

The two toughest are likely to be Pakistan and Israel. These two relatively small countries have a shared, but otherwise unique, perspective on their nuclear capabilities. They see them as not only deterring the use of nuclear weapons by other nations, as do the other nuclear powers, but also as offsetting the greater resources and therefore actual or potential superior conventional military capabilities of adversaries – enemies with whom they have fought wars in the past. Consequently, they will be reluctant to give up their nuclear weapons solely in exchange for the nuclear weapons of others.

Israel and Pakistan are addressed in the third volume of the Stimson series on the perspectives of advanced nuclear countries on nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament, edited by Stimson co-founder and Distinguished Fellow Barry Blechman. The paper on Israel is written by Brigadier General Shlomo Brom (Retired); Pakistan is by Brigadier General Feroz Khan (Retired). The two papers make clear that dedicated US leadership would be required to lead these countries to nuclear disarmament negotiations but that, in addition, specific steps would have to be taken to reduce the broader threats perceived by Israel and Pakistan, giving them the confidence to join the other nuclear-armed countries in multilateral reductions. Of the two, Israel probably poses the greater challenge.

In partnership with the World Security Institute, Stimson’s project on nuclear security seeks to examine the obstacles blocking the path to zero nuclear weapons in order to help all responsible governments perceive negotiated nuclear disarmament as a viable and practical policy option.

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