Undeclared Nuclear Power Pakistan Now World’s Fifth-Largest

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , ,

duck and cover

The ‘world without nuclear weapons’ concept takes another face-shot as reported by the Washington Post:

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal now totals more than 100 deployed weapons, a doubling of its stockpile over the past several years in one of the world’s most unstable regions, according to estimates by nongovernment analysts.

The Pakistanis have significantly accelerated production of uranium and plutonium for bombs and developed new weapons to deliver them. After years of approximate weapons parity, experts said, Pakistan has now edged ahead of India, its nuclear-armed rival.

Not enough of a face-shot?  Then how about this?

"The administration is always trying to keep people from talking about this knowledgeably," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a leading analyst on the world’s nuclear forces. "They’re always trying to downplay" the numbers and insisting that "it’s smaller than you think."

The idea that the world can regulate its way to a world without nuclear weapons seems as dead as it’s ever been.  Maybe when you have two nuclear states…maybe.  But now, what are the chances these Pakistani nuclear weapons will end up in Egypt (gasp!), Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere if and when Iran goes full nuclear?  Greater than zero, I’d say.

Adoption of what is known as the "fissile materials cutoff treaty," a key element of President Obama’s worldwide nonproliferation agenda, requires international consensus. Pakistan has long been the lone holdout.

But the administration’s determination to bring the fissile materials ban to completion this year may compel it to confront more directly the issue of proliferation in South Asia. As U.S. arms negotiator Rose Gottemoeller told Bloomberg News at the U.N. conference Thursday: "Patience is running out."

It doesn’t matter if patience is running out or not.  It’s time to think much more about how we’re going to manage security in a perhaps highly-proliferated world.  What, for example, does a more proliferated world mean with regard to national security investments, research and development, and procurement?

While continuing to produce weapons-grade uranium at two sites, Pakistan has sharply increased its production of plutonium, allowing it to make lighter warheads for more mobile delivery systems. Its newest missile, the Shaheen II, has a range of 1,500 miles and is about to go into operational deployment, Kristensen said. Pakistan also has developed nuclear-capable land- and air-launched cruise missiles.

Other nuclear powers have their own interests in the region. China, which sees India as a major regional competitor, has major investments in Pakistan and a commitment to supply it with at least two nuclear-energy reactors.

Russia has increased its cooperation with India and told Pakistan last week that it was "disturbed" about its arms buildup.

Four years ago, the Pakistani arsenal was estimated at 30 to 60 weapons.

Because the Pakistani economy competes poorly with India, they have gone for security on the cheap: nuclear deterrence.

As Pakistan sees India becoming a great power, "nuclear weapons become a very attractive psychological equalizer," said George Perkovich, vice president for studies and a nonproliferation specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Only three nuclear countries – Pakistan, India and Israel – have never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India is estimated to have 60 to 100 weapons; numbers are even less precise for Israel’s undeclared program, estimated at up to 200. North Korea, which has conducted nuclear tests and is believed to have produced enough fissile material for at least a half-dozen bombs, withdrew from the treaty in 2003.

Those figures make Pakistan the world’s fifth-largest nuclear power, ahead of "legal" powers France and Britain. The vast bulk of nuclear stockpiles are held by the United States and Russia, followed by China.

It’s time to ponder reinvigorating civil defense (perhaps something beyond duck and cover, although that’s a start); the administration has been rightly doing just that.

  1. USINPAC says:

    Pakistan continues to grow as a nuclear power in spite of concerns about the safety of its nuclear weapons and nuclear installations. Pakistan unbridled nuclear expansion could pose serious danger to the security and stability of the Indian subcontinent and risk to the US as well.

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