On Being the Member of a Club
Clubs are by their nature exclusive – that
is the very essence of their attraction.
There is no point in joining a club that is open to all. Clubs are for those with an interest in
common, and offer advantages unavailable to non-members. So when Iranian prime minister Ahmadinejad
announced that his country was about to join the nuclear club it caused a stir
amongst existing members. It seems that
It may be helpful if club rules are explained for the benefit of new members. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an international treaty signed by both members and non-members of the nuclear club in 1968. It was designed by existing members to restrict membership. Non-members promise not to join, in return for a promise by members to abolish their club as soon as possible. The famous Article 6 commits members to proceed ‘in good faith’ to total nuclear disarmament.
restriction has not been entirely successful, however. Since 1968 several nations (
The new members
have not yet signed the NPT, though there are advantages in so doing. They are probably put off by Article 6, which
obliges them to get rid of their new and very expensive weapon, but they should
not be – existing members don’t take it seriously. Article 6 is merely a sop to non-members, to
encourage them to stay that way. The
only problem that arises is when a member (the
However, the MoD has risen to the occasion. A letter to an M.P. asking that the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith rule on the legality of this vertical proliferation will, if your M.P. is sufficiently conscientious, result in your letter being passed on to, and by the Attorney General, who apparently avoids a direct answer, to the Minister of State for Armed Forces, Adam Ingram. He may say (and I quote from an actual letter):
The White Paper made absolutely clear (paragraphs 2-9 and 2-10 of the main White Paper, and supporting Fact Sheet 3 on our international legal obligations) the Government’s collective view that retaining and renewing the current Trident system is fully consistent with all our international legal obligations, including under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
A summary provided by the MoD titled International Legal Obligations may come with the reply. It occupies two pages and is too long to reproduce here in full. Below are quotes from what appear to be the main points.
In addition to these obligations, the
Renewing the Trident system does not reverse or undermine the positive steps outlined above. It is simply about maintaining no more than the very minimum nuclear capability judged necessary for our security whilst we pursue the right security conditions for complete multilateral disarmament. [Emphasis in original]
So there you are. Avoiding detailed arguments, making simple assertions, and holding out for conditions that have never happened in all the sorry history of nuclear weapons control (‘multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons’) – that is the government case for vertical escalation of our weapon of mass destruction.
 There are currently 188 signatories.