A Conversation for Andrei Sakharov - the USSR, the H-Bomb and Human Rights

The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 1

HappyDude

The International Court of Justice in 1996 handed down a judgement on the question “pursuant to Article 96, paragraph 1, of the Charter of the United Nations, to request the International Court of Justice urgently to render its advisory opinion on the following question: 'Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance permitted under international law?'.”

A summary of the courts decision cna be found at http://www.icj-cij.org/icjwww/idecisions/isummaries/iunanaummary960708.htm any comments?


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 2

HappyDude

Specifically can I highlight the following from the above mentioned summary

"A threat or use of force by means of nuclear weapons that is contrary to Article 2, paragraph 4, of the United Nations Charter and that fails to meet all the requirements of Article 51, is unlawful;"

"It follows from the above-mentioned requirements that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law;"

"There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control"."


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 3

Maolmuire

It seems ridiculous. If there is a nuclear war, do any of those judges seriously believe that they will be around to hear the case against the protagonists?

They start by saying that there is nothing in international law pertaining specifically to nuclear weapons, and end by concluding that the general thrust of international law implies an obligation to disarm. That seems a large stretch to me.
Especially since I disagree with Sakharov when he states that the nuclear buildup between the west and the USSR was a tragic mistake. Yes, it was, but inevitable and necessary in view of the totalitarian world view of the Soviet Union. I beleieve that a people who tell you quite clearly every May day that they intend to absorb you (reminds me of the Borg) into their 'People's Democratic Hell' shouldn't be the only one with the bomb. Especially since the ground forces in the west of Europe were so weak in comparison to their Soviet counterparts. I think that the MAD policy pursued by the west saved us from joining the Soviet hell.

But then again, some states (India and Pakistan spring to mind) just give me the willies with their nuclear brinkmanship.

In brief then, 'normal' states should be allowed to have the bomb. After all, Britain is exceedingly unlikely to nuke anyone, and who knows, having a nuclear armed neighbour could come in handy some day.
States with a chip on their shoulders should not get the bomb. This means India and Pakistan.
Wacky Hey-We-Kill-You-All-Western-Scum type states (Iraq etc.)shouldn't be allowed to exist at all, let alone get their mitts on nuclear weapons.


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 4

HappyDude

"Britain is exceedingly unlikely to nuke anyone"
under the present regime yes but who is to say in 25 years time we wont elect a Fascist government bent on world domination? After all in mid 1920’s you probably would of said Germany was very unlikely to wage a world war.


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 5

HappyDude

I should say I think the important bit is the final paragraph I quoted.


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 6

Maolmuire

Even with Thatcher in charge Britain was unlikely to nuke anyone! smiley - smiley

As for an obligation to disarm, I don't believe that it exists. I wonder how they came to that conclusion? Surely they could come to the same conclusion about any offensive weapon?

It strikes me that plenty of weapons (a la USA/USSR) guarantees that no-one will use them, while just having a few around, or the belief that your enemy won't retaliate makes it more likely that they will be used. Though having said that, I suppose that my theory really only applies to 'normal' countries.

The treaties which limited the number of capital ships countries posessed didn't prevent war...

Gotta run, back tonight!


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 7

HappyDude

Capital ships (in the old days) did not have the power to destroy the planet; the warheads from three Trident missiles going off in the same quarter of the planet would be enough to knock the Earth off its axis. I do not know about US submarines but each of the four UK Trident carrying submarines has forty-eight Trident missiles – that is a lot of Bang and if you ask me overkill.

I am realist I know that nuclear weapons cannot be un-invented but the numbers certainly can be reduced and I think it is not unreasonable to expect any sane government to work on reducing the number of these weapons in accordance with courts Advisory Opinion.

"There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control"."


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 8

Maolmuire

Hi HappyDude,

This one: "Trident missiles going off in the same quarter of the planet would be enough to knock the Earth off its axis" I'm afraid you'll have to back that one up. It seems nonsensical to me. The Earth is a very big place, and it strikes me as being very unlikely that anything we could do would affect the orbit of the Earth.

Now for this from the same url given above:

"This... obligation to pursue and to conclude negotiations formally concerns the 182 States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or, in other words, the vast majority of the international community. Indeed, any realistic search for general and complete disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, necessitates the co-operation of all States."

The court did not see fit to include in its musings the behaviour (likely or possible) of so-called rogue states. 'Normal' countries could have nuclear weapons and threaten nobody merely by having them. I don't think that any nation feels itself facing extinction from the French bomb for instance. Conversley, 'normal' countries could also disarm and feel no more vulnerable than when they possessed nuclear weapons, but only if ALL nations fitted into the category of 'normal' nations, which about half a dozen nations demonstrably do not. Further, these nations (Iraq, North Korea etc.) would give their eyeteeth to have nuclear weapons. It would IMHO indeed be unwise and foolhardy to disarm completely while such nations are desperately seeking to gain a nuclear arsenal. Until such time as rogue states no longer exist, complete disarmament is merely pie in the sky. Even then, as you state above, who can tell whether some totalitarian regime might not take over a country and gain access to, or the means to create, nuclear weapons?


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 9

HappyDude

The comment about the axis of the Earth being affected came from a comment made by a CND lawyer in an interview I heard.

I must now ask do you realise how powerful these weapons are? Each UK Trident submarine carries fourteen Trident II D5 missiles with a total payload of forty-eight warheads, just on of these warheads would still cause devastation over an area of thirty square kilometres (http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/cndscot/wmd/sum.htm). Each Warhead is one hundred times more powerful than the bombs dropped in Japan in 1945, that is they have an explosive force equivalent to 100,000 tons of TNT.

So I have to ask can you imagine the combined power of the warheads carried by three fully loaded missiles? I certainly would not be surprised if the disputed statement is true.

Now I do not interpret the Courts statement on disarmament as meaning that we should all destroy our Nuclear weapons immediately but rather that we should continue the already existing policy of negotiating mutual reductions in are stockpiles such as the deal recently signed by Russia and the US. I hope that one-day (though perhaps not in my lifetime) a deal will be signed that removes all nuclear weapons from the face of the planet.

There is in my opinion way to many of these weapons for comfort on this planet and anything that reduces there numbers is a good thing.

Further Reading
http://www.basicint.org/nuk_trident01_part1.htm
http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Trident+missile
http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/missiles/wep-d5.html


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 10

Maolmuire

Better check your facts:

"Mount St. Helens in Oregon, 1980 had an energy of roughly 10 megatons. Krakatoa in 1883 and Tambora were roughly 100 megatons."

[Broken link removed by Moderator]

I don't think I'd rely on a CND laywer for scientific information. smiley - smiley Unless of course you've noticed the Earth off its axis lately...

Here again: (http://www.islaiscreek.org/firstatomicbombsf.html)
"8:16:02 Hiroshima time Little Boy explodes at an altitude of 1900 +/- 50 feet (580 m), 550 feet from the aim point, the Aioi Bridge, with a yield of 12-18 Kt (the yield is uncertain due partly from the absence of any instrumented test with this weapon design)."

And from here: [Broken link removed by Moderator]

Trident II D5 W-88/Mk-5, yield in Megatons= 0.475

Not 100 times as you state, I'm sure you'll agree. I repeat, its unlikely in the extreme that we can affect the orbit of the earth.

As for disarmament, I still believe that any more than cutting back on current stocks would be foolhardy. It would also seem, in view of what I stated above, that it would be important to keep the means of production as well.


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 11

HappyDude

The comparisons you made are unfair as volcanoes release their energy in a way that is very different to that of a nuclear weapon.

And not continuing to cut back would be foolhardy in my opinion which is why I approve of the recent deal between the US & Russia (http://news.bbc.co.uk/low/english/world/europe/newsid_2007000/2007048.stm ). During the Cuban Missile crisis the Earth came very, very near global nuclear war only by pursuing a policy of reducing Nuclear Weapon capacity can we avoid history repeating itself or worse.

As for Rouge states, that will always be a problem but a few weapons under UN control should give as much deterrence as the current system.

And on the subject of deterrence Nuclear Weapons do not work, they did not stop Egypt reclaiming the Suez Canal and They didn’t stop Argentina invading the Falklands.


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 12

Maolmuire

The comparisons I made are fair. The top of Mount St. Helens was blown right off! Face it: the assertion that four Trident warheads could alter the Earth's orbit is incorrect.

Yes, we stepped up to the brink during the Cuban missile crisis, but one of the protagonists is out of the picture. The Soviet Union that was bent on world domination is history.

UN control? Are you nuts? Do you honestly believe the UN would ever get its s**t together long enough to agree to the use of nuclear weapons? Ever? So what sort of deterent would that be?

Reclaiming Suez, and invading the Falklands is a hell of a lot different to invading Totley-on-the-Wold. Secondly, proportionality is the key. An invasion of the Falklands would hardly merit a nuclear response. But say, a chemical/biological attack on London might. As for deterrence not working, what do *you* think kept the Soviets out of western europe for 50 odd years? Relatively weak conventional ground forces or a nuclear arsenal and a commitment to use them to protect western europe by NATO?


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 13

HappyDude

No, an unfair comparison with a volcano much of the force is absorbed by the volcano and the Earth only a small proportion of the force was directed upwards. I did not say “four Trident warheads” I said the warheads off four fully loaded Trident Missiles.


“Yes, we stepped up to the brink during the Cuban missile crisis, but one of the protagonists is out of the picture. The Soviet Union that was bent on world domination is history.”
For the moment but who knows what the future holds? Surely it is better to mutually reduce stockpiles now while a spirit of co-operation is in the air?

“UN control? Are you nuts? Do you honestly believe the UN would ever get its s**t together long enough to agree to the use of nuclear weapons?”
The General Assembly, to be honest no but the Secretary General & security Council yes.

“As for deterrence not working, what do *you* think kept the Soviets out of Western Europe for 50 odd years?”
I wont argue about that other than to point out it almost did not work (Cuban Missile Crisis again) AND that it did not deter smaller wars such as Suez or the Falklands.

I am not Anti-Nuclear I don’t think the courts statement on the reduction of Nuclear Weapons is Anti Nuclear, I just think a long term strategy of a world wide reduction of these weapons with a long term goal of there virtual retirement is a sensible one.


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 14

Norton II

What kept the Soviet Union out of Western Europe for 50 years was the fact that this famous plan for world domination didn't in fact exist- and the western powers knew this. The Soviet system was in such a poor economic condition that if they attempted an invasion their whole economy would have collapsed. When certain files were declassified after the end of the cold war it emerged that the western powers had known this all along. The so-called Soviet threat was just a chimera to justify elevated weapons spending. A Daily Mail journalist (not known for being fluffy white liberals) recently wrote on this very subject and had to admit that, yes, "we right wingers got it wrong on this one."


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 15

HappyDude

I don't suppose you post any links to support this 'cos I've a feeling "Maolmuire" is going to want proof ...


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 16

Maolmuire

That's absolutely ridiculous! A quick review of European history over the last 50 years shows Soviet aggression on EVERY front. Has someone re-written what actually happened? How can anyone deny the reality of Soviet expansionism? The mind boggles.... Every single May Day the commies had a parade (remember?) and they made fine speeches about how great it was to be a commie and how soon everyone else would be one too. This is a matter of public record. Don't you remember any of this? It really isn't that long ago, I'm astonished that the revisionism has started so soon.


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 17

HappyDude

I can quite believe the statement for the 70's & 80's (with hindsight) but I also have doubts over its validity in reference to the 50's & much of the 60's smiley - erm


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 18

Norton II

My God, so your idea of historical source material is propangda speeches from a few vaguely remembered May Day parades? This is history?
For your information, the whole basis of Stalinism was "Socialism in One Country". Although Communist subversion was a popular paranoid theme during the Cold War, it's interesting to note that the CPUSA approached the Soviet Union for funding- and got turned down! (This is from the FBI files of the period). Stalin didn't think it was a viable use of resources.
Ball's in your court. All the relevant USSR files of the period are now open. If there's a piece of paper with "Invasion Plan" written on it- show me!


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 19

CMaster

Tridents knocking the earth's orbit - of course, but by a tiny amount - you ignore the power of detonations done for tests.
American politicans of 40s and 50s now admit demonising the Soviet for various reasons - it was fear of WWIII that kept them out of western Europe to a certain extent


The Legality of Nuclear Weapons

Post 20

Maolmuire

Sigh. I'll go through this one more time. Pay attention now. The Soviet Union was an expansionist totalitarian state. Every chance it got, it expanded into other countries. It funded the activities of communist parties around the world. It took over Eastern Europe after world war 2. It nearly took Greece. As far as the USSR was concerned, the revolution wasn't something that only happened in 1917, it was an ongoing revolution which would eventually result in a one-state world, that state being the USSR. They invaded Afghanistan on the pretext that the legitimate government asked for help to keep order. A pretext that should be familiar to any student of Soviet history.

This is all well documented, and is backed up by what actually happened in real history (and yes, the May Day parades were part of that too)and also by what the explicit stated aims of the Soviet regime were.

I would advise you to get some very basic books on European history since WWII and to read them.
Ball's in your court now.


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