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World Politics – Disarmament and Arms Control


“Ego and ignorance is a bad combination for someone with his fingers on the button”

In the pre-nuclear era, irrespective of the fact that political disputes might have sparked threatening military build ups, political dimension remained the focus for negotiations.

It’s approximately been six decades since the origin of nuclear arms control, practically all negotiated agreements to limit stockpiles of nuclear weapons have been discussed and concluded by the United States and the Soviet Union. Over the years various multi-lateral and bi-lateral agreements have been made in order to neutralize the threats brought in through increase in nuclear weapons. Apart from the continued bilateral dialogues between the United States and Russia it’s time to spread the influence out globally by including other nuclear weapons states such as Britain, China and France. 

Treaty of Versailles 

Treaty of Versailles is known to be one of the most important peace treaty as it played a very vital and revolutionary role in putting an end to World War I which was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918 between Germany and the Allied Forces.
According to the provisions of the treaty Germany was prohibited from arms trade, limits were put on the type and quantity of weapons, manufacture of stockpiles of chemical weapons were prohibited, possession of armoured cars, tanks and military aircrafts were under prohibition too. Limitation put on Navy manpower was 15,000 men. Germany was made to surrender eight battleships, eight light cruisers, 42 destroyers, 50 torpedo boats, 25 artillery ships and converted to merchant use. Following the signing of the treaty Germany was forbidden to manufacture or import aircraft for a period of 6 months.

In January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson emphasized disarmament in Point Four of his Fourteen Points. Point Four called for “adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.” Wilson did not consider arms reduction a high priority, but he clearly saw it as in the U.S. interest. A commitment to general disarmament, no matter how ambiguous, would justify the imposition of arms restrictions on Germany and its allies.

Rush-Bagot Treaty

At the end of the war of 1812 which was a conflict fought between the United States and the United Kingdom and their respective allies it was known that the Great Lakes were of strategic importance to both United States as well as Britain. The British flagship on the great lakes was a three decker more powerful and two even larger vessels were built at Ontario, in addition. In retaliation to that the United States started the construction of two vessels which later came to be recognized as world’s largest warships. 
These undertakings conflicted with the U.S. Congress’s economy drive, so, on 27 February 1815, President James Madison was authorized “to cause all armed vessels of the United States on the lakes to be sold or laid up. Economies also led Great Britain to curtail construction and dismantling of warships.
Rush-Bagot Agreement remains one of the most successful U.S. arms control undertakings—and certainly it’s most enduring, for it enhanced the security of both parties.

The League of Nations and disarmament

After several committees failed to come up with a disarmament proposal, the League of Nations created an “independent” preparatory commission in 1926 to prepare a draft treaty. 

America’s role 

  • President Calvin Coolidge accepted the leagues invitation to send a representative.
  • He was in full favor and support of this initiative
  • Hugh Simons Gibson, an American diplomat maintained a fairly consistent policy between 1926 and 1930 
  • U.S. Army had been unilaterally reduced after World War I from some 4 million men to 118,000
  • His government favoured the limitation of naval forces
  • The Conference for reduction and limitation of Armaments also known as the World Disarmament Conference was held in Geneva in the year 1932
  • Gibson ensured the gathered diplomats that U.S is willing to cooperate with them to achieve arms limitation 
  • President Hoover in the year 1932 proposed a 1/3rd reduction in all armies and battle fleets later he urged the abolition of tanks, large mobile guns and chemical weapons and the prohibition of aerial bombardment. 
  • 1933, President Roosevelt proposed abolition of modern offensive weapons

Confronted by French intransigence and German aggressiveness, the World Disarmament Conference slowly dissolved without any accomplishments.

Vietnamization- Nixon’s plan to end the war

During the Vietnam War, the United States which possessed the largest and the most capable weapons in the world at the beginning was left in the sorriest state with zero possession of nuclear arsenals as the war continued. Nixon along with Kissinger were together determined to bring the deadly and expensive Vietnamese war to an end by the use of coercive nuclear diplomacy, conventional force and threats.

“Madman’s Theory” a phrase he coined during his presidential campaign in 1968 “I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button.

The record of senior U.S. officials believing that nuclear weapons could provide diplomatic stability begins with President Harry Truman after World War II, when he initially considered the atomic bomb to be a “master card,” and Secretary of State James Byrnes, who believed that nuclear weapons would make the Soviet Union “more manageable.” 

Pacifist Clause- Japan’s Constitution

Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is a clause in the national constitution of Japan outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state. 

Following WWII the State renounced belligerency and aims at International peace based on justice and order. In order to accomplish these aims armed forces and war potential will not be maintained.

Japan maintains de facto armed forces also known as the Japanese self-defense forces a concept similar to Gandhi Ji’s idea of ‘Shanti Sena’or a collective security police force operating under the United Nations. Army, Navy, Air Force are basically an extension of national police force.

The different views of the public can be clearly categorized as follows:

  • The Pacifists believe that Japan should be totally detached from International War.
  • The Mercantilists emphasize on economic growth and aim for minimal defense expenditure.
  • The Normalists “call for incremental armament for national defense and accept using military force to maintain international peace and security”.
  • The Nationalists aim to remilitarize and build nuclear weapons, they advocate the revision of Article 9 to promote armament. 


The nuclear-weapon States (with the exception of China) argue that they have the right to use nuclear weapons for defense in any armed conflicts, including conflicts initiated with conventional means of warfare. The argument contradicts the obligation to bring about nuclear disarmament, as stipulated in the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. To remove this contradiction, the nuclear powers would have to renounce the use of nuclear deterrence in so far as it consists of threatening a nuclear attack in response to any attack. It would have to be declared invalid. However, as long as nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of States, a ban on their use would, in fact, amount to a ban on their first use. For, according to the doctrine of belligerent reprisals, a second, retaliatory use of a banned weapon is not considered a breach, if it is proportionate to the violation committed and to the injury suffered. In other words, nuclear weapons possessed by some States would serve to deter their first use by others. Nevertheless, it is “no use”, rather than “no first-use”, that should become a norm of international law with regard to nuclear weapons. A legitimate retaliatory use would be an exception to the general rule of no use.

Law Wire Team
Law Wire Teamhttps://lawwire.in/
Law Wire Team attempts to delve into pertinent (and sometimes not immediately pertinent) questions regarding socio-politics, Law and their interesting matrix.


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