The Failed States Index 2005: Going Critical
For those near the epicenter, state failure is always frightening. State failure with nuclear weapons could be a nightmare for everyone. Four countries in this ranking are particularly worrisome because of the nuclear capabilities or ambitions they harbor. North Korea, with an insular regime and a hostile worldview, is 13th on the list of countries ...
For those near the epicenter, state failure is always frightening. State failure with nuclear weapons could be a nightmare for everyone. Four countries in this ranking are particularly worrisome because of the nuclear capabilities or ambitions they harbor. North Korea, with an insular regime and a hostile worldview, is 13th on the list of countries at risk of collapse. Pakistan, ranked 34th, has a substantial arsenal. Iran, which the United States accuses of seeking weapons, is ranked 57th, still in the danger zone. Russia, with its massive nuclear arsenal, is 59th. If any of these regimes begin to teeter, a mad dash to secure the nukes (or their building blocks) will surely follow.
Recent history offers a best-case scenario for how these weapons can be rounded up. The new states of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan had nuclear weapons on their territory when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. After intensive negotiations, they eventually agreed to cede them and later joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In all, about 3,400 warheads were returned to Russia. Likewise, South Africa gave up its entire nuclear program when the apartheid regime negotiated a transition to majority rule in 1989. The country later joined the NPT, and inspectors verified the end of its nuclear weapons program.
The chances of securing warheads in the event of a state’s failure depend on how the failure unfolds. If the collapse is accompanied by large-scale looting and civil disorder, the job may be next to impossible. The failure of coalition military forces to secure sensitive sites in Iraq is a sobering lesson. The presence of radical Islamic groups in Pakistan makes its nuclear arsenal a particular concern. It has even been reported that the Pentagon has contingency plans for securing Pakistani nukes in the case of a coup or civil strife, but experts admit that hunting down these weapons on short notice would be a long shot at best.
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