Nuclear Disarmament in International Law
When German physicists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman first split the uranium atom in 1938, they might have little imagined the potential power their experiments had unleashed. Since the United States successfully detonated the first atomic weapons in 1945, the entire world has lived in fear of annihilation. Technological advances in weaponry and, importantly, their delivery systems have only heightened the sense of dread. Yet, since the end of World War II, world governments have been unable to agree on a strategy for nuclear disarmament. This led first to the Cold War and ultimately to the proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the world. This work examines the nuclear question within the framework of international law. The advent of the nuclear age and its impact on postwar peace and law is first covered. This is followed by analyses of the initial United Nations disarmament initiatives and the reasons they were doomed from the start. The globalization of the Cold War, the expansion of the nuclear arms race, and the START treaties and the legacy of 1970s-era detente efforts in the years leading up to the end of the Cold War are then detailed. How the United Nations reacted to the end of the Cold War and the prospects for disarmament in the 21st century are the subjects of the concluding section.
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