The Minister for Disarmament is New Zealand’s cheer leader for the disarmament of nuclear, chemical, biological weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles (I.C.B.M.’s). During the previous National-led Government this was scrapped in part due to a thawing of New Zealand American ties, but also despite a significant increase in the likelihood of an accidental nuclear exchange, a policy shift in favour of a more war like stance.
During the last several years there has been a dangerous acceleration of the strategic arms race. Some of it is driven by a re-emerging Russia – the primary nation of the former U.S.S.R. has restarted a number of mothballed Cold War era military projects, such as the TU-160 Blackjack bomber programme, introduced new missiles and started overhauling its armour. Then there is a declining United States fearful of losing it’s super power status, spending too much on it’s military, alienating friends and allies alike and rocked by increasingly divisive domestic politics. A third one is an increasingly belligerent North Korea, spurred on the growing list of sanctions against it, testing nuclear weapons as fast as it can make them ready. Combine this with United States President Donald Trump wanting to kill the Iranian nuclear agreement despite the likelihood Iranian co-operation and the eastward expansion of N.A.T.O. and is there any wonder that the nuclear doomsday clock is at 2358hrs?
New Zealand has a long and proud history of championing nuclear disarmament. The peaceful protests around Mururoa Atoll, the protests on Waitemata Harbour against a visiting U.S. submarine in the early 1980’s and the anti-nuclear legislation have shown the world what New Zealanders stand for. Reinstating the Disarmament portfolio is a good way of restarting a commitment that had begun to slide under the previous National Government.
But will other countries come to nuclear disarmament talks if we champion them. Mr Trump and Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin do not seem to terribly care for the international concerns about the Middle East. The war in Syria is an unfortunate situation where International law is being undermined by ideological and geopolitical differences. Both regional and international payers are at work here. If Russia or the U.S. made a direct play and tried to stop the fghting by force it might drag the other in. Chances of an accidental nuclear exchange escalate if there is a direct superpower confrontation.
Still the idea of another round of strategic arms limitations talks would not be a bad idea in the least.