Center for Global Affairs
Arms Control, Non-Proliferation, and Disarmament of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, and Radiological weapons, collectively designated as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), coupled with their delivery systems, continue to pose the greatest existential threat to humanity and the world. As long as they exist, there is every likelihood that they will be used either deliberately, by accident, or by miscalculation. Any WMD use would be catastrophic in human, political, economic, ecological, and moral terms. COVID-19, though not a weapon, has shown the devastating risks of a potential biological attack. Of all WMD, nuclear weapons, which were invented and used in 1945, pose the greatest danger. The ongoing tensions over North Korea's weapons and Iran's potential breakout capability along with the nuclear and missile programs of China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States highlights this peril. All proliferation, arms control, and disarmament issues have global dimensions in an increasingly interconnected world. At the same time, the security and insecurity perceptions that stimulate proliferation also have regional, bilateral, and domestic dimensions. Additionally, sub-state and non-state actors have an increasing role in WMD proliferation and disarmament. Elaborate multilateral, regional, bilateral, and ad-hoc arrangements and institutions have been created to address the challenges posed by WMD. Yet, despite a few notable successes, efforts to either disarm or prevent further proliferation, particularly of nuclear weapons, have stalled.