Nuclear Power Treaties

Jonathan Mak
February 22, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: US and Russian Delegations meet together at a Bilateral Consultative Commission for the New Start Treaty. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The past few months have been a whirlwind of events. Starting November 9th, the country realized who the 45th President of the United States would be, to the surprise of the masses. Donald Trump pioneered his platform on middle America, which eventually won over the country's voters. One of the most important things to examine how the United States' landscape will change under the new presidency. Already, Trump has signed into action a large amount of executive orders, many of which were highly opposed, such as the immigration ban. As such, reexamining our nuclear treaties we currently have will help us asses any possible future risk these may carry. Our past 8 years have been governed peacefully by Barack Obama, who signed the New START Treaty with Russia to alleviate relations between the two of them. Throughout his presidency, the two parties were never more than cordial, but work done by Obama has been imperative in helping fix these relations. Here, we will revisit some of the most important treaties passed in the recent years to analyze possible future possibilities of renegotiation or updates to these treaties. The two nuclear treaties we will examine will be the New START Treaty and the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Using an objective standpoint, we will revisit these two treaties to examine whether they are still viable and in alignment with the trajectory of the United States. [1]

Revisiting the New START Treaty

This key agreement aimed to have improved strategic offensive reductions and also have a more transparent verification regime. The ultimate goal during the creation of this was because of the rocky relations US and Russia have had following the Cold War. While the US wanted to remediate relations between the Kremlin, Russia viewed it more as a chance to return as a worldwide superpower, partnering up with the United States. During Obama's presidency, relations went relatively smoothly, and so far there has been no treaty flouting compared to the past (SALT I and SALT II). [2] While Obama was on good terms with Russia, Trump seems to be even more so. The public eye has recently placed Putin and Trump under speculation of helping with the recent election against Hillary Clinton. This partnership, almost reflective of friendship, between the two parties is interesting to see how it unfolds. There are overwhelmingly positive reasons for Russia and the United States to continue the treaty. The NEW START treaty has been one of the more organized treaties formed between the United States and Russia, and talks are often conducted through Bilateral Consultative Commission talks in order to update and renogotiate statements. These acts are crucial in helping rebuild the relations between us and Russia (see Fig. 1). The inspections that happen periodically help each party to realize there are no increasing large stockpiles of weapons. Additionally, the treaty doesn't condone or constrain testing, which means that we will both get to continue researching and developing the latest technology. The duration of this agreement is set to last for 10 years, unless ousted. Looking forward, Trump has voiced his platform on nuclear power and development, saying that it will be one of his key points during his presidency. The potential harm from withdrawing from this treaty would be far too great. It would tear down the relations that have already been established between Russia and the United States. Considering the rocky relations of the past, cutting this off would not only affect the political landscape and relations between the two parties, but also leave the world in a shaky spot much like the Cold War era.

Revisiting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The non-proliferation treaty has been a longstanding treaty that was first established in in 1968, and ratified and effective beginning March 5, 1970. This has been an exemplary system of multilateral cooperation, and its main premise has been to prevent the spread of nuclear weapon, hoping to one day achieve nuclear disarmament. After discovery of nuclear weapons and development, this treaty was created to ensure that the weapons would not be used for illicit and dangerous purposes. It places a high importance on global commitment to safety and preservation of humanity, considering the danger of handling these weapons. With this being said, it seems almost impossible that President Trump will withdraw from this treaty, since backing out would almost be a signal for war. Almost all countries have been signatories of this treaty, with the US Government being one of the key depositaries. With every new president, each will assume a different stance in terms of nuclear power. Under Barack Obama, his main policy was to prevent other nations from stockpiling dangerous amounts of nuclear weapons and technology, and assumed a stance in terms of global leadership where he mingled with many foreign affairs. Under Trump, things may certainly change, as he has pronounced that he will be much more reserved in his foreign policy. If he does choose to become less active in foreign nuclear policy, the United States would still remain a respected powerhouse, but will not be as strict on preventing proliferation.


With regards to nuclear power, a subject that regards utmost care and thoughtfulness in creating and modifying treaties, it is imperative that the new president takes time to formulate his policies, whatever they may be.

© Jonathan Mak. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Treaty Finalized," USA Today, 5 Feb 11.

[2] B. Chaffin, "New START Treaty," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2016.