Weapons of Mass Destruction

Weapons that are capable of a high order of destruction and of being used in such a manner as to destroy large numbers of people are called Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). WMD can be high explosives or nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. The fear of WMD has shaped political policies and campaigns, fostered social movements, and has also been the central theme of many films.

WMD use and control

The development and use of WMD is governed by international conventions and treaties, although not all countries have signed and ratified them. Chief among these treaties are:

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is a landmark multilateral treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. A total of 190 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans all nuclear explosions, for military or civil purposes.  The CTBT was adopted on 10 September 1996 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Chemical Weapons Convention

After 12 years of negotiations, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 3 September 1992.  The CWC entered into force on 29 April 1997.

Do WMDs really pose a threat?

Weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, are rarely used because their use is essentially an “invitation” for a WMD retaliation, which in turn could escalate into a war so destructive it could easily destroy huge segments of the world’s population. During the Cold War, this was largely the reason war never broke out between the WMD-armed United States and Soviet Union.

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