The Hypocrisy of Sanctions
by Paxus Calta and Tycho Sierra

[This article appeared in the Czech Magazine 7th Generation in Sept 1998]



Were there any realism on the international political stage, the recent US effort to bring economic sanctions against India and Pakistan for testing nuclear weapons would be widely laughed at as outlandish. The US has convinced the other G-7 nations and Russia to freeze all non-humanitarian loans to these countries including funds provided by the World Bank and the IMF: an amount totaling over US$ 1 billion in the first month alone. Will the sanctions promote faster global agreement on the Comprehensive Test Ban and Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaties (CTBT and NPT)? Unlikely. Will the sanctions lead the US to adhere to its obligations under the NPT currently in force, which requires all nuclear weapons states to work
towards the ultimate goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons worldwide? Highly unlikely.

Neither India nor Pakistan ever promised that they would not develop nuclear weapons. Specifically, they are not signatories to either the revised NPT or the CTBT The reason that they have not signed these treaties is that the declared nuclear weapons states (China, Russia, France, the UK and US), have not held good to their commitments under these same treaties to eliminate their nuclear weapons. So the US, technically in violation of a treaty it has signed, is punishing India and Pakistan for breaking treaties which they have not signed.

It gets worse. Despite warnings from the US intelligence community, the US has to take principal credit for these nations having nuclear weapons. The US based multinational General Electric and its subsidiary, GE Canada, were responsible for building the first nuclear power plants in these countries. These undoubtedly provided the foundation for both the indigenous nuclear power and the nuclear weapons programs. Construction loans for these reactors were guaranteed by the US Export Import Bank (just as the Temelin project is).

Further, this is not the first time that India has tested nuclear weapons. In 1974 in the Rajasthan Desert, India announced it had tested three different nuclear devices underground. The difference between then and now is that India is finally admitting that it has a stockpile of nuclear weapons (currently estimated at about 60 for India and 25 or fewer for Pakistan as compared to over 15,000 for the US). Up until 1993, the CIA claimed India was not assembling nuclear weapons.

Sanctions against India and Pakistan are useless as warnings to other nuclear threshold states. Every other "threshold state" (including North and South Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya) has signed on to these treaties (though none have yet ratified them). The only country with a nuclear arsenal which has refused to sign either the CTBT or the NPT is Israel. Though Israel will neither confirm or deny it, South Africa admits that Israel was their partner in the 1973 off-shore test of a nuclear weapon. South Africa has subsequently admitted that it also had nuclear weapons, but claims to have destroyed them all. It seems unlikely that any other threshold state would publicly announce tests, invalidating their intention to ratify these treaties.

The final hypocrisy is that the US has continued to test and develop nuclear weapons since the September 1996 signing of the CTBT. The US conducted two "subcritical" nuclear devices in 1997, where
conventional explosives are mixed with nuclear materials in underground tests. Some claim that this is in violation of the treat which prohibits "any nuclear weapons test explosion or any other nuclear explosion". But certainly the spirit of these treaties, which were designed to eliminate nuclear weapons, has been violated by the US, which continues through its US$ 45 billion "Stockpile Stewardship" program to develop new nuclear weapons, that are tested using computer simulations instead of physical tests.

The sanctions against India and Pakistan are virtual certain to fail in stopping their nuclear weapons programs. If anyone should be punished it should be the US.