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Nuclear Weapons and International Law: An Overview

The most powerful weapon the humanity ever had poses the questions of immense difficulty both in the realm of international politics and international law. The practice of states in this respect differs considerably. A number of significant dates this year illustrate that: the USA used the atomic bombs seventy years ago, the Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force forty-five years ago, and Kazakhstan renounced its nuclear arsenal tenty years ago.

The focus of this article is status of nuclear weapons under international law. The international legal framework existing today is rather extensive, but far from being comprehensive or universally excepted. The article discusses such legal question as testing, non-proliferation and disarmament, and legality of its use. The paper envisages these questions historically as they have been emerging within the United Nations (UN) and beyond. It also mentions but does not concentrate on the political context for these legal developments to accrue. The discussion provided in the paper does not deal with the regional nuclear-weapons-free regimes or with the nuclear-related initiatives of individual states, but is limited to the legal developments of universal character.

Partial Test Ban

The reality of nuclear weapons challenged the international community in terms of its ability to address the issue as it had to be resolved not only through the international politics, but required a comprehensive legal framework that would be both strong and sustainable. The initial attempts was not focused on elimination of nuclear weapons or their non-proliferation but on their testing. However, it is clear, nonproliferation and disarmament had always been the implicit drivers behind the process. Chronologically, the first major legal instrument on the matter was the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT).

The PTBT – also known as the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT) or by its official name the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and under Water - was signed by the USSR, UK, and USA – referred as the "Original Parties" - in August 1963 and went into effect in October 1963. So far, most states, including India, Iran, Israel and Pakistan, have ratified the PTBT (UN, 2015). The Treaty

bans nuclear testing in atmosphere, outer space and underwater (Art 1 (a)) indefinitely (Art 4),

but does not prohibit underground nuclear testing for a number of reasons.

The first consideration, expressed in the PTBT preamble, was the environmental one (PTBT, 1963): at that time more than four hundred nuclear tests had been conducted in atmosphere and the drastic negative effect of contamination by radioactive substances had become apparent (Sidel, Levy, and Slutzman, 2009).

The second implicit agenda of the Treaty was related to international security. By that time, only the USA, USSR and UK had had the capabilities to conduct underground nuclear tests, while the others, including France and China did not posses such a technology (Divine, 1978). Not surprisingly, the latter have not become the parties to the PTBT stressing that the regime it created establishes the “nuclear cartel” of the three exclusive members (Rabinowitz, 2014), neither did North Korea.

The PTBT may be regarded as the first at

tempt to deal with the issue of nuclear proliferation because, as it is generally believed, in order to produce sufficiently reliable nuclear weapons

a test detonation is necessary to confirm that the

bomb functions as designed. The PTBT, in its turn, establishes a particular international legal regime. For those states that do not possess nuclear weapons, such a ban would impede the attempts to acquire them. For those having military nuclear program, such a ban would prevent new types of nuclear weapons from being developed. Thus, apart from its explicit purpose, PTBT has disarmament and non-proliferation impact.

To conclude, the limited scope of the PTBT was not intended to remain in effect indefinite

ly. Its preamble states that the contracting parties seek “to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time” (PTBT, 1963). Indeed, there decades later, the efforts were resumed with limited success that is discussed further in the last section of the article.

Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The most important framework that governs the international legal status of nuclear weapons was established several years later in the form of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty or NPT that was signed in 1968, entered into force two years later. The NPT has almost universal accession so far with the exception of India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and South Sudan (UN. 2012).

The main legal obligations under the NPT are the following: for nuclear-weapon states (NWS) not to transfer nuclear weapons (Art1) and for non-nuclear-weapons states (NNWS) not to receive or manufacture nuclear weapons (Art 2). The NNWS, however, have a right to all peaceful nuclear activities (Art 4) provided that, they accept the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (Art 3). This provision is further reinforced by the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)[1].

Distinctively, the NPT imposes a number of obligations on the NNWS that are not laid upon the five NWS. The NPT regime, from the legal perspective, is by definition lawful as the contracting parties, being sovereign subjects of international law, consented to be bound by its provisions. Although some consider it being a justified bargain when NNWS agreed not to pos

sess nuclear weapons in exchange for the right of peaceful nuclear activities (Graham, 2004), it may be regarded as discriminatory against the NNWS in political sense by the others (Fehl, 2015). The other part of the equation worth special emphasis is that, as it will be discussed below, the NWS are obliged to negotiate “in good faith” to achieve complete disarmament (Art 6). Majority of the NNWS endorse this position

(NPT/CONF, 2006; NPT/CONF, 2010) but the situation is even more complicated by the fact that some NNWS are under nuclear “umbrella” of the NWS.

The NPT regime is somehow wider and commonly described as including three main "pillars": non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear technology (BlackBranch and Fleck, 2014). This "pillars" approach has been questioned for being misleadingly implying that the three elements have equivalent importance while its principle purpose is non-proliferation, hence the name of the Treaty (Joyner, 2011).

It is important to note the skepticism of many, including the negotiators, about the perspectives of international legal regime the NPT would be able to create and maintain. At the time the NPT was being negotiated, there were predictions that within twenty years there would be about twenty-five or even thirty nuclear weapon states (Bunn, 2003; Graham, 2004). In reality, the NPT proved more successful that it was initially imagined. Forty- five years later, only Israel, India and Pakistan

have never signed the NPT. Four states, being the parties to the NPT, were found in non-compliance with their NPT safeguards agreement obligations, namely Iran, Libya, South Africa and North Korea[2] (IAEA, 2014). Yet, more states have adhered to the NPT than any to other arms limitation or disarmament treaties. Moreover, the NPT, as provided in Article 10 (2), was extended indefinitely in 1995 (NPT/ CONF, 1995) instead of some additional fixed


The explicit purpose of the NPT is to limit the number of the states that can legally possess nuclear weapons. The implicit purpose is to decrease the likelihood of nuclear war by limiting the number of those states. Importantly, the fact of nuclear proliferation can be legally determined only when the nuclear status of the state is codified. Under NPT (Art

9 (3)), the nuclear weapon States (NWS) are those which had “manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior January 1, 1967”. Thus, the states that are legally allowed to possess nuclear weapons are the USA, USSR[3], UK, PRC, and France (Art.9(2)) as only these five satisfy the

requirements. However, China and France were not the NPT signatories in 1968 and acceded to the Treaty as NWS in 1992.

Apparently, the NPT negotiators deliberately used the cut-off date that is before the adoption of the Treaty as no country can manufacture or explore nuclear weapon retroactively; they made it useless for the other states to rush into emergency nuclear testing so that they could qualify as nuclear states by the time the NPT was adopted (Asada, 2014). All other states that are the parties to the NPT have nonnuclear-weapon status (NNWS).

Although the legal regime maintained by the NPT has remained relatively sustainable, there are a number of problematic issues worth of special consideration.

NPT: Obligations to Disarm

Under Article 6, both the NWS and NNWS parties to the NPT arguably have obligation to disarm. More precisely, the Article obliges the contracting parties “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race … and to nuclear disarmament, and … general and complete disarmament (NPT, 1968, Art 6). It is clear that the NPT does not require all contracting parties to conclude a disarmament treaty, but "to negotiate in good faith”.

Subsequently, it has been argued, failure of the NWS to disarm themselves from the nuclear weapons might encourage NNWS NPT parties to withdraw from the Treaty and develop their own nuclear arsenals (Mishra, 2008; NPT/ CONF, 2010). In other words, the failure to adhere to the second “pillar” may jeopardize the

first “pillar” of the NPT.

So far, only one state, North Korea, has officially withdrawn from the NPT. Among those

three states that acquired nuclear arsenals after 1970, none is the party to the Treaty. Therefore, the NPT has been more successful in terms of maintenance of its first “pillar”, namely non

proliferation, than the one of disarmament. The fact may be explained by both the political security realities and legal character of the respective provision in the Treaty per se.

NPT: Succession

The issue of succession arises when a state party either disintegrates or changes its name. Some states claimed their legal nuclear status by right of succession after dissolution of the USSR.

Kazakhstan claimed the status of NWS as the first nuclear explosion took place at Semi

palatinsk Test Site prior the NPT cut-off date of 1967. The apparent counterargument was that when that test was being conducted in Semipalatinsk that was not Kazakhstan but the Soviet Union that exploded the nuclear weapon, moreover Kazakhstan was not a state then[4] (Bluth, 2000). Kazakhstan accepted this counterargument and withdrew its claim (Asada, 2014).

Ukraine argued that in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties 1978 (Art 34(1)), it succeeded to the status of the Soviet Union as a NWS under the NPT as “any treaty in force at the date of the succession continues in force in respect to each successor” (VCSST, Art 34(1)). However, paragraph 2 of Article 34 of the Convention says that the norm applies only if it is compatible with the object the purpose of the treaty. Thus, as the single purpose of the NPT is to limit the number of the nuclear states, the succession of Ukraine or any other ex-Soviet republics to the USSR’s nuclear status would constitute nuclear proliferation and would be contrary to and incompatible with the purpose of the NPT(Asada, 2014)..

Moreover, if the claim of Ukraine had been satisfied, the other fourteen ex-Soviet republics

could have succeeded to the NPT as well. In other words, if Ukraine’s claim of succession was incompatible with the NPT, as Russia’s one. Similarly, if the Russian Federation might have succeed to the USSR’s nuclear status, so had Ukraine, so had any other ex-Soviet republic[5] (Mullerson, 1993).

It is important to remember that the issues above did not receive any proper legal resolution (the legality of the claims and counterclaims was not established by a competent organ) but were settled politically. Both Kazakhstan and Ukraine accepted the range of offers including the security reassurances (Bunn and Timerbaev, 1993; Laumulin, 1994) and acceded to the NPT as NNWS in 1994. As for Russia, its, rather unconventional, claim of being the continuing but not the successor state to the USSR (Yeltsin, 1991) was accepted by the internationally community and, therefore, entered into the legal practice of other states.

NATO Nuclear Sharing

The sharing agreements by the USA, that were disclosed to a few, including the Soviet Union, providing nuclear weapons to be deployed by and stored in other NATO states at the time the NPT was being negotiated, arguably constitutes an act of proliferation that violated Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty (Nassauer, 2001; Tannenwald, 2013).

A counter-argument was that the weapons in storage within the NATO states were controlled by the USA and might be used only in the event of war when the NPT would no longer be relevant. Therefore, there had not been any breach of the NPT (Yost, 2011). Moreover, the measures actually prevented proliferation as they enabled to persuade some NATO member states not to develop an independent nuclear capability (DCI, 1963).

In the post-Cold War period, however, the USA continued the practice of providing tactical nuclear weapons to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey (Kristensen, 2005; Meier, 2012) that according to NATO was of fundamentally political character and continued “to play an essential role in war prevention" (NATO, 2009). The twelve arguments by NATO itself (Rühle, 2013)are primarily based on the political and security grounds and do not legally resolve the issue. The question has not been examined by any competent legal authority so far, the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the practice has not been established.

Nuclear-Capable States outside NPT

Some states, which are not the parties to the NPT, acquired nuclear weapons and officially

admitted the fact, namely India (Kristensen and Norris, 2012; NWA, 2012), and Pakistan (Man- soor, Shabbir et al, 2006), Israel has adopted the policy of deliberate ambiguity (Cochran, 1996). North Korea, as it has been stated above, withdrew from the Treaty exactly for the purpose to develop nuclear capacity. The legal questionthat arises in this context is whether these states have the status of nuclear-weapon State?

It might be seen as Paradox, but, under the fact that a state acquires nuclear weapons does not automatically mean it has the NWS status or, in other words, possesses them legally even so they are not bound by the treaty provisions. The UN Security Council resolution 1172 reaffirmed that in accordance to the NPT, India and

Pakistan could not have the status of the NWS (UNGA, 1998). The same applies to North Korea, under the UNSC resolution 1718 (UNGA, 2006). As for the legal status of the UNSC resolutions, Article 25 of the UN Charter provides for binding character of those under Chapter VII. Yet, the ICJ in Namibia advisory opinion held that all UN The arSecurity guments Council above, howresolutions ever, onlare y legally mean that these binding (ICJ, 1971) states do not enjoy the status of the NWS under the NPT,

but do not provide the grounds to state categorically that conventional or customary international law in general deems possession of nuclear weapons unlawful[6].

To sum up, the NPT was the huge step forward making the behavior of states in terms of nuclear technologies in general and nuclear weapons in particular more predictable and, therefore, the world a safer place. At the same time, its success was relatively modest in terms of curtailing the arms race. Moreover, a number of states, although much smaller than it had been pessimistically estimated, did not consent to be bound by the NPT and acquired nuclear arsenals. The NPT was a product of a particular historical context. The end of the Cold War provide the opportunity to resume the efforts to address the issues NPT failed to resolve.

Use of Nuclear Weapons

The question of the use of nuclear weapons is primarily related to the law of armed conflict, otherwise international humanitarian law (jus in bello[7]) and the provisions of the UN Chatter on the use of armed force (jus ad bellum[8]).

Importantly, most of the IHL dated before the invention of nuclear weapons; hence, the question of its applicability to the nuclear weapons case is rather problematic.

In 1993, the World Health Organization (WHO) requested the ICJ to address the question use of nuclear weapons under international law in war or other armed conflict given its dev astating environmental and health effect (WHO, 1993). The ICJ declined the request since, under the UN Charter (Art 96(2)), the UN specialized agencies (WHO in this case) may request advisory opinions of the Court only “within the scope of their activities” (ICJ, 1996).

A year later, the UN General Assembly - which, unlike WHO, under UN Chatter (Art 96) had the right to request an advisory opinion of the ICJ on any legal question - adopted the Resolution requesting the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on the following question: “Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances permitted under international law?” (UNGA, 1994).

The ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Treat and Use of Nuclear Weapons was delivered in 1996. The Court rulings were based on the UN Charter provisions on the use of force and conventional and customary IHL (ICJ Opinion, par 34).

As for the questions of legality of possession of nuclear weapons, the Court, having looked at the conventional law found that no treaty … specifically forbade the possession of nuclear

weapons in a categorical way (ICJ Opinion, par 37-50). The UN Charter is silent about which weapons can or cannot be used legitimately. The Court stated (ICJ Opinion, par 57) that there had not been any treaty bang nuclear weapons altogether similarly to those on chemical (CWC, 1993) and biological weapons (BWC, 1972). The next argument was about the NPT per se (ICJ Opinion, par 62). The Court also was unable to find an opinio juris**** (ICJ Opin

ion, par 65) nor general and consistent practice (ICJ Opinion, par 68-73) proving that custom-

**** Opinio juris, Latin for “an opinion of law or necessity" , is the belief that an action was carried out because it legally binding.

ary law absolutely prohibits nuclear weapons. The example of that would be the military doctrines of the nuclear possessing states that range considerably from “first use” or “fist use against

NWS” to “not first use” and security reassur

ances given by the NWS to their non-nuclear allies (ICJ Opinion, par 62). On the question of legality of possession nuclear weapons, the Court employed the concept of non-liquet[9].

The fact that the weapon can be possessed legally does not automatically mean it can be used legally. Similarly to the possession question, the Court held that there was not specific

authorization neither comprehensive nor universal prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons in either customary or conventional international law (ICJ Opinion, par 105 (2) (A)(B)). The court came to that conclusion having employed two lines of enquiry: when to use force (jus ad

bellum) and how to use them (jus in bello). The

use of force is legal, in accordance to the contemporary international law if authorized by the UN Security Council are resorted in selfdefense. Therefore, the Court held that use of nuclear weapons is unlawful if it is contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter: Article 2(4) that prohibits threat or use of force against territorial integrity and political independence of any state (act of aggression) or fails to meet Article 51 requirements of individual or collective self-defense in the case of aggression (ICJ Opinion, par 105 (2) (C)). Interestingly, the Court remained silent about legality of use of nuclear weapons in the event of internal armed conflict. It may be explained by the fact that the

UN Charter is also silent on the matter and the Court opted not to look further.

The next legal question is that “genocidal” nature of the weapon in question (Oppenheimer, cited in Burt, R., Hudson K., Kaldor M., et al, 2010) makes its use problematic in terms of IHL. In order reach the decision the Court first recognized the devastating effects of nuclear weapons (ICJ Opinion, par 35), then it repeated that the rules of treat or use of weapons [under conventional and customary law] are

explicitly accepted by states. Further, the Court focused on the following general principles of IHL: the prohibition of unnecessary suffering, distinguishing between combatants and civilians, proportionality, and legitimate military objective (ICJ Opinion, par 78). The Court

ruled that use of nuclear weapons should also be compatible with the requirements of the international humanitarian law** (ICJ Opinion, par.105 (2)(D)).

The obvious counter-argument is that devastating effect of nuclear weapons makes their use inevitably inconsistent of the above principles of IHL. This is the exact position held by two dissenting judges (Dessenting Opin

ions of Judge Weeramantry and Judge Koroma, 1996) and with some nuances by Judge Higgis (1996). The Court, probably, agreed to a rather wide spread opinion that small, low-yield tactical nuclear weapons against remote military targets may not necessarily violate the general principles of IHL (Weston, 1983; Arbess, 1984; Hearn, 1990; Meyrowitz, 1990) but did not say that explicitly.

The above self-evident rulings were accompanied by the paragraph stating that although “the use of nuclear weapons would be generally contrary to [the above] principles of humanitar

ian law, the Court could not conclude definitively wheatear it would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense in which survival of a State would be at stake” (ICJ Opinion, par 105 (2)(E)).

The Court non-liquet rulings are far from uncontroversial. All fourteen judges found it

necessary to append their personal declarations, separate opinions or dissenting opinions. In fact, only two findings were approved unanimously:

that international customary law of armed conflict is applicable to any use of nuclear weap

ons (ICJ Opinion, par (2)(D)) and, therefore, is binding to all states regardless the treaties they are bound by and the reminder of the obligation (NPT, Art 6) of the NWS to negotiate and reach an agreement on comprehensive nuclear disarmament (105 (2)(F)). The most illustra-

tive is the fact that the ICJ Advisory Opinion, endorsed by only seven judges, while the other

seven dissented, was delivered by the casting vote “in favour” of the Court President as provided by the ICJ Statute (art 55(2) in the event of a split decision.

The ICJ’s conclusion was primary motivated by the desire not to disturb the mutual nuclear deterrence regime that was in place at the time the Advisory Opinion was being delivered because of its crucial importance for the international security. The changes in international politics after the end of the Cold War did not impacted the Court I this respect. The most probable explanation, in my view, however, was that ruling nuclear weapons to be illegal would mean the entire reconfiguration of the in

ternational system and ultimate depravation of the nuclear five from their arsenals.

Comprehensive Test Ban

As it has been mentioned earlier, the end of the Cold War was the time when the international community was able to readdress a number of pressing international issues that had been “frozen” due to global consequences of the US- USSR relations. Relatively modest progress in terms of nuclear disarmament during the Cold War period, notwithstanding the obligation to disarm under the NPT, was the principle reason for the PTBT parties to consider whether the Treaty could be transformed into an instrument banning all nuclear weapon tests. The negotiations began in 1993. As the delegates at the Conference on Disarmament did not reach the consensus the text, as a draft resolution, was sent to the United Nations General Assembly. On 10 September 1996, CTBT was adopted by a majority exceeding two-thirds of votes.

The CTBT obliges the state parties not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion and to prohibit and prevent any nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction (Art 1 (1)),

and to refrain from causing or encouraging any nuclear weapon test explosion (Art1 (2)).

However, the Treaty has not entered into force due to the extremely strict requirements (Art 14) of the ratification by the 44 states listed

in Annex 2. These are the participants in the CTBT’s negotiations in possession of nuclear power or research reactors.

As it has been pointed out above, the CTBT is primarily aimed at consolidation and expansion of the international legal regime in terms of the states’ obligations in respect of nuclear weapons given the issues unresolved by the PTBT, NPT, and ICJ. These are the principle reasons for such strict requirements for the CTBT to go into effect. For NNWS that are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty there is no need to become a party to the CTBT as they have already legally bond not to acquire nuclear weapons. From the other hand, for the other states the CTBT is the matter of crucial importance as its objectives are two-fold: to prevent

the nuclear states from acquiring new types of weapons (disarmament) and to prevent the states that are not the parties to the NPT from conducting nuclear tests in order to manufacture nuclear weapons (non-proliferation) (Ya- mada,1997; Asada, 2014). Thus, the CTBT is pointless without those two categories of states joining it (Asada, 2014).

So far, 164 states have ratified the CTBT and another 19 states have signed but not ratified it.

As for Annex 2 states, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States[10] have signed but not ratified the Treaty while India, North Korea and

Pakistan have not signed it (CTBTO, 2011). It, therefore, has not yet achieved its key objective.

However, the legal consequences of delay of CTBT entry force into force pending its entry into effect is a very significant question that is worth of special consideration. Although the CTBT has not yet entered into force, it already affects the states that either ratified or merely

signed it in terms of prohibition to conduct nuclear tests (Aust, 2009). These obligations arise from the existing international law of treaties. Particularly the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties (VCLT) obliges states to refrain from acts the defeating the purpose of the treaty the sighed (or expressed consent to be bound by (Art 18 (a)). In this case the CTBT parties and signatories are legally bound not to conduct nuclear tests of any kind.

This VCLT obligation not to defeat the purpose of the treaty imposed on its parties or signatories is reinforced by a comprehensive three-fold monitoring mechanism that is already functioning: International Monitoring System (IMS); on-site inspection (OSI), and confidence-building measures (CTBTO, 2015).

Since the CTBT opened for signature in 1996, only India, Pakistan, and North Korea have tested nuclear weapons; but, not being the signatories of the CTBT, these states have not violated the above VCLT provisions.

To sum up, the CTBT pending its entry into force has already produced a definite legal ef

fect on the international practice. It has achieved its goal to prevent nuclear tests of any kind in respect to its parties and signatories (regime consolidation goal), but has been unsuccessful, so far, in terms of its accession requirements: three nuclear-capable states that are not bound by NPT have not signed the CTBT either.


The international community has made considerable efforts to deal with the nuclear weapons problem. Yet the results of these efforts are far from comprehensive and universality accepted. The current realities of apparent decentralization of the power distribution on the global scale present the world with great challenges but, also great opportunities.

The uncertainty of international politics make it again relevant to predict the emergence of twenty or even thirty new nuclear possessing actors within the next decades[11]. It is generally believed that the most probable users of a nuclear bomb are those rogue or failure states and nonstate actors. The contemporary nuclear dangers are, however, more complex and complicated.

Firstly, tens of thousands nuclear weapons are in possession of a very small group of states that not only failed to disarm, but continue to enhance their arsenals. Many of these states have “first use” doctrines and not only their nuclear counterparts are among the possible targets, but non-nuclear states and non-state actors. In the world of increasing uncertainty and, therefore, insecurity this is not a state of affairs that is desirable.

Secondly, non-nuclear states, being concerned about their own security may wish to acquire nuclear weapons for deterrent purposes. The most astonishing thing is that these are not the rogue states or extremist groups they fear. The deterrent is against the nuclear powers that included them into their nuclear hit lists.

Thirdly, apart from the apparent “realpolitik” security motivations, the proliferation may originate from a mere ambition; strangely enough but the possession of nuclear weapons have become a “matter of prestige”, a necessary attribute of the “super power” status.

Fourthly, if we agree that rogue and failed states as well as extremist non-state actors are the most probable perpetrators of nuclear attacks, it is important to remember the following: the extremists can not be deterred and there is always a possibility that they may be able to reach for a nuclear bomb, technology or material exactly because the nuclear states have not eliminated.

Given the situation above, the progressive universal nuclear disarmament that would lead to ultimate ban and elimination of nuclear weapons is again on the agenda. Not only activist and academics now endorse the initiative, unlike quire recently. The support is coming from everywhere: from the Vatican and other powerful religious institutions, from the current and former heads of states, from security specialists and military[12].

The above-mentioned situation of rooted in international politics, in its nature and historically developed features. However, the problems of the contemporary and future nuclear dangers may be resolved via international legal mechanisms.

The first one is provided by the international criminal law; making use of any nuclear weapon a war crime with its subsequent inclusion into the Statute of the International Criminal Court along with other war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The second, the most obvious and, may be the most promising mechanism is the negotiations aimed at the conclusion of a multilateral treaty, similar to the Chemical Weapons and Biological Weapons conventions, that would provide for the legally binding comprehensive ban and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the conventional law option, as it has been stressed above, is increasingly popular among the politicians of the highest stature and President Nazarbayev is one of its most vocal advocates.



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  5. Aust, A., 2009. Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The Problem of Entry into Force. The. Japanese YB Int'l L., 52, 1.
  6. Black-Branch, J.L., and Fleck, D., 2014. Nuclear Non-proliferation in International Law.
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