Nuclear Weapons, Crude Oil Production, and Their Impacts by Fatemeh Shahroudi

International and economic affairs are the foundation for advancing and developing the modern world. Trade is also one of the key elements in forming civil society. In some cases, global trade advantages can strengthen or ruin an alliance between countries. One of the most significant traded commodities in today’s society has proven to be petroleum products and fuels such as kerosene, diesel fuel, and gasoline. However, oil is expensive and valuable and brings with it individuals who fight over its acquisition with, for example, nuclear power; this conflict can be seen in the rising levels of tension surrounding the areas that supply the most oil and nuclear power. The foremost crude oil producers in the world, besides the United States, include Saudia Arabia, Russia, China, and Iran. Countries with nuclear weapons under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, including the U.S., Russia, and China. Those who are not under that treaty but still have or are believed to have nuclear weapons include Israel, Iran and North Korea. Petroleum prices fluctuate mainly due to an increase in inflation and a fall in economic growth. A part of diplomatic efforts by regional organizations like the European Union, countries, or a multilateral like the United Nations is the placing of international sanctions on countries or organizations in order to protect national security interests and international law or to defend against threats to international security or peace. There are U.S. sanctions declared on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. As well, threats have been made against China, some of them mostly because of their nuclear weaponry. These countries are significant in the fact that they are powerful and passionate about the issues they debate about. 

America’s imposed sanctions on Russia, for example, state that the Russian state-owned banks are banned from taking long-term and mid-term loans and from making any transactions dealing with armed weapons, and are prohibited from providing any assistance to the Russian oil sector. These imposed sanctions are a result of an ongoing strain between Russia and the United States, rooted in their very different ideologies concerning issues such as forms of government and laws. This strain has persisted since the end of World War II and the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe during the 1990s. During the period in which the Iron Curtain was enforced, Communist powers were very prominent and Russia had many countries under its jurisdiction through the Soviet bloc. On November 9th of 1989, the Berlin Wall fell with the help of American efforts and East and West Germany officially reunited within a year. Thus, the Cold War ended; eastern European countries such as Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania staged protests against their pro-Soviet governments and pushed for the collapse of communist regimes across the Soviet bloc. By the summer of 1990, all the formerly communist eastern European officials were substituted by democratically elected governments, thus allowing for the region to have more westernized economics and politics. The Berlin Wall’s downfall increased the United States’ influence as a global power, created an opportunity for corruption and crime in Russia, and prompted many cultural changes and social outbreaks in former Soviet nations and the communist countries around them. Then, from 1989 to 1991, the gross national product declined by 20 percent in Soviet countries. These events were the foundation for the lack of acquaintanceship between the United States and Russia that was only reinforced by their still very different stances. 

Next, America’s several imposed sanctions on Iran were founded due to the events which unfolded during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in the 1970s; these sanctions still stand because of Iran’s refusal to cooperate with the terms and agreements which America has set for them. Iran has been accused of having nuclear powers and of on many occasions using them against Saudia Arabia and Israel. On August 15th of 1955, the United States and Iran signed the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights; it was then entered into force on 16 June 1957. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was another detailed agreement between the two countries, signed on July 14, 2015. This agreement included policies such as the reduction of Iran’s uranium stockpile by 98% to 300 kg for fifteen years. Additional policies included added limitations and provisions to nuclear power plants, the redesign of reactors in order to prevent the production of weapons-grade plutonium, and the requirement to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to access any site they deemed suspicious. All of these policies were created in order for America’s imposed sanctions to be lifted; this nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and adopted on July 20th of 2015. However, in May of 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reinstated previous sanctions. On October 3rd of 2018, following an earlier ruling that day by the International Court of Justice, stating that the U.S. had violated the Treaty of Amity by re-imposing sanctions on Iran, claims were made that the United States would also be terminating the Treaty of Amity. Today, sanctions on Iran include a ban on trading armed weapons, a ban on all imports from Iran, and almost total economic embargo sanctions prohibiting companies from doing business with Iran. Even though Iran is under sanctions, China still imports 22% of its oil from Iran and India imports 13%. Iran is also a major supplier to Venezuela and some European countries including Italy.

Although there are currently no American sanctions on China, President Donald Trump has threatened sanctions that would affect a 25% tariff on $50 billion of Chinese exports. China and America share no security interests or political values, and their differing beliefs lead to fundamental disputes. Numerous issues in East Asia, such as tensions in Taiwan, continue to ignite the flames that stand in the way of China and the U.S. becoming close allies. The Taiwan issue is the result of the Chinese Civil War and the split of China into the two present-day self-governing entities of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan. The Taiwan issue arose when the R.O.C. lost its United Nations seat as “China” in 1971. The Republic of China had been a member of the United Nations since the organization was established in 1945, at which time it still governed all of China. However, in 1949, the R.O.C. government was expelled from mainland Asia by the Communist Party, who were the founders of the People’s Republic of China. Though the R.O.C. only controlled the island of Taiwan, it still considered itself the one true government of China. This belief was supported by the Western powers, who wanted the R.O.C. to remain China’s representative in the United Nations because they wanted to prevent a Communist government from succeeding in acquiring a position in the Security Council. In 1971, the People’s Republic of China garnered enough international support for the U.N. General Assembly to pass a declaration that it was the legitimate representative of China, not the R.O.C. To this day, Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations or its sub-organizations, and China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, denying its own sovereignty. This has caused tensions between Taiwan and China. However, because of China and the U.S.’s many economic gains that come from their business partnerships, it would be very harmful to the U.S. to sanction China. Thus, their partnership is one reason the imposition of sanctions on China may not occur any time soon.

Another sanctioned country with oil relations and nuclear weaponry is North Korea or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. North Korea has a ban on the import of oil and refined petroleum products, among many other sanctions. Sanctions such as these negatively affect world economics because they dictate trading and alliances. U.S. military involvement in the Korean Peninsula started in the Korean War of the early 1950s, in which the United States supported forces in the southern part of the peninsula against Communist forces in the north, who were aided militarily by China and the Soviet Union. Today, the United States is committed to defending South Korea, also known as the Republic of Korea, under the terms of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Korea. South Korea’s proclaimed enemy, North Korea, is isolated and impoverished. In violation of UN Security Council resolutions, North Korea continues to very obviously enrich its nuclear and long-range missile developments. In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that North Korea has enough plutonium to produce at least six nuclear weapons, and perhaps up to sixty. China treads a fine line as it seeks to mediate in a Japan-South Korea trade dispute that has derailed an intelligence-sharing pact that Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. signed in 2016. Leaders in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, have announced that they will scrap the pact, which monitors North Korea’s nuclear threat and ambitions.

These international disputes and sanctions are significant because they are causing groups of powerful countries to passionately form against one another as they did previously during World War I and II. Trading with these countries and disrespecting the sanctions put in place could put world relations in a position disturbingly similar to those before World War I, when the world’s major powers were split into two affinities, the Allies versus the Central Powers. Just recently, Yemen attacked Saudia Arabian oil and the weapon was claimed but not proven to be Iranian. This made oil prices fluctuate and proved that these companies are valued and would make an effective attacking point for their enemies. According to Nikolay Kozhanov, a Consulting Fellow from the Russia and Eurasia Programme, “This perceived risk may have a particularly serious effect on Saudi Arabia’s Asian clients such as China, India, South Korea, and Japan, who import between sixteen and thirty-six percent of their oil from the Gulf state. If Saudi Arabia wants to keep its positions on the oil market, it will have to take much more drastic measures to reassure buyers of its safety.” Yemen’s attack was countered by a terrorist attack on Iranian tankers in Saudia Arabia which caused oil prices to surge yet again. Already, powerful countries such as Russia, Iran, and North Korea have begun to cooperate in light of their disagreements and tensions with the U.S. America has relations with other powerful countries such as Saudia Arabia, Israel, and the United Kingdom. These groups largely agree on their positions on disputes such as the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, or the question of which entities have the right to uphold nuclear power plants and the weapons that come with them. These conflicts have pinned countries against each other and have even brought the European Union into discussions of dispute. Indeed, nuclear power and the trading of petroleum products can define the wealth of a country; in a world with a zero-sum power construct, this can lead to disputes that establish coalitions of ideals and harsh tensions among international relations.

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