The modern world, according to Engene Rabinowitch, is living simultaneously through three revolutions: Social Revolution. National Revolution and Technological Revolution.
Technological revolution has been brought about by scientific inventions. A scientific invention is the need of the changing social and national scenes.
In view of the fact that great scientific inventions and technological developments have taken place during the last three decades, the modern century is called the century of science and technology.
Impact of Science and Technology. The knowledge of scientific inventions, when applied to practical purposes, covering a great range of material objects, leads to technology.
Scientific-inventions have led to technological developments in the history of the world. But the recent technology marked by the advent of atomic or nuclear weapons has brought about a revolutionary change in the field of International Relations.
The Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, the nuclear-powered planes and submarines. Supersonic jets etc. have unleashed terror in the world.
The mad race for satellites and space stations is also directed towards power politics. The total destructiveness these technological developments is a ‘new fact’ in International Relations.
It does not mean that technological development was unknown earlier. The invention of the use of steam and steel during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was after all technological and it did have impact on international politics.
The application of this energy to transport and industry changed the whole complexion of world economy which in turn led to politics consequences of far-reaching importance.
The economic aspect is important for our purposes because economic viability of a nation strengthens its political prestige and power. Technological development has always been going on.
But there is a specialty about the technological development of the post-1945 period. Our discussion about the impact of technology on the nature of international relations will thus focus on the impact of technology only in so far as technology has changed the nature of weapons and thereby that of international relations.
Previously also revolutionary innovations in military technology were made but their effect was relative.
The technological inventions have always been used in the service of improving the methods of war because an improved capacity to win a war accelerates the capacity of nations to pursue their interests which is the essence of international relations. But the new process of technological change has had a more fundamental effect.
This technological change is marked by the advent of atomic or nuclear weapons. It has brought jet aircraft with intercontinental range and supersonic speed, missiles with nuclear warheads, and nuclear powered planes and submarines with unlimited range and with guidance to specific targets anywhere in the world.
Earth satellites and space stations can also be added to this list. All this may be matter of pride for man’s achievement over Nature. But one cannot ignore the total destructive potentiality of these new weapons.
Formerly, a new weapon might result in destruction of only a limited number of people or of a city or of a region, but now the destruction that can be brought by new weapons would be absolute.
Thus, the present phase of technological development is different from all the earlier phases. In attempting to understand the nature of international politics, one has to take into account the importance of absolute destructive character of modern weapons, which Karl Jaspers calls the “new fact” of international life.
This new fact is relevant to a correct analysis of the nature of international relations because it has changed the character of military power of nations.
Of course, the power which States exercise in international relation is composed of elements other than military also- economic diplomatic, cultural and ideological. But the military power still remains an indispensable instrument.
It is because the basic drive in human beings has so far been to use violence in order to achieve their objectives. The importance of military power is on account of the fact that, as E.H. Carr observes, war lurks in the background of international relations.
Force has not yet been eliminated from international relationships. Every act of a State is directed towards war, though as an undesirable weapon but all the same as a weapon of the last resort.
Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Thus, the impact of science and technology really means impact of nuclear weapons on international relations. The nuclear bombs used over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 proved its vast destructive capability.
With this began what we term atomic age in international relations. This advent has changed almost every aspect of human life but international relations in particular.
Not only the nature of war, but even concepts like diplomacy, negotiations, peace and conflict have undergone a world of change. Consequently, the contest for power has lost much importance and with it the concept of balance of power has lost much significance.
The concepts of balance of terror and deterrence have taken the place of balance of power as a guarantor of international peace and stability.
The use of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki made U.S-A. as the only country in the world, which had atomic secret. The world felt shocked due to its unprecedented destructive capability.
But the nature of modern bombs is much more destructive. For the first time in the history of war, offence could establish its absolute supremacy over the defense. It was no doubt used as a weapon to end war but the likelihood of its use for offence became more prominent.
The USSR also.did not lag behind. It also made a successful explosion of nuclear bomb in 1949. Since then, mad race for the possession of sophisticated nuclear weapons has started between the two powers. Possession of nuclear weapons became a symbol of status in the world. Consequently other countries also joined this race.
By now, the five great powers—the USA, USSR, UK, France and China—have acquired nuclear weapons. In addition thereto many more nations such as India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa, West Germany, Japan, Australia and Brazil are-potential nuclear powers. They are in a position to manufacture nuclear weapons any moment.
India Joined the nuclear club in 1975 by making an underground atomic explosion but she has declared not to naked weapons. Israel and South Africa are suspected of having joined this race secretly. Others can join this race any moment. Pakistan is making every effort to achieve this capability.
The impact of nuclear weapons, or in other words science and technology, on the course of international relations can be discussed as under.
1. Dynamism in International Relations
The use of force is the last and the most effective weapon in bringing about social and political change, and it has played decisive role in international relations also.
In spite of the fact that nuclear weapons posses overkill potentiality, the use of force plays an important role in international relations. Stress on avoidance of war and the establishment of peace is not a new thing.
Various efforts have been made for the establishment of peace since the beginning of this world. Various institutions have been established to achieve peace. Still, war continues to be a legally recognised activity of States. Its occurrence is a normal and regular aspect of international relations.
It is with this view that more and more inventions and sophistication in the nature of the existing weapons is being made every day. Military Power is no longer measured by the extent of territory but by the developments in the field of science and technology.
This fact has added dynamism in international relations stated by Clansewitz, “It has become difficult to accept the traditional relationship of weapons, war and national objectives Superiority in the possession of nuclear weapons has become an objective in international relations.
The speed of innovations in the field of military planning, as stated by Reger Hilsman ; is so rapid that “efforts at adaptation are hardly begun before they must be scrapped”. It has become almost impossible for the experts of military planning to analyze facts of the present to suit objectives of the future.
In the past, military innovations would permit more or less a stable pattern of some durability. But the present rapidity of change clearly forbids any kind of stability. In so far as this aspect is concerned, international relations has become more dynamic than it could be ever before.
In the past, defense against military weapons could be secured. But, so far, there is no evidence that defense against nuclear weapons can be built. Technological advances have, in this way, brought about defenselessness against the nuclear weapons.
Not only that, the element of indecision in launching initial attack, has become a marked feature. There may be retaliatory counter-attacks after the initial attack, but ultimately all would soon be destroyed.
As Bertrand Brodie has pointed out, “The essential change introduced by the atomic bomb is not primarily that it will make war more violent” but that “it will concentrate the violence in terms of time”.
Moreover, if other nuclear powers arise, it may even be impossible to determine the aggressor.
3 Limited Role or Obsolescence of War. In international relations of the past, war was the last and most effective instrument of action and decision. But war or use of force has lost its value in the contemporary age of nuclear weapons. Resort to war has become difficult as it is full of danger.
It may flare up into nuclear war any moment. In the event of nuclear war, fruits of war cannot be achieved as nothing would be left, either on the side of the defeated or the victorious nation.
Modern nuclear and conventional weapons have been found to be incapable of guaranteeing victory. What they do guarantee is total destruction. Contemporary events have shown that even when violence is used, solutions come only through negotiations.
For example, although Britain choose a military response to Argentina’s take-over of the Falklands, the right to sovereignty will have to be negotiated. Israel is still pleading for peace negotiations in spite of its decisive victories in the 1976 West Asia War, and the North Vietnamese continue to reel under the burden of victory over the United States ten years ago.
Nuclear age, according to the UNESCO Round Table Conference means “Total destruction of human civilisation and might lead to the annihilation of human race.” Nuclear War will only mean victory of the “dying over the dead”.
Efforts are made to avoid direct confrontation leading to open hostilities. In the words of Appadorai, “It has become a dilemma of international politics whether or not to use force.”
It is due to the fear of nuclear holocaust that the Third World-War has not broken out so far. It is why Millis stated in 1964 that “it is not at all unreasonable to predict today that nuclear stalemate would continue indefinitely.”
It is because all the major nations, their Governments and decision-makers are fully convinced of the suicidal nature of war.
4. Political Role of Nuclear Weapons
Nations are convinced of the uselessness of military force. And, there appears to be no chance of war between the super powers. Still, the weapons have their own importance.
And, this importance is not from the military but political point of view. It is evident from the fact that States are today concerned about their status and political influence and not with the acquisition of territory.
Status and political influence is gained through the possession of nuclear weapons. It was the development of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons by China in 1964 and 1968 respectively that made President Nixon of USA to seek friendship of China by coming personally to China in 1972.
It is this very element of political status which made India to explode the nuclear device at Pokharan in Rajasthan on May 18, 1974. It can thus be started that military force has not lost its importance. It has changed its nature.
5. Nuclear Deterrence
Power has thus been managed by the threat of nuclear holocaust. The two super-powers have avoided direct confrontation anywhere and everywhere.
They are fully aware of the impact of nuclear war and have avoided at all costs direct confrontation. If at all necessary, the super-powers have resorted to war by proxy in different regions of the world.
It is because they can exercise a check whenever necessary of the warring countries who serve as their pawns. Avoidance of direct confrontation has led to what may be termed deterrence.
Deterrence means that an enemy will be deterred from attacking only if the response is too horrible to contemplate. And, none can deny the fact that peace in the world today is only due to this deterrence.
6. Arms Race and Nuclear Proliferation
In order to make deterrence effective, it became imperative to enter the mad race for the acquisition of more and more sophisticated weapons.
This race that started from nuclear weapons, spread to thermo-nuclear weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles and anti-ballistic missile defense system. Not only acquisition of these weapons but also to convince the other power through various channels of communications became important for the proper maintenance of deterrence.
It is with a view to achieving deterrence that the policy of nuclear non-proliferation was evolved. Spread of nuclear weapons is considered a threat to the delicate balance of nuclear terror.
It is on this account that both the USA and the USSR agree in dissuading other States not to go nuclear. Nuclear proliferation has assumed two aspects.
At the level of super-powers, it has been justified on grounds of deterrence. At the level of other States, it is condemned as a danger to world-peace.
7. War and Diplomacy
The diplomacy of the super-powers has been directed at limiting war wherever it breaks out. An all out war has become a distant possibility. The super-powers direct the course of war anywhere in the world.
The Korean war, Arab-Israel wars, the Indo- Pak wars are all examples to show that war can continue only so long as the super powers desire. The moment they decide that war should not continue, they stop the supply of arms and spares and threaten cutting off other forms of supply also in case of non-compliance.
Naturally, war, in the modern days, is fought with a limited purpose and for a limited period. It is not to suggest that the small countries at war fought for a limited national objective or for a limited period.
It is in fact the intervention of the super-powers that makes war limited. Consequently, the issues over which war is fought, remain unsolved.
In this way, unclear weapons have helped in the maintenance of status quo with all its tensions and conflicts contained therein. Naturally, there has been using Kissinger’s words, an “uneasy peace” in the world.
Diplomacy at all levels is operating within the frame work of a limited area of action provided by nuclear deterrence. Diplomacy is now centered around Test-Ban negotiations, Non-proliferation Treaty and Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Importance of a country in diplomacy is decided by the fact of nuclear possession or otherwise.
8. Nuclear Weapons and International System
The international system that was to come into operation after the Second World- War, was to be decided by the five big powers—USA, USSR, UK, France and China—as decided at the Yalta and Potsdam Conference.
However the explosion of nuclear bomb in 1945 made USA the only leader of world politics. A sort of hegemony under US leadership came into operation. However, the USSR also appeared as the second force to be reckoned with after the explosion of nuclear bomb by her in 1949.
The international system became bipolar. Deterrence became possible by the mad armament race between the USA and USSR and advocacy of non- proliferation on the part of other nations.
Bipolarity became stable by the advocacy of status quo. And this maintenance of status quo has been at the cost of the rest of the nations of the international system. Had there been no threat of nuclear war, this hierarchy would have definitely been challenged.
It is only with this realisation that nuclear war is an impossibility and the rise of certain centers of power such as European Community, Japan, West Germany etc. that Multi centrism in a bipolar world has arisen.
9. Bipolarity and Multi polarity in Nuclear Age
With the disintegration of the bipolar system on account of the nuclear deterrence, a debate has arisen whether a bipolar system is more stable than a multi polar system or vice-versa.
Traditional theory regarded multi polar system as more stable. However, bipolar system has created deterrence and consequently stability in international politics. Still, it is maintained that a multi polar system is preferable because it allows an outlet for tensions.
But in actual practice, the spread of nuclear weapons have exercised certain on the super-powers.
The introduction of nuclear weapons and their impact on international system has brought about such a situation that the contemporary world has emerged as an altogether a new system un comparable with the past systems.
10. Nuclear Technology and Non-proliferation Strategy
Having acquired the secret of atomic technology, USA did not want to share it even with the UK or France.
It was under the pressure of the Allies that the USA decided to have a controlled sharing of nuclear technology without losing its monopolistic control over it.
The ‘Atom for Peace’ resolution of President Eisenhower was directed towards this end.
It was under this programme that the USA provided technology and financial aid but on the condition that it would be under strict safeguards and inspection system of the USA.
However, UK and France developed this technology. With the propagation of the idea of peaceful use of atomic energy, the USA aimed at preventing the misuse of technology as also to keep its hold on the developments In the field of nuclear technology.