For more than half a century, nuclear weapons have given a few heads of state the right of life and death over the rest of humankind. During the East-West conflict, that risk was considered legitimate because the survival of our civilisation was thought to be at stake. After the end of the Cold War, it was possible to hope that in the longer term the threat would fade and finally disappear.
In fact it looked as if that was going to happen. The agreements on the elimination of intermediate range weapons in 1987 and on the reduction of strategic weapons in 1991 and 1993, provided for significant cuts in the American and Russian arsenals.
Argentina, Brazil and South Africa gave up their military programmes. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine agreed to transfer all the weapons on their soil to Russia. China and France acceded to the Non- Proliferation Treaty, which was extended indefinitely in 1995.