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  Timeline of the Nuclear Age 1990s

Year: 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999

The early 1990s saw the end of the Cold War. German unification became effective on October 3, 1990. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had disintegrated into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the USSR on December 25, 1991, ending seven-and-a-half decades of Communist rule. Gorbachev signed a decree making Russian President Boris Yeltsin commander of the arsenal of some 27,000 nuclear warheads. The early 1990s also saw the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ( START I) to reduce nuclear weapons by 50 percent by the end of the century.

The world was sobered to learn that Iraq was close to developing a nuclear weapons capability prior to its defeat by UN Coalition forces in early 1991. France and China agreed to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and North and South Korea signed a "Joint Declaration for a Non-Nuclear Korean Peninsula" on December 30, 1991.

In June 1992 Russian President Yeltsin reached an agreement to limit strategic nuclear warheads to 3000-3,500 on each side by the year 2003. Later in the year U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger compared Serbian atrocities to Nazi genocide. In 1993, the START II Treaty was signed by the U.S. and Russia. The Chemical Weapons Convention was also signed in January. In March 1993 North Korea threatened to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and for the rest of the year the U.S. engaged in negotiations for inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In June 1993 a World Conference on Human Rights called for establishing a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, approved by the UN General Assembly in December. A dramatic step toward Middle East peace occurred in September 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat signed a Declaration of Principles. In 1994 Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement.

After a year of no nuclear testing in the world, China conducted its 39th nuclear test in October 1993. During 1994 China was the only country to continue testing. The nuclear weapons states were unable to agree on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to permanently end all nuclear testing. In South Africa, the first multi-racial elections were held in 1994, and Nelson Mandela was elected the nation's first black President. In Rwanda, slaughter of genocidal proportions prompted the UN to establish an Ad Hoc Tribunal for genocide and crimes against humanity in Rwanda. Atrocities in Bosnia continued, but former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiated a four-month cease fire.

In December 1994 the UN General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, against the wishes of the nuclear weapons states. In May 1994 the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference concluded with agreement of the parties to extend the Treaty indefinitely along with a set of Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. China exploded a nuclear device in the 40-150 kiloton range, despite its pledge just days before at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference to "exercise utmost restraint" regarding future nuclear testing.

On April 25, 1995, non-governmental organizations working for nuclear weapons abolition agree upon the Abolition 2000 Statement as the basis for a global citizens' effort to abolish nuclear weapons. In August, China conducted its 43rd nuclear weapons test at its Lop Nor test site. The following month France broke its three-year moratorium on nuclear testing with a 20 kiloton explosion at the Moruroa atoll in the South Pacific. In December, North Korea signed a $4.5 billion accord in which the U.S. agreed to provide it with two nuclear reactors in exchange for an agreement to freeze its nuclear program.

1996 began with the ratification of START II Treaty by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 87 to 4. In June, the defense ministers of the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine gather at the Pervomaisk missile base in Ukraine to celebrate Ukraine's transfer of all of its nuclear warheads to Russia for dismantlement. The defense ministers scattered sunflower seeds and planted sunflowers where missiles were once buried. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry stated, "Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would ensure peace for future generations."

In August 1996 the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, initiated and supported by the Australian government, concluded that nuclear weapons diminished the security of all states, including the nuclear weapons states. The Commission called upon the five declared nuclear weapons states to commit themselves "unequivocally to the elimination of nuclear weapons and agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations required for its achievement."

At the end of the year, retired U.S. four star Generals Lee Butler, who once commanded all U.S. strategic nuclear forces, and Andrew Goodpaster, former commander of NATO, issued a joint statement at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. General Butler stated, "We are not condemned to repeat the lessons of forty years at the nuclear brink. We can do better than condone a world in which nuclear weapons are accepted as commonplace."

In July 1997 the United States broke a five year moratorium on nuclear testing by conducting an underground sub-critical nuclear weapons test, called Rebound, at the Nevada Test Site. Also that month the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) voted to invite Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO, a decision that will required ratification by all NATO members. Former Senator Sam Nunn stated: "The Clinton Administration has not taken into account the implications of the expansion, including the possibility that it would leave Russia less willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal."

In September 1997 Alexander Lebed, President Boris Yeltsin's former National Security Advisor, claimed that 100 suitcase-sized nuclear bombs, each capable of killing up to 100,000 people, are missing in Russia. 1997 closed with The United Nations adopting Resolution 52/38 O welcoming the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons and calling for negotiations to commence which would lead to the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

1998 was dominated by India and Pakistan's nuclear weapons tests. On April 6 Pakistan announced that it had successfully test-fired a medium-range 1,000-mile surface-to-surface missile believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. In May, India conducted a series of underground nuclear tests, its first tests in 24 years. Pakistan conducted five more nuclear tests in response to India's nuclear tests earlier in the month. In June the foreign ministers of eight middle power governments, calling themselves the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden) issued a Joint Declaration calling upon all nuclear weapons states to commit themselves to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

Throughout 1999 India and Pakistan continued testing ballistic missiles. In April, the Third Preparatory Conference for the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference concluded without progress. Concerns for potential false alarms of nuclear attacks due to Y2K computer problems lead to the establishment in September of the US-Russia Joint Center for Y2K Strategic Stability. In November, the US Department of Defense declassified documents that revealed that the US deployed nuclear weapons in 18 countries and US controlled territories during the Cold War. In December, Boris Yeltsin resigned and former KGB operative Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency of Russia.

During the 1990s there were more than 100 wars in which more than five million people were killed, five million were disabled and twelve million left homeless. Some 90 percent of the victims were civilians, and some two million of the deaths were children.

Year: 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999