The architecture which has reduced the threat of nuclear conflict for the past 50 years is currently being vandalised and dismantled.
The framework which was constructed between the early 1960s and the late 1990s was built around a number of principles, enshrined in both bilateral and international treaties.
The principles were the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons to countries which did not have them in the past; the reduction of nuclear weapons for those who already possessed them; an equal sharing of responsibility and risk for the nuclear superpowers; and controlling the development of new nuclear weapons by comprehensively ending all nuclear testing.
The first acts of vandalism began soon after the non-proliferation promise was agreed in 1967, as both India and Israel acquired their own nuclear weapons.
At the end of the century, Pakistan also broke into the elite club. In the 21st century, North Korea, seeing that the above three countries had managed to weather the criticism and sometimes sanctions, and still managed to retain nuclear weapons, is currently trying to crash its way into this exclusive group.
America is beginning to see, and fear, the size of the superpower that China is becoming, that China and Russia are now working together in a defensive relationship.
The second act of dismantling occurred at the end of the 20th century when, although vast majority of countries agreed to a comprehensive ban on the testing of nuclear weapons in 1996, the agreement could not be ratified by the United States Senate.
This refusal by America to bind themselves to this goal suited a number of other countries which either possessed, or aspired to, nuclear weapons.
Accordingly, the restraint became only de-facto for many of the major superpowers, and not even respected by India and Pakistan initially, and later, North Korea, which continued to explode nuclear devices in defiance of the ban.
The third attack on the framework controlling the risks of nuclear weapons occurred in 2002 when the United States withdrew from the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty.
The Americans cancelled their obligations here because they believed that the option of missile defence offered them more security in the future than keeping a balance of power and sharing equally the risk of mutually assured destruction with the Russians.
At this point of history, when Russia was on its knees and only just beginning its economic recovery, the Americans felt confident in trying to gain the upper hand and developing a defence against nuclear weapons, even though it put the Russians at a serious strategic disadvantage by building the tools that could neutralise their nuclear deterrent.
The fourth action against the architecture was in direct relation to the third, when the Russians, in all probability, developed a new intermediate-range land-based nuclear missile that could take out the missile defence shields that have began to appear around their country.
Due to this development (and an annoyance that the restrictions were only regional in coverage) the Americans have quit the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty that had, since 1987, prohibited the development or deployment of this category of nuclear weapons in Europe.
Neither Russia nor America sought to save this treaty by utilising the institutional machinery within it, as neither of them have faith in the other nor the political will to rebuild their relationship.
The result will be that both the Russians and their Nato adversaries, will redevelop and when the time is right, redeploy throughout Europe, a new generation of short- to medium-range nuclear weapons, backsliding three decades of progress.
The fifth ravaging of the framework has been in first Russia, and then America, destroying the trust that is required for countries to even consider nuclear disarmament.
The Russians achieved this with intervention into the Ukrainian conflict in 2014, followed by their annexation of the Crimea.
These acts went directly against the promise they made (and the other superpowers guaranteed) in 1994 to protect the territorial integrity of the Ukraine if they gave up their nuclear weapons.
This act of bad faith was matched by America, as they have moved to provoke Iran into a conflict, having ripped up the 2015 agreement which removed the chances of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons in the short- to medium-term future. This ripping-up was despite the fact that Iran was in compliance with its agreed obligations for their nuclear disarmament.
The finale to all of this vandalism is being debated at the moment. This will be the possible removal of the bilateral nuclear arms control that exists between Russia and America. Russia and America have had bilateral restraints on the types and numbers of their nuclear forces since 1972.
This bilateral relationship is critical because together these two superpowers, between themselves, hold about 90 per cent of the world's nuclear weapons. The last iteration of this bilateral relationship is the 2010 New Start treaty, which will lapse in 2021 unless it is renewed.
America is now signalling that they may be willing to walk away from the New Start with Russia, unless China joins an updated version of this pact, and is also saddled with restrictions in this area.
America wants this because it is beginning to see, and fear, the size of the superpower that China is becoming, that China and Russia are now working together in a defensive relationship, while at the same time China is not subject to the same controls over their nuclear forces that both Russia and America are.
However, China is very unlikely to accept this invitation as it both obscures the vast numerical imbalance of nuclear weapons between them and both America and Russia. In addition, from the position of China, it is discriminatory as it completely ignores other countries with probably similar numbers of nuclear weapons, such as Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel.
In this context, if China refuses to join in a new nuclear control agreement with America and Russia, and then America refuses to maintain its own restrictions with Russia, then what remains of the architecture controlling nuclear weapons, is at serious risk of complete structural failure.
• Alexander Gillespie is a professor of law at Waikato University