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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Politics and Pragmatism: The Challenges for NPT 2000

Lawrence Scheinman

States party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will convene April 24 for the treaty's sixth review conference—the first to take place since the landmark 1995 conference at which the treaty was extended indefinitely. The lack of anticipated progress in nuclear arms control and disarmament since that conference and the setbacks that have occurred, as reflected in the current status of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and impending developments in missile defense, have led some analysts to question whether there is any possibility for a positive outcome at the 2000 conference or whether it might even result in disaster.

That perception severely underestimates the role and relevance of the NPT to international security and stability. While rhetoric is likely to be elevated and exchanges heated, the conference will not be a cataclysmic event for the non-proliferation regime. It is, however, a crucial moment for the treaty. NPT members will not only have to deliberate on the issues usually covered in this forum, they will also have to examine how two critical decisions made at the 1995 conference—the strengthening of the treaty review process and the issuance of "principles and objectives"—have fared in the past five years.

The decisions made at the 1995 conference did not impose conditions on indefinite extension, but they did reflect the feeling that with permanence should come full implementation of the treaty in all of its aspects, including not only non-proliferation and peaceful nuclear cooperation, but also the pursuit of negotiations, in good faith, on nuclear disarmament. By 1995, the NPT was already the most successful multilateral arms control agreement ever negotiated, but a significant number of states did not want their support for the principle of indefinite extension to translate into an endorsement of a permanent global division between the five nuclear-weapon states and all the rest. They sought to ensure that the nuclear-weapon states would not confuse treaty permanence with acceptance of the nuclear status quo.

Strengthened review and an elaboration of "principles and objectives" (benchmarks that largely paralleled, but in some cases went beyond, specific treaty provisions) were the means by which the parties collectively sought to reinforce and institutionalize bona fide accountability by all parties while validating the treaty and extending it indefinitely. The underlying assumption was, and remains, that with the end of the Cold War, the rationale for nuclear weapons diminished and along with it any reason not to pursue their ultimate elimination. The strengthened review and "principles and objectives" were complemented by a resolution on the Middle East that underscored the importance of universal adherence to the NPT. In particular, it expressed concern with the continued presence of unsafeguarded nuclear facilities in the Middle East and called on all states in the region to take practical steps toward establishing a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction.

Given the current strain on U.S. relations with Russia and China over possible deployment of missile defense and the questions in some quarters about the depth of U.S. commitment to arms control, there is some concern that the upcoming conference could start the unraveling of the NPT regime. But it is essential to remember that it is in the interests of all members of the NPT, nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states alike, to keep the treaty strong. It is the only international instrument obligating the nuclear-weapon states to pursue nuclear disarmament. The treaty enhances security, allows for verification through international safeguards, and provides a basis for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It is unlikely, therefore, that recent negative trends in arms control will overwhelm the conference—the need for a strong NPT transcends differences over specific arms control issues—but even if they do, no state is likely to threaten withdrawal.

The forthcoming review conference will address the full range of issues that habitually appear at these meetings, including compliance, international safeguards, peaceful nuclear cooperation, export controls, nuclear-weapon-free zones, and security assurances. However, three items are certain to occupy more time and attention than the rest: nuclear disarmament, the Middle East resolution and the broader issue of universality, and how to assess the effectiveness of the strengthened review process.

States cannot expect a review conference that results in the dramatic progress of the 1995 meeting, but if they exercise restraint and adhere to certain principles, incremental progress is possible, in spite of the disappointment over the pace of arms control achievements in the last five years.

Nuclear Disarmament

No issue at NPT review conferences has drawn more attention or been more controversial than nuclear disarmament. Divergent views regarding implementation of Article VI provisions on nuclear disarmament account for the failure of three of the five previous conferences to reach agreement on a final conference document, and the issue promises to be at least as contentious at the 2000 conference, if only because even modest expectations for progress following the 1995 conference have not been met.

The "principles and objectives" decision provided guidance on the question of nuclear disarmament. It included a reaffirmation by the nuclear-weapon states to pursue, in good faith, negotiations on effective measures relating to disarmament, and it identified three items to be achieved in the interest of full realization and effective implementation of Article VI: completion of negotiation of a comprehensive test ban treaty "no later than 1996"; "immediate commencement and early conclusion" of a convention banning further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and "determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon States of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons." This latter formulation implicitly endorsed an incremental approach to nuclear disarmament, acknowledging that disarmament on demand is not tenable and eschewing the appeals of some non-aligned states for a timebound framework.

The period between 1995 and 2000 saw both achievements and disappointments with respect to these items. On the positive side of the ledger, the CTBT negotiations were completed as called for. The treaty opened for signature in 1996, and it presently has 155 signatories, including the five nuclear-weapon states. The pace of U.S. and Russian reductions under START I continued to proceed ahead of schedule, and the number of deployed nuclear weapons steadily diminished. For their part, the United Kingdom and France have taken steps in support of nuclear disarmament by canceling weapons development programs, reducing existing weapons, and increasing transparency.

The United States and Russia also continued their dismantlement of retired nuclear weapons and related weapons facilities. They identified large quantities of nuclear material as being in excess of national security requirements and had it withdrawn from their stockpiles, never to return to use for nuclear weapons. The United States has identified 226 tons of fissile material as excess and committed it to be placed under safeguards, pursuant to its voluntary arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A Russian storage facility at Mayak is slated to store plutonium removed from dismantled nuclear weapons and will be available for inspection as well. In addition, the United States, Russia, and the IAEA are working to develop a regime allowing the IAEA to verify that such materials remain irreversibly removed from weapons programs. Steady progress in implementing the 1993 agreement for the United States to purchase from Russia blended—down uranium produced from 500 tons of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium adds importantly to the overall effort to ensure transparency and irreversibility of nuclear reductions.

On the negative side of the ledger, however, are a number of countervailing events. Perhaps the most significant was the U.S. Senate's rejection of the CTBT, a development regarded as a major setback not only for the treaty, but for disarmament in general. On the other hand, President Clinton's commitment to continue the U.S. moratorium on testing, the appointment of former General John Shalikashvili to head a task force to address the Senate's concerns with a view to reconsideration, and Congress's decision to fund the CTBT preparatory body provide hope for ratification at a later date. But for the moment, at least, U.S. standing in arms control has been dealt a blow, possibly diminishing its ability to exercise effective leadership at the review conference.

There has also been little progress on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) in the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), largely because of the non-aligned states' efforts to link the beginning of negotiations to including talks on nuclear disarmament in the CD's work program. In the three years since completion of a CTBT, the conference, except for one brief moment at the end of 1998, has been deadlocked, unable to agree on a work program and therefore unable to begin FMCT negotiations. The barriers to progress grew when the start of negotiations was further linked to the establishment of an ad hoc working group on outer space, largely because of China's concern with U.S. missile defense plans. Although at one point it might have been possible to establish ad hoc working groups to address outer space and nuclear disarmament while beginning formal negotiations on a fissile material cutoff, China blocked that option this year by insisting that whatever arrangements apply to one subject should apply to all. Since all of the nuclear-weapon states except China oppose negotiation of nuclear disarmament in the CD and since the United States will not agree to negotiations (as distinct from talks) on outer space, there is presently no way to move forward on a fissile material cutoff treaty.

The progress that has been made on nuclear reductions is offset, in the view of many, by the stalled strategic reductions process. START II, signed seven years ago, still awaits action by the Russian Duma, and as a result, negotiations on START III have yet to begin. The impact that this lack of progress could have on the review conference is likely to be magnified by U.S. efforts to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in order to deploy a limited national missile defense system (NMD). The fact that some high-level U.S. officials have threatened withdrawal from the treaty if Russia does not accommodate the changes sought by the United States has also raised questions about the continued level of U.S. commitment to arms control as a means of promoting national security and international stability.

The fact that a decision on whether to deploy a limited national missile defense system depends on considering not only the cost, threat, and technical feasibility, but also strategic factors, including arms control objectives, has not offset concern about the shape and direction of U.S. security policy and its impact on non-proliferation and disarmament objectives. In the view of many, including friends and allies, whereas the CTBT outcome can be explained to some extent by domestic political considerations, the move toward national missile defense at the expense of the ABM Treaty is a self-inflicted wound.

Negotiation with Russia of mutually acceptable adjustments to the ABM Treaty would dampen the effect of U.S. national missile defense plans. Progress in strategic reductions, based on the agreement at the 1997 Helsinki summit, to pursue START III, including a target of 2,000—2,500 deployed warheads and transparency measures related to warhead inventories and destruction, would dramatically enhance international confidence that arms control and disarmament will continue to play a role in national security and international stability. The recent election of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia may increase the prospects of striking an offense-defense deal that breaks the logjam of the past several years and opens the door to further progress in implementing Article VI.

But with the exception of Duma ratification of START II, which could occur soon, none of these things will happen in the few remaining days before the NPT review conference, and both Russia and China (which is perhaps even more affected by the NMD issue) are virtually certain to use the conference as a forum to attack the U.S. national missile defense initiative. It is well to recall that last year Russia, China, and Belarus introduced a resolution in the UN General Assembly aimed at rallying international support for the ABM Treaty and against U.S. attempts to weaken or abrogate the treaty in order to deploy missile defenses. The resolution obtained wide support with only Israel, Albania, and Micronesia joining the United States in opposition.

At stake here is an important consideration: whether outside disputes such as the national missile defense issue should be imported into the NPT review process, or whether, to the extent that such issues affect treaty implementation, the conference should limit itself to noting the issues and urging the parties directly involved to resolve them. While China and Russia will most likely attempt to raise the NMD issue and berate the United States, they should realize that they have little to gain by going beyond sharply worded rhetoric. Holding the conference hostage to external issues will not only fail to resolve the problem at hand, it also has the potential to corrupt the review process and undermine the treaty. Such a result is highly undesirable for all parties involved; and in the end, both China and Russia would benefit more from exercising restraint and preserving the review process's integrity.

One upshot of the frustration resulting from the recent lack of progress in arms control has been the crafting of a new plan of action by the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) calling for unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral progress on nuclear disarmament. NAC is notable for the fact that its membership (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden) transcends classical political groupings and brings both moderate and more radical states together on nuclear issues. Their "new agenda" follows earlier proceedings, including a 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which stated that the Article VI obligation to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament includes an obligation to bring those negotiations to conclusion, and the Canberra Commission report of the same year, which called for phased, verified reductions without a timeframe, but endorsed the need for agreed targets and guidelines to drive the process.

The "new agenda" includes a call for re-examining nuclear postures, demating nuclear weapons from delivery vehicles, eliminating tactical nuclear weapons, negotiating a global legally binding negative-security-assurance treaty, and holding a conference on nuclear disarmament. The latter reflects a sense of futility in leaving matters to existing forums, such as the NPT review conferences and the Conference on Disarmament. The coalition has gathered increasing support for the thrust of its agenda—if not for all of the items contained therein—as reflected in a coalition-sponsored resolution in the UN General Assembly last year, which won the support of 60 states and on which a significant number of NATO countries abstained rather than vote "no." The NAC is a voice that will have to be reckoned with at the review conference.

While the reach of some of the New Agenda Coalition's proposals seems to exceed the group's collective grasp, the underlying significance of pushing an agenda on nuclear disarmament cannot and should not be brushed aside. There are a number of objectives to be pursued looking toward 2005 that should be acceptable to the parties at large: a call for early entry into force of the CTBT; a beginning of negotiation on a treaty cutting off fissile material production for weapons purposes and a moratorium on further production of such material pending the conclusion of such a treaty; completion of START II and forward movement on START III discussions; and engagement of all five nuclear-weapon states in the nuclear disarmament dialogue.

Middle East Resolution and Universality

The politics of indefinite extension of the NPT included agreeing to a resolution on the Middle East that emphasized the importance of states in the region making progress toward establishing a regional zone verifiably free of weapons of mass destruction. The nuclear-weapon states in particular were called upon to "extend their cooperation and...exert their utmost efforts" in order to promote early achievement of this goal. The resolution had the effect of singling out one region among several that are sources of proliferation concern and gave Egypt, in particular, a basis for keeping the NPT review process focused on Israel, which, since 1998, is the only state in the region still not a party to the treaty.

NPT members have differed over the status of the resolution, with some contending that it does not have the force of an actual "decision," while others assert that the resolution, by whatever name, was an integral part of the package leading to the NPT's indefinite extension and was therefore intended to be implemented as fully as any decision. At the 1997 Preparatory Committee meeting (PrepCom), Egypt, supported by the Arab and non-aligned states, successfully argued that special time should be set aside in the second PrepCom to deal with the Middle East resolution. The issue was a focal point of sometimes acrimonious discussion in the second PrepCom and was a significant factor in its failure to produce a positive result.

A major point of contention was whether background documentation on implementing the Middle East resolution should be produced for the 2000 review conference. Behind this seemingly innocuous question was the deeper issue of whether the conference should expand its responsibilities beyond review of the NPT and risk becoming involved in regional conflicts over which it has no authority or control, in which not all regional parties are NPT members, and which could undermine the integrity of the review.

The Arab-Israeli dispute is much more complex and far-reaching than the issues involved in the NPT and cannot be resolved in the framework of NPT review. In fact, the first operative paragraph of the Middle East resolution "endorses the aims and objectives of the Middle East peace process and recognizes that efforts in this regard...contribute to...a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons," thus acknowledging that the peace process has a much broader responsibility than the NPT in addressing regional security issues.

At the 1999 PrepCom, Egypt and other non-aligned states cosponsored a proposal recommending the creation of a subsidiary body at the 2000 review conference "to consider and recommend proposals on the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East," making it clear that they will try to focus attention on the Middle East—and particularly Israel—at the review conference. Egyptian officials speak openly about their dissatisfaction with the regional insecurity that results from having a non-NPT neighbor with an active nuclear program not under international safeguards. Their objective is to engage the NPT community in the problem, and they see the 1995 resolution as having established an obligation to do so.

Unlike 1995, when several Middle East states were still not parties to the NPT, Israel is now the only non-NPT state in the region. That makes it more difficult for conference documents to refer to "parties in the region," instead of referring to "a single state" or naming Israel specifically. Efforts of the Arab states and their supporters to single out Israel could put considerable strain on the review.

What can be done and what the Arab states want done is not clear—whether formulating an action program to implement the resolution's operational paragraph that calls upon the nuclear-weapon states "to extend their cooperation and to exert their utmost efforts" in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region, or issuing firmly worded statements of expectation that all states-parties concerned will undertake to make progress on achieving a regional zone.

The political difficulty with focusing only on the Middle East, and specifically Israeli non-adherence, is not just that it has the potential to embroil the conference in a controversy that exceeds its capacity, but also that it disregards the fact that three states in other regions-India, Pakistan, and Cuba—also remain outside the treaty, two of whom have taken the egregious step of conducting nuclear tests and declaring themselves nuclear states. The situation in South Asia is no less threatening to the non-proliferation regime than the Middle East, and conference attention to non-adherence in one region should be directly linked to non-adherence elsewhere and dealt with as a "class action."

Even in the Middle East context alone, focusing only on Israel ignores the fact that within the region there is still the problem of non-compliance of Iraq, an NPT member. The question, in other words, is not only one of adherence and universality, but also one of compliance. Egypt, however, refuses to address the Iraqi situation even though the Middle East resolution clearly references implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 687 as a step toward establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.

One approach to this problem would be for the parties to craft a conference statement calling upon those states not party to the treaty to exert all efforts possible to work toward the adoption of regional measures that draw them closer to the global non-proliferation regime with the ultimate objective of joining the treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states. In the case of the Middle East, as Israel has already endorsed the concept of a regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction, bilateral efforts could be undertaken—even at unofficial levels—to encourage Israel and the Arab states to begin a dialogue to explore the technical, administrative, and institutional attributes of an eventual zonal arrangement.

An approach along these lines would address both the specific Middle East issue and the broader question of universality. The resolution on the Middle East notwithstanding, in order for the 2000 review conference to be successful, a balanced approach that responds not only to one regional concern, but also to the general principles of universality and treaty compliance will be required.

Strengthened Review

The purpose of strengthening the review process in 1995 was to give more focus and definition to treaty review and, in particular, to give structural support to the principle of accountability. The decision institutionalized the five-year review conferences and stipulated that they not only evaluate past implementation of the treaty, but also identify "areas in which and the means through which, further progress should be sought," thus giving them agenda-setting responsibilities, exemplified by the 1995 agreement on "principles and objectives."

The decision on strengthened review was even more innovative with respect to the Preparatory Committee meetings, which traditionally had been confined to making procedural arrangements for review conferences. Under the strengthened review process, the PrepComs were mandated to meet in the three consecutive years before review conferences and to "consider principles, objectives and ways in order to promote the full implementation of the Treaty, as well as its universality, and to make recommendations thereon to the Review Conference." They were also charged with recommending, where appropriate, the establishment of subsidiary bodies within the three main committees, through which the business of the review conferences is mainly conducted. The purpose of these bodies would be to provide more focused consideration of specific issues relevant to the treaty than might be available if left to the main committees.

Some states, however, are concerned that relying on subsidiary bodies to address treaty-relevant issues could adversely affect the principle of comprehensive and balanced review by focusing attention on a select few issues. They maintain that the establishment of subsidiary bodies should therefore be exceptional rather than routine. At the last of the three PrepComs leading up to the 2000 review conference, South Africa and Egypt proposed recommending to the review conference that subsidiary bodies be established on nuclear disarmament and on the Middle East resolution, but the proposal lacked consensus support. In fact, consensus agreement could not be reached on any substantive recommendations to the review conference, and as a result, none were sent forward. This has led to criticism and calls for revision of review procedures.

But the PrepCom process also had some very positive dimensions that must not be overlooked and should be built on. There was considerable progress in the more traditional arena of PrepCom activity (procedural preparations and recommendations to the review conference), thus ensuring that the review conference will not lose valuable time deciding how to organize itself, who should chair the main committees, and what documentation to have available for substantive discussion. More importantly, considerably more time and attention was devoted to substance in the first three PrepComs than at any time before. The nuclear-weapon states, for example, took the initiative in detailing their activities in the field of nuclear disarmament, including weapons reductions, program cancellations, retirement of fissile material from weapons and stockpiles, and its placement under international safeguards. Arguably, the PrepComs have already become established forums for the nuclear-weapon states accounting for their activities vis-a-vis disarmament, thereby lending the issue sustained attention.

On balance, however, what is evident from the experience of the PrepComs under the new regime is that theory has not transitioned smoothly into practice. While agreement could be reached on the principle of a strengthened review process, it is clear that there is not yet a consensus on what the scope of the process should be and how it should be implemented. Some states take a fairly strict constructionist view of the decision and seek to avoid undue encroachment on what they regard as the province of the review conference, while others favor a more liberal interpretation, implying decisional authority for PrepComs and their near replication of a full-blown review.

It is evident that serious attention needs to be given to clarifying the role and responsibility of institutions charged with implementing the strengthened review process in order to make it more effective. However, it would be a mistake to rush to judgment on the strengthened review process as a failure as some, whose expectations may have been unreasonably high, seem inclined to do.

Innovative approaches to improving the process have been suggested and ought to be aired and discussed at the review conference. Among these is a suggestion put forward by Canada to consider an article-by-article review of the treaty instead of allocating issue clusters to main committees for review and recommendation. Others have suggested that ways be found for PrepComs to forward broadly, but not unanimously, supported proposals or suggestions to review conferences, which could then determine how to consider them.

Conclusion

Reflecting on these challenges, it is not difficult to understand why there is foreboding about the 2000 review conference and why some observers speak in terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty being "under siege" or "at risk." High-visibility events such as the U.S. Senate's rejection of the CTBT, U.S. plans to deploy a limited national missile defense, and the stalemated START negotiation process have raised concerns about whether the United States and the other nuclear-weapon states remain committed to arms control and disarmament and to Article VI of the NPT.

The fact that the NPT does not meet security concerns as fully in the Middle East as it does in other areas and that Arab states seek to focus NPT institutions on Israel and to treat its non-adherence discretely rather than as an integral part of the broader problem of universality creates a political situation that adds strain to an already pressured review process.

The inability of the PrepComs to fulfill their purpose in forwarding recommendations for consideration by the review conference and the apparent differences of interpretation over the meaning of the decision on strengthening the review process give added basis for frustration and disappointment.

Tempering these considerations is the fact that through its norms, rules, and verification arrangements, the NPT benefits all states, even those who complain about its inequities or limitations—and even non-adherents. For most states, the political and security costs of a damaged or weakened treaty would outweigh any possible benefit to leaving the treaty, and that reality should place some limits on the demands they make at the review conference. The issues that will be raised at the conference are important, but they are not inherently treaty-breakers—at least not yet. If sensitivity is not displayed at the conference and beyond and the issues linger unattended, they could eventually threaten the viability of the treaty and non-proliferation regime. But it is in the interest of most states, if not all, to ensure that however strongly contested some issues may be and however forceful the debate becomes, the situation not be allowed to get out of hand.

Optimizing the probability of an outcome that maintains commitment to and confidence in the NPT will be enhanced if participants adhere to certain principles. First, states must keep expectations in line with plausible outcomes, avoid grand-design strategies, and strive for incremental adjustments and improvements that look ahead to 2005. This means acknowledging, without targeting blame, that the past five years have not been very conducive to taking great strides forward on all but a few of the objectives set forth in 1995. At the same time, states must recognize that some very substantial progress was made: negotiations on several new nuclear-weapon-free zones were completed, a strengthened international safeguards regime addressing the problem of detecting clandestine nuclear activity was finished, the number of nuclear weapons was reduced, weapons programs were cancelled, and fissile materials were irreversibly withdrawn from weapons programs.

Second, states must collectively affirm their commitment to the treaty and approach the review with the intention of finding mutually acceptable formulations for characterizing both past developments and future objectives. A possible resolution to the problem of producing final documents for the review conference would be a two-document approach—one that reviews the past and includes very disparate views; and a second that expresses consensus agreement on the treaty's importance to national security and international stability and that affirms the unequivocal support of all NPT members to fulfill their obligations and invest political will in bringing about a strengthened NPT regime by 2005. A future-oriented, agenda-setting document that draws consensus support is far more significant for the NPT than one assessing what has and has not happened, and it should therefore be the focus of attention.

Consideration should also be given to identifying and endorsing goals to be pursued in the next five years: for example, entry into force of the CTBT, commencement and conclusion of negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, revitalization of the START process, and the progressive engagement of all five nuclear-weapon states in an Article VI process. Non-nuclear-weapon states should consider the objective of bringing into force the additional protocol on strengthened safeguards. The nuclear-weapon states should seek to reach some measure of accommodation on the issues that now divide them, or at least agree to seek bilateral resolution of those issues, rather than letting them hinder the larger purposes of the NPT.

Third, every effort should be made to ensure that the review undertaken is both balanced and comprehensive, that the treaty's objective of universality is strongly endorsed, and that all non-adherents are called upon to take all possible steps to adhere to the norms of the treaty. In the case of the Middle East, this would mean calling upon the states of the region to move ahead with preliminary exploration of the technical, administrative, and institutional parameters of an eventual zone free of weapons of mass destruction. States with influence with countries in the region should seek, bilaterally, to encourage progress in this regard, whether through official meetings or unofficial dialogue. In South Asia, this would mean urging India and Pakistan to make every effort to fulfill the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1172, issued in 1998 after their nuclear tests, which called on the two states to halt their nuclear and missile programs and urged them to join the NPT and CTBT regimes. This would underscore that the NPT parties will never consider their actions legitimate.

The bottom line is that the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is fundamental to national and regional security and international stability. Its preservation is critically important to building a durable world order. Success can only benefit all; failure can only cause all to lose. Progress toward the NPT's objectives is not always linear—it has been and will continue to be vulnerable to the international political and security environment in which the treaty exists. That reality imposes an obligation on the treaty's collective membership to be responsible in the demands that they make on treaty fulfillment while nevertheless always keeping their eyes on the ultimate prize: a world free of nuclear weapons.


Lawrence Scheinman, former assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for nonproliferation and regional arms control, is distinguished professor of international policy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.