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June 2, 2022
An Unequivocal Success? Implications of the NPT Review Conference

July/August 2000

By Tariq Rauf

For the first time in the 30-year history of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), states-parties adopted by consensus a fully negotiated final document calling for an "unequivocal undertaking" to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons and establishing agreed practical steps for further progress in nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.1 Comprising more than 150 paragraphs and covering all aspects of the NPT, as well as certain regional issues and the strengthened review process, the final document represents the collective word of the 187 states-parties regarding the future of the NPT.

The review conference was the first since the historic 1995 NPT review and extension conference, which extended the treaty indefinitely while committing states-parties to a strengthened review process, "principles and objectives" for nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, and a resolution on the Middle East. The lack of arms control progress made during the review period (1995-2000) had engendered fears of a failed 2000 conference with all the attendant consequences for sustaining the NPT system. Among the negative developments were three failed Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) sessions in 1997, 1998, and 1999; a standstill in the U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear reduction process; the implications of U.S. missile defense plans; the stalemate at the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD); the May 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan; the failure of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to enter into force; and the reaffirmation of nuclear weapons doctrines, as well as domestic opposition to nuclear arms reductions, in the United States and Russia.

The conference's principal task was to review the implementation of the NPT and its operation since the 1995 review conference, taking into account the decisions and resolution adopted by that conference. It also endeavoured to search for ways to break the current arms control impasse by identifying benchmarks and objectives for the 2000-2005 period, including substantive practical steps for nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, safeguards and export controls, peaceful nuclear cooperation, universal adherence to the treaty, and further strengthening the review process.

In this the conference succeeded, producing a document that reviewed the 1995-2000 period and listed "practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts" to implement the NPT's nuclear disarmament obligations, as well as measures pertaining to the treaty's non-proliferation and safeguards obligations. As a result, the 2000 NPT review conference has been widely hailed as a major development, constituting a boost to the global arms control and non-proliferation process at the start of the new century. Coming in the aftermath of the body blow delivered to the NPT regime by the South Asian nuclear tests, the conference successfully reaffirmed the treaty's crucial significance for nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, and international cooperation for the peaceful uses of the atom.

However, the final document was achieved only because deep differences between states on several crucial matters were papered over—issues such as missile defense, nuclear doctrines, and treaty compliance. The document's successful conclusion was also aided by the inclusion of language that was sufficiently ambiguous to enable all sides to claim victory.

Despite the conference's relative success, therefore, the prognosis remains bleak for implementation of the agreed practical steps for nuclear disarmament during the next five-year review period. Indeed, at the Conference on Disarmament, the nuclear-weapon states (NWS) have already started to retreat from the flexible positions they displayed at the conference toward more rigid ones. This backtracking and intransigence could create more problems over the next five years than it has in the past because there are now officially sanctioned benchmarks by which to measure the nuclear-weapon states' progress on disarmament.


The Conference

The important issues that were successfully addressed at the conference include nuclear disarmament, treaty compliance and universality, and the effectiveness of the strengthened review process. These issues provided plenty of fodder for disagreement that could have derailed the conference, but still the conference managed to reach consensus on both a backward-looking review and forward-looking recommendations. Determining the viability and longevity of the solutions requires analyzing how the states-parties reached compromise on these major issues. Nuclear Disarmament

Article VI of the NPT, which contains the treaty's nuclear disarmament obligations, has been the make-or-break issue at all previous review conferences because the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) fundamentally disagree over the pace and extent of nuclear arms reductions and over Article VI's linkage of nuclear disarmament with general and complete disarmament.

At the 1995 review conference, the states party to the NPT had agreed to a three-part program of action on the full realization and effective implementation of Article VI. It included conclusion of a CTBT before the end of 1996; immediate commencement of negotiations at the CD on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; and pursuit of "progressive and systematic efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons," as well as pursuit of general and complete disarmament.

At the 2000 conference, frustration among the NNWS concerning disarmament was at its highest in many years because of the lack of progress in arms control during the review period. In addition, the three 1997-1999 sessions of the PrepCom had all witnessed inconclusive and acrimonious debate on nuclear disarmament, resulting in an exacerbation of the differences between the nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, effectively poisoning the atmosphere for the review conference. It is therefore not surprising that nuclear disarmament was the most important item of work before the states-parties when they convened on April 24 for the conference's opening.

In the lead-up to the review conference, several CD delegations had actively but inconclusively debated behind the scenes on the merits of a 2000 version, or update, of the 1995 "principles and objectives" for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. At the beginning of the review conference itself, states and groups of states presented specific proposals on nuclear disarmament. Some common themes emerged in the views expressed by the NNWS, including concern over the slow pace of nuclear disarmament, delay in the CTBT's entry into force, continuing deadlock at the CD, the lack of transparency in the nuclear-weapon states' nuclear arsenals, an absence of legally binding negative security assurances from the NWS, the lack of a mechanism within the CD for substantive discussion on nuclear disarmament, and concern over non-strategic nuclear weapons not yet being a part of any formal control or reduction arrangement.

Among the NNWS, the New Agenda Coalition (NAC)—a grouping of states that cuts across traditional regional associations and includes Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden—presented the most far-reaching proposition on nuclear disarmament. The coalition proposed identifying "areas in which" and "means through which" future progress should be sought on nuclear disarmament.2 This proposal drew from New Agenda Coalition-sponsored UN General Assembly resolutions in 1998 and 1999 that had garnered the support of well over 100 countries.3 A key demand of the coalition was for the NWS to "make an unequivocal undertaking" to totally eliminate their nuclear arsenals and to "engage in an accelerated process of negotiations" during the upcoming 2000-2005 review period.

In addition, the coalition called for early and interim steps: including, adaptation of nuclear postures to preclude the use of nuclear weapons; dealerting and removal of warheads from delivery vehicles; reductions in tactical nuclear weapons leading to their elimination; greater transparency with regard to nuclear arsenals and fissile material inventories; and irreversibility in removing excess fissile material from weapons programs and in all nuclear disarmament, nuclear arms reduction, and nuclear arms control measures. They also wanted an appropriate subsidiary body in the CD with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament and the rapid negotiation and conclusion of legally binding security assurances for NNWS party to the treaty.

The New Agenda Coalition proposal went far beyond the demands of traditional nuclear disarmament advocates in the Western group—Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Norway—but was less extreme than the Non-Aligned Movement's (NAM) oft-repeated demand for a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament. The New Agenda Coalition's ambitious and determined stance among the NNWS made it the most credible and effective group for negotiating on nuclear disarmament issues and, for all practical purposes, marginalized the others.

In their statements in the opening plenary session and in Main Committee I, which dealt with nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, the NWS each outlined their views.4 The United States gave an extended description of its nuclear disarmament record and a churlish retort to the demands of the NNWS. It also demanded acknowledgment of the many steps it has taken to reduce nuclear weapons. Russia warned against serious new threats to international security and stability and underlined the significance of maintaining the ABM Treaty as the key element of strategic stability and as an important condition for strategic weapons reductions. Russia also described its efforts at nuclear reductions and outlined an initiative to deal with missile proliferation. For its part, China reiterated its arms control record and warned about missile defenses and the weaponization of outer space. The United Kingdom and France each outlined their unilateral reductions, ratification of the CTBT, moratoria on fissile material production for weapons, and reduced nuclear capabilities and postures. France also cautioned that deploying missile defenses could lead to a breakdown in the strategic equilibrium.

During the 1997 PrepCom, the five nuclear-weapon states had joined together in issuing a common statement on their commitment to the NPT and to its nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation obligations, but given the differences that had emerged since then between the United States and Russia and China over missile defense, NATO expansion, and non-UN sanctioned use of force, it was not expected that they would be able to agree to a common statement at the review conference. Indeed, China had informally indicated that it would not support any NWS common statement at the conference. However, France took on the task of coordinating and securing agreement on a NWS common statement.

After difficult negotiations in New York (and in Beijing, Moscow, and Washington), a joint NWS statement was released on May 1.5 The 23-paragraph document covered nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, nuclear-weapon-free zones, nuclear energy, and safeguards. For more than two years, most of the NWS had strenuously resisted any reference to an "unequivocal undertaking" to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, as demanded by the New Agenda Coalition. But in a deft move designed to disarm the coalition, the NWS stole the term "unequivocal" and referred to their own "unequivocal commitment" to fulfilling their NPT obligations and to the ultimate goals of a complete elimination of nuclear weapons and general and complete disarmament. The statement also noted that none of the nuclear-weapon states targets nuclear weapons at any other state, and it reiterated their view that, in accordance with the treaty, India and Pakistan do not have the status of nuclear-weapon states. The statement stressed that India and Pakistan should implement UN Security Council Resolution 1172, which was issued in response to the two countries' nuclear tests.

The NWS statement also called for the preservation and strengthening of the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further strategic offensive reductions. With this formulation, the United States mitigated the role that Chinese and Russian opposition to national missile defense could have played at the conference. Furthermore, the statement referred to negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), but placed it in the context of an agreed work program for the CD. This formulation had the effect of accepting or legitimizing China's position at the CD. (China refuses to agree to a program of work for the CD, a prerequisite for any negotiations, unless the program allows for negotiations on the non-weaponization of space, which the United States opposes.) Many NNWS remained sceptical of the nuclear-weapon states' commitment to making rapid, substantial progress on nuclear disarmament and concluded that the statement was driven by political expediency to seek a successful conclusion to the conference, rather than by a commitment to the disarmament process.

It was under these circumstances regarding different positions and demands on nuclear disarmament that Main Committee I proceeded with reviewing the implementation record under Articles I and II on nuclear proliferation and Article VI—the conference's so-called backward look. In the committee, many countries expressed regret at the U.S. Senate's October 1999 rejection of the CTBT and noted the deleterious implications that U.S. plans to deploy a national missile defense would have for further nuclear arms reductions. All quarters strongly criticized the Indian-Pakistani nuclear tests and called for the implementation of Resolution 1172 and for India and Pakistan not to be recognized as nuclear-weapon states or to be accorded any other status. Israel's nonadherence to the NPT and operation of unsafeguarded nuclear facilities were roundly criticized by the Arab states and the NAM, and was noted by several Western states, with all urging Israel to join the NPT and accept safeguards under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

There was bitter disagreement over the pace and extent of nuclear disarmament during the past five years. While the nuclear-weapon states, excluding China, demanded due recognition of their nuclear arms reductions, the NAM and the New Agenda Coalition pressed for an undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons—a call that was joined by several Western states, including some NATO members. China and Russia conditioned their acceptance of any new disarmament and transparency measures on the continued viability of the ABM Treaty, and the NAM recalled the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and its unanimous finding regarding the obligation to pursue and to conclude negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

Discussion and negotiation on practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts on nuclear disarmament—the conference's so-called forward look—took place in Subsidiary Body 1, which divided its work into two parts. One dealt with completion of unfinished business (such as the entry into force of the CTBT, negotiation of a FMCT, and completion of the START process), and the other addressed further measures and steps to be taken toward nuclear disarmament.

After producing previous drafts, on May 11, the subsidiary body submitted—in the words of its chair, Ambassador Clive Pearson of New Zealand—a "finely balanced" 17-paragraph draft document to Main Committee I for consideration. It called for the CTBT's early entry into force, a moratorium on all nuclear explosions pending the treaty's entry into force, negotiation in the CD of a fissile material cutoff treaty, agreement in the CD on a program of work, and for a subsidiary body in the CD with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament.

The document also called upon the NWS to bring about the entry into force and full implementation of START II, early conclusion of START III, the preservation and strengthening of the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further strategic offensive weapons reductions, increased transparency in nuclear arsenals and fissile material inventories, annual reports under the strengthened review process on the implementation of Article VI and the 1995 program of action, further reductions in tactical nuclear weapons leading to their total elimination, dealerting and deactivation of nuclear weapons systems, a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies, engagement of all five nuclear-weapon states in a process leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, further development of verification capabilities to monitor nuclear disarmament, and an "unequivocal undertaking" to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear weapons and to engage in accelerated negotiations during the 2000-2005 period. At Russia's insistence, there was no less than four references to strategic stability, each conditioning an action item.

While Subsidiary Body I's draft report,6 which drew heavily from the NAC working paper on nuclear disarmament, became the operational document for further negotiation on a forward look, Main Committee I's report on a backward look remained mired in disagreement. As the pace and intensity of negotiations picked up to resolve differences, Russia and China continued to express their opposition to national missile defense by conditioning action items on the maintenance of "strategic stability."

China expressed reservation about greater transparency on nuclear weapons and promoted no first use, while the United States, Russia, and France resisted further measures on nuclear disarmament and the United Kingdom opposed the reference to the 2000-2005 time frame. Reportedly, the nuclear-weapon states, minus China, objected to the reference to an "unequivocal undertaking" to accomplish nuclear disarmament and rejected a call (targeted at subcritical experiments) suggesting that a purpose of the CTBT is to prevent the further development of nuclear weapons. Apparently, this resistance continued even after direct references were made to statements the nuclear-weapon states had made to the contrary at the CD in 1996 during the CTBT negotiations.7 The NWS prevailed in rejecting any such reference.

After further protracted negotiations on subsequent drafts, a revised version of the Subsidiary Body 1 paper, negotiated between the NWS and the NAC, was discussed on May 16 in a special forum of more than 35 countries convened by the conference president. Some NATO members complained that in the course of negotiations following the earlier drafts, the text had become too watered down with regard to transparency, FMCT negotiations, and non-strategic nuclear weapons. Some of the NWS argued among themselves and also with the NNWS on strategic stability, tactical nuclear weapons, transparency, and an "unequivocal undertaking" on nuclear disarmament. The New Agenda Coalition and the NAM continued to object to the conditions that references to strategic stability effectively placed on the nuclear-weapon states' commitment to implementing disarmament measures.

In effect, the major contention became the nuclear-weapon states' refusal to accept operational measures to reduce nuclear weapons and increase transparency and accountability unless there were escape clauses referring to strategic stability and undiminished security. These became buzz words for the perceived right of the NWS to retain nuclear weapons indefinitely and to undertake nuclear arms reductions at a level, pace, and context determined solely by them, irrespective of their NPT obligations, their commitments made in 1995 to secure the treaty's indefinite extension, and the International Court of Justice's 1996 opinion. On the other side were the non-nuclear-weapon states, led by the New Agenda Coalition, with supporting roles played by the NAM, the NATO-5 (an informal group comprised of Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway), and several individual countries. They demanded rapid progress in nuclear arms reductions as well as increased transparency involving all five nuclear-weapon states, early implementation of agreed treaties, and the preservation of the integrity of treaties already in force.

Given the lack of progress in resolving outstanding differences in Main Committee I and Subsidiary Body 1, a series of private, behind-the-scenes meetings involving the five nuclear-weapon states and the seven members of the New Agenda Coalition was organized during the last part of the conference's final week. This interaction began with an attempt to hammer out differences over the report of Main Committee I (the backward look), but the meetings were soon extended to include the report of Subsidiary Body 1 (the forward look). Norway was asked to moderate these negotiations between "the 12," but its role was limited to serving simply as a chair and identifying speakers from the NWS and NAC. Reportedly, Canada was invited to sit in as an observer, since the notion of a NWS-NAC direct interaction had first been proposed during a Canadian luncheon. Later on, the Netherlands (as a member of the NATO-5) and Indonesia (in its role as the NAM's coordinator on disarmament) also participated as observers.

After prolonged negotiations between the nuclear-weapon states and the New Agenda Coalition—as well as two consultative sessions organized by the conference president—deep differences still separated the two sides. However, after a late night of negotiation on May 16, Russia reversed its position on the following day and accepted the package of steps identified in the May 16 draft of the forward look on nuclear disarmament, despite serious misgivings about the future of the ABM Treaty and the nuclear arms reduction process. In its acceptance, Russia strongly emphasized the references to the importance of the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further nuclear weapons reductions, the pursuit of nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability, and the principle of undiminished security as governing its future actions in the field.

Russia's acceptance in turn forced the hand of France, which had been holding out against adopting commitments on future steps because it felt that it had undertaken more far-reaching measures than the other nuclear-weapon states, including, for example, the closure of its national test site and fissile material production facilities for nuclear weapons purposes. France protected its position by noting that the commitment to an "unequivocal undertaking" was in the context of the "checks and balances" of Article VI.

Given that both the United States and the United Kingdom had earlier expressed their preference for accepting the renegotiated compromise text, China was left as the only nuclear-weapon state unprepared to join the agreement. China's concerns related to the call for increased transparency in nuclear weapons capabilities and the lack of any reference to no first use of nuclear weapons, but after some small changes to the proposed language—such as the inclusion of the term "as a voluntary confidence-building measure" in reference to transparency measures—it too accepted the text because it did not want to shoulder the blame for a failed conference. The reformulated product of Subsidiary Body 1 was agreed in principle on May 17 and following further negotiated revisions, ended up as paragraph 15 under Article VI in the final document once all the other states accepted it.

This agreement between the nuclear-weapon states and the New Agenda Coalition was hailed as a watershed in the life of the conference because it brought agreement on a final document within the realm of possibility. The New Agenda Coalition declared the agreement a major accomplishment because they had prevailed in getting the NWS to accept an "unequivocal undertaking" to the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals and several operational measures regarding their nuclear capabilities.

Other states were not as jubilant. Several expressed their discomfort at a process whereby 12 countries had negotiated the forward look and its practical steps without transparency or consultation. They also correctly observed that the New Agenda Coalition had greatly weakened its own demands by accepting compromises on FMCT negotiations, which were conditioned by references to an agreed work program at the CD. The New Agenda Coalition had also agreed to drop references to concluding FMCT and accelerating nuclear disarmament negotiations during the 2000-2005 period as well as a call for a moratorium on producing fissile material. Dissatisfied states also noted that the "unequivocal undertaking" on nuclear disarmament was conditioned by Article VI and thus, according to the nuclear-weapon states' interpretation, to general and complete disarmament.

In sum, the 15 paragraphs under Article VI in the final document represent a high watermark in the history of the NPT; for the first time, the nuclear-weapon states accepted a series of specific practical steps for nuclear disarmament leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Despite its weaknesses and compromises, such as the lack of any time frame, this text played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the review conference.

Once it was realized that agreement would be reached on the forward look, reacting to pressure from the conference president and driven by a motivation that agreement on a final document might be within reach, states quickly reached the necessary compromises on a 14-paragraph backward look for the report of Main Committee I. This review noted that despite achievements in nuclear arms reductions, many thousands of nuclear weapons still remained deployed or stockpiled; welcomed the signing of the CTBT and its ratifications to date; noted the UN secretary-general's proposal to convene an international conference on eliminating nuclear dangers; and noted the 1996 advisory opinion of the ICJ, among other issues. However, it remained silent on the nuclear tests conducted by China and France in 1995 and 1996, the U.S. Senate's rejection of the CTBT, and the fact that the 1995 program of action had still not been fulfilled.

As Ambassador Abdallah Baali (Algeria), the conference president) noted in his concluding statement: "Our results may not appear commensurate with the magnitude of the tasks and challenges facing us and the expectations of the international community. However, these results must be seen against the background of the prevailing political circumstances."

Regional Issues

During the entire PrepCom process, the Arab states and the NAM had pressed for the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. At the last session of the PrepCom, Egypt and its Arab allies had pushed for the establishment of a subsidiary body at the review conference to address this resolution. On the eve of the conference and after sustained opposition, the United States finally agreed.

The mandate for the entity, dubbed Subsidiary Body 2, was accepted on April 24 but reflected a compromise and was therefore convoluted. Reportedly, the United States had argued that any consideration of the Middle East resolution also had to include consideration of non compliance issues, meaning Iraq's former weapons of mass destruction programs, while Egypt wanted to limit the body's sphere of activity to Israel. In the end, it was agreed that two of the subsidiary body's four sessions would focus on the Middle East, one would deal with other regions, and the last would finalize the body's report.

The objective of Egypt and its allies was to secure a clear and direct reference to the non-accession of Israel to the NPT, to the existence of its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, and to the consequent threat posed to the region, as well as the lack of progress in achieving a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. On the other side, the United States wanted to secure a clear reference to Iraq's continuing noncompliance with its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 687 and IAEA safeguards. The United States was reportedly prepared to accept a call on Israel to join the NPT and conclude IAEA safeguards, but it insisted on a reference to Iraq's non compliance. It also wanted to list by name all states in the region that had yet to conclude safeguards agreements with the IAEA. The Arab states were interested only in referring to Israel by name and reportedly told the United States that it was responsible for finding language on Iraq that was acceptable to all, including Baghdad.

Other states such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and South Africa were interested in securing a strong call on India and Pakistan to abide by Resolution 1172 and to implement a series of confidence-building measures, including moratoria on further testing and fissile material production for weapons. South Korea and the United States wanted a reference to North Korea, but given the upcoming North-South summit, Seoul was not interested in pushing for strong language.

Chaired by Canada, Subsidiary Body 2 considered several drafts of a deftly constructed text that tried to reach a delicate balance between references to Israel and Iraq and South Asia. Paragraphs referring to a mechanism to monitor implementation of the 1995 Middle East resolution were highly contentious.

By May 16, compromise text was available on all aspects of the subsidiary body's mandate except for references to Israel's accession to the NPT, a mechanism for the implementation of the Middle East resolution, and Iraq's compliance. By May 19, the subsidiary body had agreed to language for all these issues expect the reference to Iraq. But this remaining dispute was of crucial importance—the United States would not accept the reference to Israel without text on Iraq.

A U.S.-Iraqi standoff ensued, focusing on how to characterize Baghdad's activities. The United States regarded Iraq as a noncompliant state that had forfeited its right to participate in NPT review negotiations until it resumed full and continuous compliance with its obligations under Resolution 687 and IAEA safeguards. On the other side, Iraq wanted favorable references to the January 2000 IAEA inspection it had allowed and did not want any reference to Resolution 687. This issue had come up earlier, when the Arab states, China, France, and Russia had argued that safeguards-compliance issues should be taken up in Main Committee II, which dealt with safeguards and nuclear-weapon-free zones. The United States responded that it preferred discussion of noncompliance both in the main committee and in the subsidiary body. In the end, the conference president ruled that both forums would consider the matter.

By 10 minutes to midnight on May 19, the last scheduled day of the conference, the dispute had not yet been resolved, so the clock was stopped and further consultations went on to settle the deadlock. (The stratagem of stopping the clock at the last minute of the official final day is a well-known diplomatic device to provide a few extra hours or even days to conclude negotiations and reach last-minute compromises in multilateral conferences.) The problem was reportedly further complicated by the United States' refusal to talk directly with Iraq, which necessitated "proximity talks." These involved the Subsidiary Body 2 chairman relaying messages and drafts between the two adversaries. Unconfirmed reports circulated that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had called upon her Russian and French counterparts to pressure Baghdad into backing down.

Just prior to 4:30 a.m. on May 20, when it appeared that the conference would not be able to break the deadlock, a last-gasp draft prepared by Canada was reportedly relayed to Iraq and was surprisingly accepted. The conference president had apparently convinced Iraq that it was truly isolated and had made its point, thus weakening its resistance to compromise.

Following Iraq's acceptance, the pressure was on the United States to accept the revised text as well and thus enable the conference to adopt its reports. Given the continuing stalemate at this late hour and remaining ignorant of recent developments, several Western ambassadors reportedly announced their intention to call it quits and return to Geneva. However, the NAM, aware that Iraq had accepted the new text, proposed adjourning until 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. In the end, the small group of Western ambassadors wanting to rush back to the "hectic action" at the CD compromised and the conference adjourned, but not before some ill-considered proposals were reportedly made to the president. Some states, including a New Agenda Coalition member, wanted the president to ram through a decision on the conference report, even in the face of a lack of consensus, or to call a snap vote (in the belief that Iraq was totally isolated). Fortunately, the president rejected all these misguided proposals and held out for a consensus report.

Under pressure not to allow the conference to fail, and perhaps to counter allegations in some quarters that it had never been serious about accepting the nuclear disarmament commitments and that it wanted to scupper the results using Iraq as a scapegoat, the United States eventually agreed to a slightly modified version of the latest draft text on Iraq, following high-level intervention from Washington. In the end, the United States prevailed in deleting a reference to "the full cooperation of Iraq" with respect to the IAEA's January 2000 inspection of nuclear material in that country, and in inserting a reference to Iraq's lack of compliance with its obligations under Resolution 687.

At noon on May 20, this final compromise fell into place, enabling the Subsidiary Body 2 chairman to announce agreement on his group's report to a hushed NPT membership gathered in the UN General Assembly Hall. Agreement on Subsidiary Body 2's report allowed the NPT parties to call on Israel by name to join the treaty for the first time in the NPT's history, meaning that Israel, along with India and Pakistan, will be regularly urged to join the global non-proliferation norm at future NPT meetings. It may also signal the beginning of the end of the United States and other Western states' amnesia concerning Israeli participation in the NPT and other nuclear arms control forums. On the other hand, unlike the calls on India and Pakistan, Israel was not enjoined to refrain from further production of fissile material for weapons or ballistic missile tests.

Strengthened Review Process

A key decision adopted by the 1995 review conference was to strengthen the treaty's review process. This was accomplished by giving the Preparatory Committee a mandate to focus on substantive matters and make recommendations to the review conference on principles, objectives, and ways of promoting the NPT's full implementation, in addition to completing procedural arrangements. While completing practically all of the review conference's procedural arrangements, the 1997-1999 PrepCom sessions failed to agree on any substantive recommendations. Some non-nuclear-weapon states accused the nuclear-weapon states of deliberately obstructing the full realization of the strengthened review process, while the NWS maintained that the NNWS had harbored unrealistic expectations.

Given the growing sense of frustration among some non-nuclear-weapon states regarding the failure of the strengthened review process, a number of NNWS expressed concern during the conference. Several common themes were discernible in the papers of Australia, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, and Norway. For example, all shared a commitment to enhancing accountability by reinforcing the strengthened review process. Australia, Canada, and Japan also argued that it was unacceptable for the PrepCom to have been unable to comment on events affecting the treaty's purpose, such as the 1998 South Asian nuclear tests.

Several states tabled proposals on the strengthened review process. Canada, the Netherlands, and Norway suggested holding a PrepCom in each of the four years between the five-year review conferences, with a view to promoting continuous monitoring of the treaty's implementation and the outcomes of the 1995 conference. Ireland proposed holding an annual conference of states-parties, instead of PrepComs, that would meet for a period of four days. Nigeria wanted a "management board" to serve as a permanent secretariat for the treaty, and Iran proposed a "compliance monitoring mechanism." China argued that the 1995 decision on the strengthened review covered only the years 1995 to 2000, but it did not push this interpretation further when it received no endorsement.

In the end, the conference reaffirmed, clarified, and enhanced the mandate of the PrepCom. It decided that the first two sessions of the PrepCom (starting in 2002) would be able to consider specific substantive matters relating to the treaty's implementation, the strengthened review process, the 1995 "principles and objectives," and the Resolution on the Middle East. These first two sessions, as well as following sessions, will also consider "the outcomes of subsequent Review Conferences [such as the final document of the 2000 conference], including developments affecting the operation and purpose of the Treaty."

The final document mandates that "consideration of the issues" at each PrepCom session should be factually summarized and the results transmitted in a report to the next session for further discussion. The conference decided that at its third or, if appropriate, fourth session, the PrepCom should "make every effort to produce a consensus report containing recommendations to the review conference." The PrepCom sessions can also allocate specific time to address relevant issues, and the review conference can establish subsidiary bodies for the same purpose. In addition, nongovernmental organizations will be allocated a meeting at each PrepCom session and review conference to address states-parties. Furthermore, the final document requires the PrepCom to consider reports on the implementation of Article VI and paragraph 4(c) of the "principles and objectives," both of which deal with nuclear disarmament. The final document also requires consideration of reports on steps undertaken by states-parties to promote "a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction" and the realization of the 1995 Middle East resolution.



A number of factors came into play to allow the conference parties, which held varying and diverse views, to compromise and successfully conclude a consensus document. Once such factor was the commitment and unrelenting confidence and optimism of Conference President Baali. By securing agreement on divisive procedural issues, such as convening subsidiary bodies prior to the start of the conference, by stipulating the number of committee and subsidiary body meetings, and by setting an early deadline for the submission of draft reports, the conference president ensured that enough time would be available in the final week to hammer out the final compromises on seemingly intractable issues.

Baali's seeming lack of experience in the nuclear field also helped him push issues and players during the conference. Lacking baggage in the field, Baali was more inclined to push for outcomes without preferences for one over another.

Furthermore, the president's advance consultations and preparations, consultations during the conference itself, together with openness and transparency, strengthened his hand in letting the committee chairs continue with their efforts to seek consensus. By avoiding traditional presidential-sanctioned back-room negotiations involving a few countries working on the final products, Baali maintained the confidence of the conference and forced the hardliners to expose and play their hands in the open. Finally, the president did not give up even in the face of stubborn deadlock, and in the end, his efforts were rewarded as states, seeing a final document within reach, gave in and made the final necessary compromises.

The efforts of the chairs of the main committees and subsidiary bodies were also instrumental in achieving success. Of these, Canada's Ambassador Christopher Westdal, chairman of Subsidiary Body 2, was the most indefatigable, determined and patient, persevering until the very end to secure a breakthrough. By mid-morning on May 19, the fate of the conference rested in his hands in terms of resolving the deadlock between the United States and Iraq. Despite some pressure from frustrated delegates late into that night, Westdal prevailed in his efforts and ultimately succeeded in brokering the compromise that allowed the few other unresolved pieces to fall into place, thus enabling the conference to adopt its hard-won final document. Ambassador Clive Pearson of New Zealand, Subsidiary Body I's chairman, also played a crucial role. He guided his group through its forward-look on nuclear disarmament, and after several long and arduous meetings, was able to craft a "finely balanced" document that provided the basis for the NWS-New Agenda Coalition compromise.

After achieving their major goals, states showed flexibility that also played a key role in the conference's success. Once an internal compromise had been struck on the controversial issues of U.S. national missile defense plans and the CD's work program, none of the nuclear-weapon states wanted to carry the blame for a failed conference. The U.S. delegation came to the conference well prepared and apparently ready to show greater flexibility than it had during the PrepCom sessions. The compromise it struck with Russia and China allowed it to successfully meet its principal goal of deflecting attention from the missile defense issue. The United States also demonstrated unusual flexibility and pragmatism on the question of the Middle East.

Having recently ratified START II and the CTBT, Russia was not interested in bringing down the conference on missile defense or nuclear disarmament once its positions had been protected. Similarly, China did not want to be isolated among the NWS by holding out against transparency or missile defense. Since it achieved the compromise text that it wanted, it too joined in the consensus. The United Kingdom and France wanted to be recognized for their various unilateral measures and CTBT ratifications and therefore did not oppose the compromises achieved.

Among the non-nuclear-weapon states, the New Agenda Coalition greatly compromised its positions until it succeeded in reaching agreement with the NWS on nuclear disarmament matters. This compromise resulted in success beyond the coalition's wildest dreams, as it secured agreement on "practical steps" and an "unequivocal undertaking" toward nuclear disarmament, and ensured that the NAC states would push for a successful outcome. The Arab states achieved their goals of having Israel named and requiring a reporting mechanism for progress on the implementation of the Resolution on the Middle East, and thus they too did not want a failed conference. Finally, the vast majority of the NNWS wanted a successful outcome as the agreed "practical steps" went beyond what they thought was achievable at the beginning of the conference.

The lone Iraqi ambassador also played a crucial role, though he protected his country's position until the very end and resisted heavy pressure. However, he had much to lose by infuriating the NPT membership with a failed conference, and so he too compromised.

The efforts of the conference officials and the flexibility shown by the states-parties allowed for a number of achievements. The 2000 conference successfully reaffirmed the primacy of the NPT in the global effort to curtail nuclear proliferation and to achieve nuclear disarmament. It also demonstrated the power of the concept of "permanence with accountability" and of the strengthened review process. The members of the treaty were united in opposing challenges to the regime posed by India, Israel, and Pakistan as nonadherents, and by North Korea and Iraq in terms of their compliance deficits. Most importantly, the practical steps for "systematic and progressive" efforts on nuclear disarmament that were agreed to could serve as a new agenda for action in the Conference on Disarmament and the UN General Assembly.

In addition, the final document contains well over 100 paragraphs dealing with other aspects of the treaty, such as strengthened safeguards,, compliance, the authority of the IAEA in implementing safeguards and technical assistance cooperation, effective physical protection of all nuclear material, the highest possible standards of nuclear safety, efficacy of and transparency in export controls, the safe transport of radioactive materials, radiological protection and radioactive waste management, conversion of military nuclear materials to peaceful uses, nuclear-weapon-free zones, non-recognition of any new nuclear-weapon states, and universal adherence to the treaty.

Unfortunately, recent developments within and outside the CD suggest that the nuclear-weapon states already seem to be backing away from implementation of the "practical steps," leading to growing suspicion among both NPT parties and non-parties that the NWS agreed to the steps out of political convenience rather than out of a commitment to the NPT's disarmament obligations. Both Russia and China have indicated at the CD that addressing the weaponization of outer space—a possibility that could result from U.S. missile defense deployments—is their principal priority and must be a part of the CD's work program. Apparently, France has indicated that the "practical steps" need to be considered in terms of the conditions noted in the text and that a FMCT, not nuclear disarmament, is its priority. The CD, therefore, remains deadlocked.

Reportedly, the United States is willing to commence FMCT negotiations immediately and may be prepared to have discussions on nuclear disarmament, but it remains opposed to actual negotiations on the weaponization of outer space. Instead, it is continuing with its controversial national missile defense development and testing program despite warnings not only from Russia and China, but also from many of its closest allies, regarding the negative implications for nuclear disarmament and a possible new nuclear arms race. Given the highly charged missile defense debate during the presidential campaign in the United States, it is unlikely that the outgoing Clinton administration will undertake new arms control initiatives during its last six months in office. Nor is it likely that a future Republican president will abandon the idea of national missile defense. Thus, instead of demonstrating leadership, the United States will probably remain in a status quo mode, slowing progress in the implementation of START II and the negotiation of START III, as well as lowering the chances of breaking the logjam at the CD.

For many, if not most, of the non-nuclear-weapon states, the "practical steps" agreed to at the 2000 review conference provided benchmarks by which to measure the nuclear-weapon states' progress in living up to their disarmament obligations under the NPT. However, these steps also papered over deep differences on missile defenses, the ABM Treaty, and nuclear disarmament measures. Confidence in the continuing integrity of the NPT will be judged in the context of the NWS fulfilling these steps, and any backtracking will only serve to weaken the world's most successful and most widely adhered to arms control treaty. Given the paltry track record of the NWS and the built-in escape clauses, it is unlikely that the "practical steps" agreed to at this year's NPT review conference will be fulfilled by 2005, and thus the success of the 2000 conference may well have sowed the seeds for the failure of the next review conference. While the compromise reached at the 2000 NPT review conference has been lauded, it is the future actions of both the nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states that will demonstrate whether the conference was an unequivocal success.


Tariq Rauf is director of the International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has served as an adviser with Canada's delegation to NPT review conferences since 1990. The views expressed are his own.