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June 2, 2022
Observations From the 2000 NPT Review Conference
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November 2000

By Ambassador Norman A. Wulf

Some 24 hours after the 2000 review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) had been expected to conclude, the gavel fell in the late afternoon of May 20, approving a truly consensus, substantive final document. The United Nations issued a statement calling the conference's outcome a "historic consensus crucial to the security of all the peoples of the United Nations." On behalf of the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a group of states that has often demanded a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament, Indonesia stated that "there was renewed cause for optimism regarding the continued vitality of the NPT." Speaking for the seven-nation New Agenda Coalition (NAC), Mexico said it was leaving the conference "with greater faith in the prospects for disarmament."

The months leading up to the conference—the first since the treaty's indefinite extension in 1995—had been filled with dire predictions. The continued stalemate at the UN Conference on Disarmament, the U.S. Senate's failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the growing dispute over missile defenses, and disappointment with the pace of nuclear reductions had led to a general dissatisfaction among NPT states-parties. Many observers feared that that frustration would come to a head at the 2000 review conference, with disastrous consequences.

How, then, did the conference conclude a final document that won the support of all conference attendees? The willingness of the nuclear-weapon states to subordinate their differences to the greater imperative of the NPT's future, the understanding that there had been progress toward nuclear disarmament, and the support from key NPT non-nuclear-weapon states for realistic and balanced approaches to nuclear disarmament and regional issues all contributed to a successful conference. Certainly, all NPT review conferences are unique; circumstances, personalities, and expectations will vary. But there are lessons to be drawn from this conference that may be helpful to achieving a successful conference in 2005.

It is also important to examine the most important achievements of the final document and the lessons they contain. As with other multilateral conferences, an outcome was needed that offered all key groups an opportunity to achieve enough of their goals to discourage any from breaking consensus. The final document showcases areas of commonality that persisted even in a difficult atmosphere and that provide a base from which to work toward future multilateral and bilateral nuclear arms control.


How Did It Happen?

A number of issues could have upset the conference or led to deadlock, including the procedural framework for addressing issues of special interest, large discrepancies in the nuclear-weapon states' positions, and the method for reviewing the situation in the Middle East. The conclusion of a consensus final document was only made possible by a string of smaller successes that resolved these potential sticking points.

Subsidiary Bodies

The resolution of all procedural issues is one of the main objectives of the preparatory process leading up to NPT review conferences. In this, the three Preparatory Committee meetings prior to the 2000 review conference were largely, but not totally, successful. As the conference prepared to open April 24, the question of whether to create subsidiary bodies within the main committees of the conference continued to seriously divide the parties.

During the Preparatory Committee meetings, NPT states-parties had agreed that the work of the review conference would be organized into three main committees. Main Committee I would address Article VI issues; Main Committee II would deal with issues affecting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and regional concerns; and Main Committee III would address peaceful uses of nuclear energy. However, in addition to these, the Non-Aligned Movement had proposed creating two subsidiary bodies under the main committees to deal specifically with the controversial issues of the Middle East and nuclear disarmament. The United States was concerned that this procedural formula would place too much emphasis on these topics and lead to an unbalanced review of the treaty.

The United States was not comfortable with creating a subsidiary body to focus solely on the Middle East because it believed that the 1998 nuclear tests in South Asia were at least as important to the NPT regime as events in the Middle East. Egypt and other Arab states, while conceding that events in South Asia were important, argued that the Middle East had special status because a resolution on the Middle East had been adopted at the 1995 NPT conference. The problem was solved by creating a single subsidiary body within Main Committee II on regional issues, including those "with respect to the Middle East." And lastly, the appointment of an effective chairman was achieved with the selection of Ambassador Chris Westdal of Canada.

The United States also was uneasy with the notion of a subsidiary body specifically to address nuclear disarmament. Concern over duplicating the work of Main Committee I was allayed when it was agreed that the main committee would conduct the review of the past five years and the subsidiary body would produce the "forward look," or aspirations for the next five years. Moreover, we succeeded in expanding the focus of the subsidiary body to Article VI rather than the more narrow focus of nuclear disarmament. Article VI establishes the legal obligations of the nuclear-weapon states as well as imposes obligations on all NPT parties. With this task finished, our final concern was addressed when Ambassador Clive Pearson of New Zealand was identified as chairman.

Finally, a work program was established that allocated more time to meetings of Main Committees I and II than to meetings of their subsidiary bodies to help ensure that the subsidiary bodies did not dominate the conference and lead to an unbalanced review of the treaty. These steps eliminated real fears that the conference would become bogged down early on with procedural issues. Agreement to these subsidiary bodies and their chairmen on the eve of the conference created a positive atmosphere and provided perhaps the first indication that the conference would succeed.

Nuclear-Weapon States' Cooperation

Russian and Chinese opposition to U.S. national missile defense (NMD) policies, combined with the NATO airwar against Yugoslavia (including the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy), seriously challenged the prospects for cooperation at the conference among the nuclear-weapon states.

To emphasize its opposition to NMD, China had been preventing progress in the Conference on Disarmament. There was real concern that China would take a similar approach at the review conference by blocking any reference to negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty—one of three objectives identified in the "principles and objectives" decision from the 1995 NPT review and extension conference. Similarly, there was concern that Russia would block any favorable references to negotiations on strategic reductions beyond START II or that it would propose language opposing any amendment to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

Finding consensus among the nuclear-weapon states on certain arms control measures was also problematic because of asymmetries in their nuclear forces. However, assuming ABM language could be agreed upon, Russia and the United States, with larger forces, were quite prepared to discuss further reductions and the concept of fissile material excess to defense needs, while China was clearly not prepared to discuss either. The United Kingdom and France had undertaken unilateral measures to reduce their nuclear forces and infrastructure and were not prepared to consider further steps until U.S. and Russian force numbers were substantially lower.

Nevertheless, as the conference approached, the nuclear-weapon states consulted frequently and sought to work together pragmatically. With France in the chair, the nuclear-weapon states met for several months before the conference began, seeking to develop a common statement. There was no effort to eliminate their differences, but the five sought to operate on the basis of a rule that called for "no surprises." They identified areas of agreement and disagreement and decided they would try to avoid making invidious comparisons when putting forward their records of accomplishment on Article VI. (Only days before the conference opened, the Russian Duma approved START II and the CTBT, garnering universal approval and giving the conference a boost.)

But as the conference opened, the proposed U.S. national missile defense and its impact on the ABM Treaty remained a stumbling block. Negotiations continued throughout the first week of the conference seeking language that would be acceptable to all five countries. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, after giving their respective speeches to the conference, met in Washington during the first week of the conference. In the context of that visit, the two sides agreed to use the June 20, 1999, U.S.-Russian statement issued at Cologne, Germany, as a starting point for addressing the issue of missile defense and the ABM Treaty—an approach that soon led to U.S.-Russian agreement on the language. Resolution of this intractable problem allowed the five to quickly agree on a common statement, which was issued at the beginning of the second week.

This achievement was extremely important. The language on missile defense and the ABM Treaty in the common statement proved valuable later for achieving consensus on the same issue in the conference's final document. None of the nuclear-weapon states compromised its position on these issues, but by "papering over" their disagreements for their common statement, the nuclear-weapon states made it clear to all conference participants that their differences were unlikely to prevent the conference from achieving consensus. This message lent the conference additional momentum.

It was the recognition by the five nuclear-weapon states of the value of the NPT in curbing nuclear proliferation that provided the major impetus for them to work together. Regular consultations, before and during the conference, were essential lest their differences overwhelm that common interest. Certainly, their differing positions were not submerged, as any casual reading of Russian and Chinese plenary statements will show. But the nuclear-weapon states chose not to exploit their differences in a way that would have deadlocked the conference.

New Agenda Coalition

Going into the 2000 conference, it was clear that the proposals of the New Agenda Coalition, formed in 1998, would serve as the basis for addressing future progress on nuclear disarmament. And as the conference progressed, the countries in the coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden) played a key role in the deliberations that led to the compromises on nuclear disarmament.

The coalition signaled its willingness to work toward consensus at the beginning of the conference by tabling less extreme versions of proposals that it had put forward prior to the conference. The NAC's proposals identified "areas in which" and "means through which" future progress should be sought on nuclear disarmament and insisted that the nuclear-weapon states "make an unequivocal undertaking" to totally eliminate their nuclear arsenals. The Non-Aligned Movement's willingness to accept New Zealand, a member of the coalition, as chairman of the subsidiary body assigned to address the Article VI "forward look" suggested that the NAM was prepared to allow New Agenda Coalition proposals to occupy center stage (at the expense of its own, more radical proposals).

As chair of the subsidiary body on nuclear disarmament, Ambassador Pearson put forward compromise texts on many of the New Agenda Coalition's proposals, but on the "unequivocal" commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, it became clear that informal meetings between all members of the coalition and the five nuclear-weapon states would be necessary if an acceptable compromise was to be found. To prepare for that exercise, the United States suggested that the two groups meet Saturday, May 13 to discuss the draft text of Main Committee I's review of the developments of the past five years, the so-called backward look. This initial informal session worked quite well. Polemics were eschewed, constructive discussion took place, and the coalition and the nuclear-weapon states found that they could work together to address the issue.

As the conference proceeded, it became increasingly clear that if a conference officer chaired a meeting, then participation in that meeting would have to be open-ended. Equally clear by Wednesday of the last week was that no open-ended meeting could complete the work necessary in the time remaining. With the tacit acquiescence of conference President Abdallah Baali of Algeria, the seven coalition states and the five nuclear-weapon states met to negotiate the remaining issues related to Article VI. By May 18, the 12 had agreed in principle to a "forward look."

Because the results largely met their objectives, states not participating in these negotiations ultimately accepted the product of this unofficial exercise, but there was some uneasiness that a small group of nations, acting alone, had played such an important role. What some countries, particularly Japan, Australia, and the NATO non-nuclear-weapon states, could not know was how influential their proposals were to the overall outcome of this small group negotiation. And, quite simply, the alternative to this "five plus seven" negotiation would have been no consensus, substantive final document.

Looking back, it is clear that the regular bilateral U.S. consultations prior to the conference with the individual members of the New Agenda Coalition were very helpful. Through frank dialogue, the United States had made very clear which aspects of the coalition's proposals were unacceptable and why. Consultations with U.S. allies were also important in developing opposition to the more extreme elements of the coalition's "new agenda." It also was essential throughout the preparatory process to stress time and again that there had been substantial progress on Article VI notwithstanding delays in some areas and that the NPT was too important to our mutual security to put at risk because of disappointment that there had not been more progress.

Regional Issues

Extensive U.S.-Egyptian consultations before and during the conference helped establish a set of expectations about the handling of the Middle East and other regional issues. Consultations with other conference participants demonstrated that there was broad support for ensuring adequate attention to South Asia and North Korea, thereby avoiding an overemphasis on the Middle East. The Middle East nevertheless proved to be the conference's most intractable problem, despite the considerable skill of the Canadian diplomats in charge of Subsidiary Body 2, which was charged with regional issues.

Egypt and other Arab states wanted to see Israel mentioned by name in the final document for being the only non-NPT party in the Middle East. The U.S. delegation considered it unfair to discuss only Israeli nonadherence when addressing the Middle East given that the UN Security Council had found Iraq to be in noncompliance with the NPT. In addition, several Middle East countries had become parties to the NPT since the 1995 conference, several countries in the region had not yet concluded safeguards agreements with the IAEA, and one country, Jordan, had concluded an additional safeguards protocol with the IAEA. The United States believed all these actions were relevant and should be noted in order to obtain a comprehensive and impartial assessment of the entire region. In essence, we felt that if one country should be named, all countries should be named.

The U.S. strategy was to work assiduously with all Arab states to address their concerns. Language addressing nonadherence and naming Israel as the only non-NPT party in the Middle East was readily agreed to. Another section of the final document names all NPT parties, including Middle Eastern states, that have not concluded an IAEA safeguards agreement as required by Article III of the NPT.

By the evening of Friday, May 19, the only remaining issue was how to characterize Iraq's noncompliance. Iraq was isolated as it refused to accept anything other than a benign reference to the application of IAEA safeguards. Canada shuttled between the Iraqi and American delegations throughout the night, and the conference adjourned for a few hours around 5:00 a.m. Offices were then opened in Baghdad, allowing the Iraqis to calculate whether to frustrate the aspirations of the entire conference or to make some further wording concessions. Finally, shortly after the conference reconvened at 11:00 a.m. on May 20, Ambassador Westdal found language that was acceptable to both sides.

In the final analysis, Iraq did not want to frustrate the desire of the conference's other 157 NPT parties to adopt by consensus the final document language that had emerged on other issues. Advance consultations with Egypt proved pivotal in keeping the Middle East issue from wrecking the conference. However, the process worked only because the peace process looked hopeful at that point. It would have been virtually impossible to reach common ground with the rage and scale of violence that permeates the Middle East today. Nonetheless, the United States must continuously seek to persuade Arab states that the NPT review process is not the forum for pursuing political vendettas against Israel, including an unbalanced treatment of the Israeli nuclear program. Such a public strategy would not advance the cause of Middle East peace and would only compound the task of achieving Israeli adherence to the treaty.

U.S. Preparation

As with most things, proper preparation for the conference was essential to its success. Consultations with friends and allies in the months preceding the conference had amply demonstrated a widespread skepticism about the U.S. attitude toward nuclear arms control and disarmament. Some of the skepticism resulted from the Senate's rejection of the CTBT and from the then-looming decision regarding deployment of a limited national missile defense. Many states assumed that the United States had done nothing regarding nuclear arms reductions since START II was signed in 1993, and even that treaty had not yet entered into force.

Many of the arms control successes in the last decade have not taken the form of major, high-profile agreements. Rather, much of the progress has been made in a series of small steps: in cooperative threat reduction with Russia, in the unilateral downsizing of the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure, in the dismantlement of thousands of nuclear weapons, and in efforts to ensure the transparency and irreversibility of nuclear reductions. Even though the Clinton administration has wanted more rapid progress, significant reductions in deployed strategic nuclear forces have occurred through implementation of START I. Separately, these steps may seem inconsequential to many, but when aggregated, they clearly show the administration's continued commitment to the goals articulated in Article VI.

The challenge was to make this case to other NPT members. In the months leading up to the conference, many U.S. diplomatic posts conducted public and private diplomacy with their host governments to further our objectives. Support within the executive branch for the conference was widespread at all levels. The departments of Defense and Energy dedicated substantial resources to the effort throughout the preparatory period and at the conference itself, explaining to other governments the breadth of U.S. programs related to Article VI.

It was also important to demonstrate high-level U.S. interest in the NPT. President Clinton released a statement March 6 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the NPT's entry into force. In this statement and in a foreword to the Article VI publication released at the conference, the president made clear the continuing commitment of the United States to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. In addition to delivering the opening statement at the conference, Secretary Albright engaged key countries in support of the NPT prior to the conference, both in meetings and by letter, and she contributed an op-ed piece to the International Herald Tribune in early March, noting the NPT's 30th anniversary.


The Final Document

The final document adopted at the closing plenary meeting May 20 was indeed historic in the life of the NPT. For the first time, an NPT review conference had produced, by true consensus, a final document with comprehensive and substantive text that reviewed the treaty's operation and set future goals. Although the 1975 and 1985 conferences did reach agreement on final documents with substantive declarations, they did so through extraordinary means. This observation does not diminish the importance of those earlier conferences, but it helps to illustrate the uniqueness of the 2000 conference.

Even though ambiguous formulations were often used to bridge differences between the parties, the final document clearly sets forth a wide range of policies and actions that could lead to more effective implementation of the NPT. In many ways, the elements of the final document are a demonstration of common ground— the acknowledgment of shared attitudes not only about the ends, but also about the means of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. It is an ambitious agenda with many difficult challenges. It is up to the parties to find ways to move ahead.

Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament

For years, the United States has argued that nuclear disarmament will be achieved only through incremental steps, not through the negotiation of an all-encompassing treaty. The proposals advanced at the conference by the New Agenda Coalition—variations of which were eventually adopted in the final document—focused primarily on such incremental steps. Lest that approach be viewed as an abandonment of its ultimate objective, the coalition also sought (and obtained) reassurance from the nuclear-weapon states that the object of Article VI's reference to nuclear disarmament is the total elimination of all nuclear weapons and that the nuclear-weapon states remain committed to achieving that objective. As Mexican Ambassador Antonio de Icaza stated after the final document had been adopted, "What has always been implicit has now become explicit."

Some have suggested that the nuclear-weapon states accepted the Article VI language for the sake of expediency. I cannot speak for others, but for the United States nothing could be further from the truth. The United States has always accepted its Article VI obligation to work toward nuclear disarmament, and it has done so in the belief that effective nuclear arms control enhances U.S. and international security.

A number of important actions supportive of Article VI have already occurred since the review conference ended. In June, President Clinton and Russian President Putin signed a memorandum on the establishment of a Joint Data Exchange Center in Moscow to share early-warning data on missile launches. They also announced completion of a bilateral agreement on the management and disposition of weapons-grade plutonium withdrawn from their respective nuclear weapons programs and declared in excess of defense purposes. This agreement took effect September 1 and will help to ensure the irreversibility of nuclear weapons reductions by requiring that 68 tons of plutonium, 34 tons from each party, be disposed of in a manner that precludes its reuse in nuclear weapons.

The two presidents have also agreed on a Strategic Stability Cooperation Initiative for the further development of agreed measures to enhance strategic stability. Clinton and Putin reinforced the importance of further reducing nuclear weapons and agreed that the ABM Treaty serves as a cornerstone of strategic stability. The two sides will seek to ensure early entry into force and effective implementation of the CTBT. To promote transparency, they will seek to promote a technical exchange that will facilitate implementation of the CTBT once it enters into force.

Finally, mention must be made of President Clinton's September 1 announcement that he would not proceed with deployment of a limited missile defense because of insufficient information about the system's technical and operational effectiveness to move forward. NMD has been a source of intense disagreement between the United States and Russia, and the president's decision may contribute to progress with Russia on other nuclear arms control issues. Meanwhile, a robust program of development and testing will continue, and the next administration will consider a deployment decision.

Among the "practical steps" to implement Article VI included in the final document is a call on the Conference on Disarmament to promptly begin negotiations on a treaty to halt the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The delay is becoming intolerable to many. The final document also supports continued U.S.-Russian efforts to implement and negotiate nuclear force reductions while strengthening and preserving the ABM Treaty. The moratorium on nuclear explosive testing should continue and a way should be found to bring the CTBT into force. Appropriate steps should be taken on both negotiated and unilateral transparency measures. Ways should be found to promote the irreversibility of nuclear reductions, including submission of fissile material no longer needed for defense purposes to verification arrangements.

While there is no doubt that the United States will seek to move forward on the nuclear disarmament agenda set forth in the final document, it is important to introduce a cautionary note. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has pursued a very ambitious agenda of Article VI-related measures. But progress has not been as fast as desired on all aspects. Patience is an important commodity when dealing with the process of nuclear arms control—whether in negotiating complex treaties, building domestic support, or dealing with changes in the international security environment. Patience is not something that comes naturally to many advocates of nuclear disarmament, but it is necessary nonetheless.

Strengthened Review

Many came to the 2000 NPT review conference believing that the "strengthened review" process established in 1995 had failed. While the United States shared the frustration that the preparatory process had not produced agreed recommendations to the review conference, it believed that the preparatory process had been significantly strengthened. Indeed, it is difficult to conclude that the three meetings of the Preparatory Committee were a failure when the conference for which they prepared was such a success. Nonetheless, the United States recognized the frustration and approached the conference with some ideas for improvement.

The United States suggested that the 1995 conference decision on strengthened review did not require all three meetings of the Preparatory Committee to undertake the difficult task of developing recommendations to the conference. We floated the idea of having the first two meetings debate substance, with only the third making recommendations. Japan and Australia put forward a similar proposal. These proposals sought to address the reality that governments were not going to give their delegations the flexibility to join consensus on meaningful recommendations at preparatory meetings.

While reaffirming the 1995 strengthened review decision, the 2000 conference decided to adopt the approach suggested by the United States, Japan, and Australia. The conference also avoided making specific organizational prescriptions—an intelligent decision given that the strengthened review process is still at an early stage and rigidity would harm its evolution. The 1995 decision provided a good foundation for review and adequate flexibility to try a variety of approaches. The 2000 conference wisely preserves that flexibility, allowing future meetings to explore different approaches.

Regional Issues

The final document makes clear the importance of continued compliance by India and Pakistan with UN Security Council Resolution 1172, which demands that they refrain from further nuclear tests, and of North Korea coming into compliance with its NPT safeguards agreement. The conference also reaffirmed the importance of Israel's accession to the NPT and noted that, since inspectors left Iraq in December 1998, the IAEA has not been able to verify Iraq's compliance with its disarmament obligations under Security Council Resolution 687. It also noted that nine NPT parties in the Middle East have not completed their required safeguards agreements. These states are named along with others in a separate portion of the final document.

Some have suggested that the U.S. approach on the Middle East is to shield Israel from criticism, but the United States believes that the fundamental issue is fairness. If the Middle East is to be addressed as a region and if Israel is to be named for its nonadherence to the NPT, then other states in the region must be named if their policies have had an impact on the treaty. At the 1995 NPT conference, the United States was prepared to list Israel in the Middle East resolution along with other regional non-parties to the treaty (at that time, Djibouti, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates were not NPT members), but this approach was unacceptable to participants that did not want any Arab states named. The result was that the Middle East resolution from the 1995 NPT conference mentions no country by name.

The 2000 conference also recognized that the Middle East peace process contributes to achieving non-proliferation goals in the region and that NPT universality could be achieved more readily if regional security were improved in the Middle East and South Asia. These are important acknowledgments by the conference and should reinforce efforts to pursue regional approaches to reduce tensions and proliferation pressures.

Universality and Compliance

Support for adherence to the NPT by the four remaining non-parties (Cuba, India, Israel, and Pakistan) remains strong. The final document sends a clear signal that NPT parties will not compromise on the provision in the treaty that defines nuclear-weapon states only as those that had "manufactured and exploded" a nuclear device before January 1, 1967. The four non-parties will be eligible to join the treaty only by abandoning any unsafeguarded nuclear activities and becoming non-nuclear-weapon states. South Africa, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Argentina, and Brazil took these steps over the past decade. All NPT parties have the responsibility to implement policies that promote these principles, including not conferring legitimacy in any way on India or Pakistan for their 1998 nuclear tests.

As the treaty approaches the goal of universality, it is only natural that the question of compliance will be given even greater attention—particularly as the parties continue to grapple with the problems presented by Iraq and North Korea. Incidents of noncompliance can threaten the life of a treaty if they are not vigorously addressed and fully resolved. The conference outcome argues strongly in favor of political, technical, and economic support for institutional and other measures designed to detect, deter, and remedy noncompliance.

Safeguards and Export Controls

NPT parties clearly recognize the overarching importance of the IAEA, the primary institutional mechanism for ensuring compliance with the NPT's provisions. The IAEA provides an international window into the nuclear programs of NPT parties. It is currently monitoring the freeze on North Korea's program, and it implemented the nuclear aspects of the UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq. The final document makes clear the need for continued active efforts to bring into force all safeguards agreements required by the NPT and to adopt the new safeguards strengthening protocol with its focus on enhancing the ability to detect undeclared nuclear programs.

The conference urged adequate financial support for IAEA safeguards and for IAEA technical assistance to peaceful nuclear programs, the latter primarily for the benefit of developing countries party to the NPT. Policies adopted by major donor countries in recent years have left the IAEA with insufficient resources to fulfill its NPT safeguards obligations. As the IAEA's responsibilities have increased, the agency has had to defer some tasks and to plead for voluntary contributions outside the regular budget to meet critical needs. Given the direct security benefits of the IAEA, the United States and other leading supporters of the agency should evaluate their existing approach to funding the IAEA to ensure that it is not "penny wise and pound foolish."

The conference emphasized the central importance of nuclear export controls and reinforced the requirement in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Guidelines for full-scope IAEA safeguards in non-nuclear-weapon states as a condition of nuclear supply. By doing so, NPT parties again supported the principle that non-NPT parties should not be eligible for the same degree of assistance to civil nuclear programs as NPT parties in good standing. Reinforcement of this guideline is important given some who have questioned whether this principle should be relaxed for India and Pakistan, which have not accepted full-scope IAEA safeguards. The answer from NPT parties is clearly no. In that regard, the United States is seriously concerned about the recent Russian decision to supply fuel to India's Tarapur reactors. This decision not only runs counter to the sentiment expressed at the NPT review conference, but Russia's argument that the transfer does not violate NSG guidelines because of the exception for safety-related assistance is without merit.


Looking Ahead

Predictions are best left to fortune-tellers, but in looking forward to the 2005 NPT review conference, some key points need to be reinforced.

Because the first two meetings of the Preparatory Committee are not charged with developing agreed recommendations, the preparatory process for 2005 should be less divisive. This time should be used to address procedural questions and to exchange views on treaty implementation in a straightforward, non-polemical fashion, with particular emphasis on the forward-looking elements of the 2000 final document. Participants should take a lesson from this year's conference: much is possible if all parties avoid extreme proposals and work constructively toward pragmatic solutions. All parties should be mindful of their obligation to work toward meeting the goals set forth in the 2000 final document throughout this five-year period rather than waiting until 2004 to address the issues.

Consideration should be given to amending the NPT review conference rules of procedure to preclude participation in decision-making at future review conferences by states that have been found by the IAEA Board of Governors or the UN Security Council to have violated the NPT. Participation would not resume until a finding had been made that a violator was in compliance. This would ensure that a future violator of the NPT would not be able to hold a consensus hostage, as Iraq did this year.

The recent upheaval in the Middle East has reinforced the volatile nature of that region and offers no optimism about the likelihood of progress there on NPT goals by 2005. Similarly, in South Asia, India and Pakistan continue to delay action on concrete non-proliferation measures and cannot even agree to resume their bilateral dialogue. Regardless, all NPT parties must remain committed to the goals set forth in the 2000 final document and take any opportunity to pursue progress toward universality and to remedy cases of noncompliance. Perhaps the recent positive trend in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula will lead to some progress before 2005 in bringing North Korea closer to compliance with its NPT obligations. Increasing efforts should also be made to have Cuba join the treaty before 2005.

Other ways to strengthen the treaty before 2005 include continuing efforts to implement the strongest possible IAEA safeguards, in particular the conclusion of additional safeguards protocols by all NPT states with nuclear programs. Resolving nuclear-weapon state concerns with the Protocol to the Treaty of Bangkok and concluding a Central Asian nuclear-weapon- free-zone treaty that meets international standards would also represent important progress on NPT-related goals.

Further progress must be made toward the goal of nuclear disarmament, but it is highly unlikely that there will be progress by 2005 on all 18 individual measures identified in the final document. Moreover, the level of participation by the five nuclear-weapon states in the various enumerated measures will be uneven. The final document represents a political commitment by the nuclear-weapon states to make their best efforts to achieve the specified goals. For those that are met, recognition of the progress is appropriate, just as the 2000 final document recognized the progress made in the preceding five years.

The 2000 NPT review conference was instructive in how to address goals that have not been achieved. One of the three specific objectives identified by the 1995 NPT conference was "early conclusion" of negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, and the failure to meet that goal was met with widespread disappointment and criticism. The lesson is to maintain high expectations and to seek a meaningful accounting with regard to the politically binding commitments that emerge from NPT review conferences, but not to demand perfection in an imperfect world.

Future conferences also need to strive for the type of leadership demonstrated by the president of the 2000 NPT review conference, Ambassador Abdallah Baali, Algeria's permanent representative to the United Nations, and by the chairmen of the key committees and subsidiary bodies. These individuals had the skills to allow the conference to succeed and the determination to make it succeed. At the same time, the leadership was prepared to use whatever negotiating forums that were necessary.

A final observation is that it is a mistake to try to accomplish in the NPT review process what is unachievable in other forums—whether on a regional issue or in dealing with the goal of nuclear disarmament. The NPT can continue to provide the world with an important measure of protection against the spread of nuclear weapons, but only if its parties do not expect more than it is capable of delivering.

Going into the 2000 conference, a consensus final document was the United States' goal, but candidly not its expectation. It was achieved because all parties have long believed in the value of the NPT and because they worked cooperatively toward such an outcome. Moreover, they produced a consensus document with a rich forward-looking agenda that has the potential for significantly strengthening global security—a win-win situation for all.

The 158 states participating in the four-week conference reaffirmed the NPT's continued importance to global security in their national statements, in committee deliberations and discussions, and most importantly in the consensus final document. It is all the more significant that this consensus was reached at a time when nuclear non-proliferation and the nuclear disarmament process faced numerous challenges. Doomsday predictions proved wrong and the NPT emerged stronger than ever. The consensus achieved by NPT parties reinforces, in the strongest terms imaginable, the vital role of the treaty in advancing the security of all nations.


Ambassador Norman A. Wulf is the president's special representative for nuclear nonproliferation and was in charge of U.S. preparations for and participation in the 2000 NPT review conference. The views expressed here are his own.