Sadly, next month’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference may turn out to be a dialogue of the deaf. All states-parties agree on the need to strengthen the treaty, but their priorities and proposed changes differ significantly.
Striving to avoid an impasse, four authors this month offer pragmatic proposals for making the review conference a success. Their contributions mark our fourth installment in a continuing series of articles examining the challenges confronting the nuclear nonproliferation regime in the run-up to the once-every-five-years gathering in New York.
Jean du Preez argues that progress requires all states—the nuclear “haves” and the nuclear “have-nots”—to recommit to the fundamental balance of obligations that were agreed to when the treaty was first created. He also provides an article-by-article description of practical ways that the treaty could be updated to reflect current realities.
Leonard S. Spector and Aubrie Ohlde suggest one option for meeting the long-standing demand of the non-nuclear-weapon states for legally binding negative security assurances:guarantees given by the nuclear-weapon states that that they will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those states that have formally renounced them. Acknowledging that the prospects of the nuclear-weapon states agreeing on a universally binding treaty at this point are slim, they argue that non-nuclear-weapon states can achieve many of the same legal goals by joining nuclear-weapon-free zones.
Henry Sokolski contends that it is time to return to the original intent of the treaty’s Article IV, which guarantees all states access to peaceful nuclear endeavors. He proposes a number of ways to restrict the spread of technologies that are not essential to this goal and to limit the risk of creating more states capable of producing the fissile material needed for nuclear weapons.
In “Looking Back” this month, Randy Rydell offers a timely reminder of the compromises and conflicts at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, which permanently extended the NPT. Debates over the relevance and meaning of the deals struck then will be central to this year’s gathering.
Finally, Richard L. Garwin and Frank von Hippel bid a fond goodbye to a good friend of the Arms Control Association and Arms Control Today. Hans Bethe, who died March 6, played a leading role in the development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, but he was also a major advocate for stemming the nuclear arms race.