This month, delegations from nearly 190 countries will meet in New York to discuss the status of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). They will certainly have plenty to debate.
In the five years since the last such NPT review conference, North Korea has claimed to have developed nuclear weapons, the secret nuclear activities of Iran and Libya were exposed, and the United Stated led an invasion of Iraq justified by that country’s alleged possession of chemical and biological weapons stockpiles and pursuit of nuclear weapons. Not to mention the discovery of a clandestine network led by Pakistan’s Abdul Qadeer Khan. At the same time, the Bush administration has shifted U.S. policy on many arms control issues, withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, eschewing requirements for verification on a fissile material cutoff treaty and an arms pact with Russia, and researching new types of nuclear weapons.
This month’s issue takes a closer look at how some of the principal players are reacting to these changes. In our cover story, Oliver Meier and Gerrard Quille examine how well the European Union, stung by its failure to unite before the Iraq war, has been able to craft an independent and coherent strategy for dealing with this new environment. The next few months will be crucial to judging the success of this effort, as the EU attempts to play a significant role at the conference and to work out a deal with Iran to end a crisis over Tehran’s nuclear program.
In an Arms Control Today interview, Stephen G. Rademaker, now heading the Department of State’s arms control and nonproliferation bureaus, lays out the U.S. approach to the NPT review conference. The U.S. delegation, Rademaker says, will attempt to steer the conference to focus on Iranian and North Korean noncompliance with NPT norms and will not make arms control concessions to ease expected criticism of the controversial U.S. record.
On North Korea, George Bunn and John B. Rhinelander contend that the conference needs to address the broader issue of states threatening to withdraw from the NPT. Twice in a little more than a decade, the UN Security Council has chosen not to assert its power to deal with Pyongyang’s threats to withdraw from the treaty. To address such threats, the authors suggest that the Security Council be pushed to consider all NPT withdrawals as part of its responsibility to preserve international peace and security.
One of the more controversial pages in the Bush administration’s record is its 2001 decision to reject a draft compliance protocol for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention after several years of negotiations. This month, Jonathan B. Tucker reviews a book that provides a new behind-the-scenes account of those negotiations, The Biological Weapons Convention: A Failed Revolution.