Providing a boost to President Barack Obama’s nuclear weapons agenda, an international panel of experts sponsored by
“[T]he key recommendation is to get serious about a world without nuclear weapons because there are far more risks associated with the continuation of nuclear weapons than there are these days any benefits,” commission co-chair and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans told Australia’s ABC News Dec. 15. “We’re realistic about how long that will take. We’re setting a target date, 2025, to achieve a dramatic 90 percent reduction in the world’s nuclear weapons. We think that’s realistically achievable.”
In releasing the report, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called it “an important framework for discussions and debate on nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament.” Rudd initially proposed the creation of the panel, known as the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND). In September 2008, he and Yasuo Fukuda, then
The report, entitled “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” drew criticism from opposite flanks. “Capping
Meanwhile, 17 leaders of the international nuclear abolition movement, including the mayor of
Among its many findings, the 230-page report noted that nuclear weapons are “the only weapons ever invented that have the capacity to wholly destroy life on this planet, and the arsenals we now possess are able to do so many times over. The problem of nuclear weapons is at least equal to that of climate change in terms of gravity—and much more immediate in its potential impact.”
Directly challenging traditional approaches to nonproliferation, the commission, which included former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Russian Duma member Alexei Arbatov, found that “[s]o long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain, it defies credibility that they will not one day be used, by accident, miscalculation or design.”
The commission laid out a phased action agenda, similar in many ways to that of the Obama administration. In the short term (by 2012), the panel called for U.S.-Russian agreement on the START follow-on, a strengthening of the nonproliferation system at the May 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty. The commission also called for progress on nuclear security and multilateralization of the nuclear fuel cycle.
“Sole Purpose” Policy
In a policy recommendation that reportedly prompted considerable debate within the commission, the panel called for a declaration by all nuclear-armed states that the “sole purpose” of nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others. In the ABC News interview, Evans said the “immediate priority” for
In his Sept. 23 UN Security Council speech, Obama said, “We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that…reduces the role of nuclear weapons.” Experts have interpreted this as meaning that Obama would push the NPR process to conclude that U.S. nuclear weapons could be used to deter nuclear attacks, but not attacks with chemical, biological, or conventional weapons.
In their Wall Street Journal article, Miller and Shearer said an “unequivocal ‘no first use’ declaration would weaken American deterrence.” The commission’s report said that “‘[e]xtended deterrence’ does not have to mean extended nuclear deterrence.”
The apparent compromise is that the panel called for an early sole-purpose declaration, delaying a no-first-use policy until the medium term, or 2025.
The commission’s other goals for 2025 include “a world with no more than 2,000 nuclear warheads (less than 10 percent of today’s arsenals),” with 500 each for Russia and the United States and 1,000 divided among the other nuclear states, and development of a nuclear weapons convention to “legally underpin the ultimate transition to a nuclear weapon free world.”
For the period beyond 2025, the commission calls for creating “political conditions, regionally and globally, sufficiently cooperative and stable for the prospect of major war or aggression to be so remote that nuclear weapons are seen as having no remaining deterrent utility.”
Wading into the controversial waters of how to treat India, Israel, and Pakistan, nuclear-armed states that have not signed the NPT, the commission said, “Provided they satisfy strong objective criteria demonstrating commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation, and sign up to specific future commitments in this respect, these states should have access to nuclear materials and technology for civilian purposes on the same basis as an NPT member.”
With regard to the separation of plutonium for nuclear energy programs, the commission said, “The increasing use of plutonium recycle, and the prospective introduction of fast neutron reactors, must be pursued in ways which enhance non-proliferation objectives and avoid adding to proliferation and terrorism risks.” Although some countries are pursuing programs to separate plutonium from spent fuel and then use it to fabricate new fuel, other countries have turned away from such programs, citing proliferation risks as one of the key reasons. The abolition movement’s joint letter says that “the specific measures proposed [by the commission] for controlling materials and technology that can be diverted to weapons, including uranium and plutonium, are inadequate.”
In addition to Arbatov, Evans,