The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime is in a state of crisis. That at least has been a leitmotif of discussions among experts during the past decade. The failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference to arrive at an agreed result clearly seemed to support this notion.
Indeed, the NPT regime has been facing a risk of erosion, which is essentially twofold. On the one hand, the last decade has witnessed serious nonproliferation challenges. To this day,
This state of affairs should prompt all NPT states-parties to join forces to avert an erosion of the nuclear nonproliferation regime and to maintain and strengthen the integrity and authority of the NPT. Indeed, today there are signs of a new momentum toward that end. President Barack Obama has given nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation top priority and, in his
What will it take to achieve a successful NPT review conference?
First, the parties must have a joint vision. In his
Second, there is a need for leadership. The
• an unambiguous commitment not to produce fissile material for weapons purposes and a commitment to enter into negotiations on a nondiscriminatory, effectively verifiable, and legally binding fissile material cutoff treaty;
• a commitment jointly to pursue nuclear disarmament by way of an incremental process leading to “global zero”;
• a commitment to existing security assurances and a readiness to explore ways of formalizing them;
• a commitment to pursue determined efforts to bringing all existing nuclear-weapon-free zones into force;
• possibly additional commitments creating confidence and implementing the “cessation of the nuclear arms race” obligation contained in Article VI of the NPT (e.g., diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in nuclear doctrines, establishing obligations for accountability and reporting, “capping” of nuclear arsenals); and
• reiteration of the commitment to an early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Multiple Leaders Needed
Although the leadership of the nuclear-weapon states is very important, it must be matched by leadership on the part of influential member states of the Nonaligned Movement. That leadership should focus in particular on the nonproliferation aspects. This kind of leadership, however, seems as yet to be lacking. The position of many nonaligned countries still seems to be primarily characterized by an emphasis on the maintenance of their rights, particularly the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and by demands for rapid progress on nuclear disarmament.
A third requirement for a successful NPT review conference is a sense of common purpose and responsibility. The obvious lack of it is possibly the most serious problem for the forthcoming conference.
What is necessary to re-establish a sense of common purpose and a sense of responsibility for the whole treaty regime? For a start, every effort must be undertaken to reinforce the credibility of the NPT by reaffirming and strengthening the fundamental bargain underlining the treaty: the firm relationship that the treaty establishes between nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Indeed, there is a clear interdependence between nonproliferation and disarmament. Proliferation threats reduce the prospect of progress on disarmament because nuclear-weapon states would be reluctant to get rid of nuclear arms as other states are seemingly poised to acquire them. At the same time, a lack of disarmament momentum is liable to boost proliferation risks because the continuing retention of nuclear weapons would be a seen as an affirmation of their value. This should prompt countries to reconsider some of their long-held positions on key aspects of the treaty. Thus, the issue of compliance with nonproliferation commitments under the NPT should also get the necessary attention.
In this context, NPT parties should unambiguously commit to strengthen the IAEA safeguards regime by making the Model Additional Protocol, together with a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, the verification standard under Article III of the NPT. They also should consider, in light of the
The strengthening of compliance also requires a strengthening of the role of the UN Security Council as the final arbiter of the consequences of noncompliance. No state in breach of its nonproliferation obligations and unwilling to rectify the situation should get away with such behavior. This should apply to
Cooperation on Hard Issues
The joint responsibility for the NPT regime should prompt cooperation and joint efforts to manage the issues that have the potential to jeopardize the successful outcome of the review conference. In this regard, two specific issues seem to stand out.
Nuclear fuel assurances/multilateralization of the nuclear fuel cycle. Reconciling the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes with the need to prevent the use of nuclear knowledge and hardware for the development of a nuclear weapons program is a particularly daunting challenge. It is not a new issue. Since the 1946 Baruch Plan, several efforts have been undertaken to come to terms with it. The subject has again come to the fore in the face of concerns about the development of an enrichment capacity that
The establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the
A nuclear-weapon-free zone cannot be imposed but must be the result of negotiations among the parties concerned. Progress toward a peace settlement will have a positive impact on efforts toward the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Likewise, confidence building in the military field and steps toward the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone can significantly contribute to boosting the peace efforts. These seem to be commonsense observations, but the question of whether a peace settlement or a nuclear-weapon-free zone comes first has been one of the key stumbling blocks preventing progress. Further stalling on the issue will only exacerbate the proliferation risks in the region; already a solution regarding the Iranian nuclear program has become of key importance for making progress. All parties, despite their impatience, should accept that quick solutions are not achievable and that an incremental approach instead seems to offer the only way forward.
No NPT party should let the two questions above develop into showstoppers. No single state should be allowed to exploit the above or other issues to detract from its own failures to live up to its NPT obligations or to block a successful outcome of the conference.
Ambition and Realism
A fourth requirement for achieving a successful outcome of the conference is the need for an ambitious and forward-looking but realistic approach. Such an approach should include confirmation of the commitments undertaken at the 1995 and 2000 review conferences. These commitments must continue to be considered as relevant and binding because failure to do so would call into question the very purpose of review conferences and undermine confidence in the good faith of states-parties and in the viability and dependability of multilateral agreements. At the same time, however, it would be naïve and unrealistic to ignore developments since 2000. Therefore, merely dwelling on past disappointments and deploring shortcomings in the implementation of past agreements does not provide a recipe for progress.
Apart from reaffirming the guiding principles and basic commitments, the approach to be adopted should define clear tasks and objectives on the nonproliferation track and the nuclear disarmament track.
The result to be achieved must pass a rigorous reality check as well. Obama has been criticized by some for declaring in
It must be the joint ambition of states-parties to achieve what is doable at this juncture and set the course for realizing the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world through an incremental process. Those bent on trying to foil a successful outcome should not be allowed to prevail. Responsible behavior and a genuine endeavor to achieve a positive result must be expected from all parties, be they nuclear-weapon or non-nuclear-weapon states.
Rüdiger Lüdeking is
2. In the face of the current deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, a new approach to achieving progress on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) needs to be considered. For the incremental approach proposed by Germany in a working paper, see Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Creating a New Momentum for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT),” NPT/CONF.2010/PC.II/WP.21, April 30, 2008.
3. Following a successful conclusion of a START follow-on treaty, the statement might also refer to the commencement of a process on nonstrategic nuclear weapons, the category not yet covered by formal arms control agreements. For a proposal for an incremental arms control approach, see Rüdiger Lüdeking, “Safeguarding the Future of the NPT,” in NATO and the Future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ed. Joseph F. Pilat and David S. Yost (
4. Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Working Towards a Successful 2010 NPT Review Conference,” NPT/CONF.2010/PC.II/WP.22, April 30, 2008.
5. Preparatory Committee for the 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Attaining a Nuclear Weapon Free World,” NPT/CONF.2005/PC.I/WP.4, April 11, 2002.