"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement"
July 1, 2020
G-8 Extends WMD Initiative

Peter Crail

Leaders from the Group of Eight (G-8) major world economies agreed during a two-day annual summit in Deauville, France, to extend a 10-year effort aimed at reducing threats from nonconventional weapons.

The eight countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) launched the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction at the group’s 2002 summit in Kananaskis, Canada. They pledged $20 billion over 10 years to fund projects safeguarding and destroying nonconventional weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union.

In a May 27 declaration from Deauville, the G-8 leaders welcomed “the concrete achievements and measurable results” of the Global Partnership and agreed to extend the initiative for an unspecified period beyond its 2012 expiration. Rather than pledging a given amount of funding for additional threat reduction projects as in 2002, the declaration said that participants in the partnership “will decide on funding of such projects on a national, joint, or multilateral basis.”

In a May 31 interview, Bonnie Jenkins, the Department of State coordinator for threat reduction programs, said the G-8 partners will focus on determining funding and specific projects over the next year, adding that the benefit of agreeing on an extension a year early is that there is time to agree on the details. The G-8 also said it would expand membership beyond the 23 countries that currently participate in the partnership. Jenkins said new partners would likely include participants in last year’s nuclear security summit and other countries already involved in funding similar initiatives.

The G-8 first took up the prospect of extending the partnership during the annual summit last year in Muskoka, Canada, but G-8 diplomats said last month that the eight countries could not reach agreement on extension at that time due to opposition from Germany. The diplomats said that Germany’s concerns about extending the initiative were related both to financial considerations stemming from the global recession and to uncertainties about new types of projects in which it would be more difficult to determine whether funds were being used effectively.

Global Partnership projects initially were carried out in Russia and Ukraine and focused on destroying chemical weapons, dismantling nuclear submarines, disposing of nuclear weapons-usable material, and employing scientists who had worked on nonconventional weapons. The G-8 agreed in 2008 to expand the initiative’s activities worldwide and has increasingly engaged in threat reduction efforts beyond the four priority areas. (See ACT, September 2008.)

Highlighting some of the changes in the nature of Global Partnership efforts since 2002, a State Department official told Arms Control Today last October that “now we’re in a new CTR [Cooperative Threat Reduction] environment that’s not as clear-cut as before,” adding that “we need time to figure out where the threats are, what the priorities are, and what to fund first.” The official said that the new CTR environment involved not only the expansion of activities outside the former Soviet Union, but also new efforts such as biosecurity, radiological security, and export controls.

The May 27 declaration said that the G-8 remained “committed to completing priority projects in Russia.”

The State Department official noted that although Germany did not agree last year to extend the Global Partnership, it was still engaged in funding a variety of other nonproliferation initiatives, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund.

The May 27 declaration also reiterated the G-8’s commitment, first made in 2009, to adopt criteria being considered by the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for the transfer of technologies related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, both of which can be used to produce material for nuclear weapons. All G-8 members also participate in the NSG, which is meeting this month in the Netherlands.

In 2009 the G-8 agreed to implement for one year the proposed criteria for sensitive exports, pending a decision by the NSG regarding the adoption of such rules. It renewed that commitment in 2010. The NSG has not yet completed its negotiations on the criteria, which were proposed in November 2008.

In a likely reference to a proposal last year that India be allowed to join the NSG and other multilateral export control regimes (see ACT, December 2010), the G-8 said that it would “consider the enlargement of the suppliers’ groups to responsible stakeholders in a manner consistent with the groups’ procedures and objectives.”

A key criterion for membership in the NSG is that the country is a party to and complying with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. A decision to allow India to join would mark the first exception to that policy.The NSG was formed largely in response to India’s 1974 nuclear test. Until 2008, India was not eligible to receive exports from NSG members because it is a non-NPT state and does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. But in response to a U.S.-led initiative, the group agreed to lift that requirement for India in return for certain nonproliferation “commitments and actions.” (See ACT, October 2008.)