By Joseph Rodgers
President Barack Obama on April 27 submitted to the Senate the protocol to the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia. In the protocol, the United States and the four other recognized nuclear-weapon states (China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) pledge not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against countries within the zone.
The treaty, which entered into force on March 21, 2009, prohibits Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan from researching, developing, or otherwise acquiring nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology. Each Central Asian party also agreed to ban nuclear weapons testing within its borders.
In a letter that was part of the submittal, Obama said the protocol’s entry into force “would require no changes in U.S. law, policy, or practice.” In a statement, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said that the submittal represents “the latest step demonstrating the U.S. commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and to reducing nuclear dangers worldwide.”
The submittal came as the parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) were meeting in New York for a four-week-long review conference. Meehan said that the “United States will continue to aggressively pursue practical measures to advance all of the NPT’s fundamental pillars, [namely] disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology.”
Two other nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties are awaiting Senate action. In 2011 the White House submitted the treaties establishing zones in Africa and the South Pacific.
The protocol for the Central Asian zone was ratified by China, France, and the United Kingdom last year. In March of this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted the protocol to the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament.
Russia has expressed doubt that the U.S. Senate will ratify the Central Asian protocol. At a Duma meeting on April 10, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, “[W]e are concerned and alarmed about the situation around great difficulties that the documents in the sphere of ensuring security and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons are facing when passing through the Senate,” according to TASS, a government-owned news agency in Russia.