"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
June 2018
Edition Date: 
Friday, June 1, 2018
Cover Image: 

Nuclear Nonproliferation Malpractice

June 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

The global nuclear nonproliferation system has always relied on responsible leadership from the United States and other global powers. The effort to create, extend, and strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which was opened for signature 50 years ago on July 1, 1968, has succeeded, albeit imperfectly, because most U.S. presidents have made good faith efforts to back up U.S. legal and political commitments on nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers a speech, “After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy”, at the Heritage Foundation, in Washington, D.C, on May 21, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]Beginning in 2003 when Iran was discovered to have a secret uranium-enrichment program, key European states, along with China, Russia, and later, the United States under President Barack Obama, put enormous effort into negotiating the complex multilateral deal to curtail and contain Iran’s nuclear program and to verifiably block its pathways to nuclear weapons: the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

But now, with his May 8 decision to unilaterally violate the JCPOA, President Donald Trump effectively has ceded the traditional nonproliferation leadership role of the United States, opened the door for Iran to quickly expand its uranium-enrichment capacity, and shaken the foundations of the global nuclear nonproliferation system. Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran and any businesses or banks that continue to do business with Iran puts the valuable nonproliferation barriers established by the JCPOA at grave risk.

If the accord is to survive Trump’s reckless actions, EU governments and other responsible states must now try to sustain it without the United States by taking bold steps to ensure that it remains in Iran’s interest not to break out of the JCPOA’s rigorous constraints.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said May 8 that “[a]s long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear[-]related commitments, as it is doing so far, the European Union will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal.

Europe Union states, as well as China and Russia, have little choice but to part ways with the Trump administration on the Iran deal because Trump has rejected reasonable proposals from leaders of the E3 countries (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) to address his concerns and because his new “strategy” to pursue a “better deal” to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is pure fantasy.

To try to address Trump’s complaints about the JCPOA, the E3 worked in good faith for several months to negotiate a supplemental agreement designed to address concerns about Iran’s behavior that fall outside the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, including its ballistic missile program and its support for radical groups in the Middle East.

That effort failed because Trump stubbornly refused to guarantee to the E3 that if they entered into such an agreement, he would continue to waive nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

Trump administration officials say they will try to “cajole” the European powers and other states to reimpose even stronger sanctions on Iran to try to compel Iran to come back to the negotiating table to work out a “better” deal for the United States and a more onerous one for Iran.

In the meantime, Trump is demanding that Iran must still meet the JCPOA’s nuclear restrictions and submit to its tough International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring provisions. Such arrogant bullying has no chance of producing a cooperative response from leaders in Tehran or in other capitals.

If European and other powers fail to adequately insulate their financial and business transactions with Iran from U.S. sanctions, Iran could decide to quickly expand its enrichment capacity by putting more machines online and increasing its uranium supply. Asked on May 9 how he would respond to such actions, Trump said, “If they do, there will be very severe consequences.”

Within hours of Trump’s May 8 announcement, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, “If Iran acquires nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same.”

Incredibly, the Trump administration, which is in the process of negotiating an agreement for civil nuclear cooperation with Riyadh, failed to respond to this alarming threat from the Saudi monarchy to violate its NPT commitments.

Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA is also a body blow to efforts to strengthen the NPT system in the run-up to the pivotal 2020 NPT Review Conference. Statements from U.S. diplomats about how others should advance NPT goals will ring hollow so long as the United States continues to ignore or repudiate its own nonproliferation obligations.

For instance, at the NPT gathering in May, U.S. representatives argued that progress toward a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East suffers from a “lack of trust” and nonproliferation “noncompliance” by states in the region. Unfortunately, U.S. noncompliance with the JCPOA has ony excacerbated these challenges.

Trump’s decision on the nuclear deal has transformed the United States from a nonproliferation leader to an NPT rogue state. For now, the future of the hard-won Iran nuclear accord and maybe the NPT as we now know it will depend largely on the leadership of key European leaders and restraint from Iran’s.

The global nuclear nonproliferation system has always relied on responsible leadership from the United States and other global powers.

THE NPT AT 50 Special Issue


NPT AT 50 Special Issue

THE NPT AT 50: A Staple of Global Nuclear Order

June 2018
By Sara Z. Kutchesfahani

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the bedrock of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. Although the accord is far from perfect, its many accomplishments should be recognized.

The NPT was created at a time when the world was confronted with the bipolar threat of annihilation driven by the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. During that period, the superpowers clashed politically and ideologically, dividing the world between East and West and between democracy and communism. A half-century later, the NPT endures, even though the East-West divide has morphed into a multipolar world era in which the new security risk of nonstate actors has added to the nuclear threat.

At the Palais des Nations in Geneva, diplomats from more than 100 countries participate April 30 at the international conference to prepare for the 2020 review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. (Photo: Alicia Sanders-Zakre/Arms Control Association)During those 50 years, periods of tension arose between the treaty and its signatories. Yet, consider its accomplishments: an overwhelming number (185) of non-nuclear-weapon states, a dramatic 85 percent reduction in the global nuclear weapons stockpile, a lower number of states possessing nuclear weapons than predicted, and the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones, which have made the entire Southern Hemisphere devoid of nuclear weapons.

Still, divisive issues remain, including the NPT’s universality, the extent and pace of nuclear disarmament, the measures to advance the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the NPT’s inability to prevent nonsignatories India, Israel, and Pakistan from crossing the nuclear threshold and to prevent former NPT signatory North Korea from becoming a nuclear-armed state. Nevertheless, the NPT played an instrumental role in creating the foundation of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, which remains today.

Why the NPT?

By 1968, there was a broad consensus that a greater number of states possessing nuclear weapons would be detrimental to international peace and security. With five nuclear-weapon states and the Cold War arms race in full swing, the pressure to prevent proliferation was growing. Worried about the spread of nuclear technology, U.S. President John Kennedy predicted in 1963 that an additional 21 countries might develop nuclear weapons in a decade.1 From the perspective of the nuclear-weapon states, a greater number of states possessing nuclear weapons would not only end their small and exclusive nuclear club, but would result in a less stable and secure world. These concerns provided sufficient motivation to create a treaty to prevent more countries from developing a nuclear weapons program.

The creation of the NPT involved a fairly tumultuous nine-year process, starting with an Irish initiative in November 1959. The main source of tension came from nuclear-weapon states that opposed a disarmament clause (China, France, Russia, and the United States), while the non-nuclear-weapon states were simultaneously insisting on one. The process culminated in a treaty negotiated by the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee by July 1968. A disarmament clause was accepted, but the time frame for disarmament was left unspecified, a source of continuing dispute today. The treaty opened for signature in London, Moscow, and Washington on July 1, 1968.2

What Is in the NPT?

U.S. President Lyndon Johnson described the NPT as “the most important international agreement since the beginning of the nuclear age.”3 Indeed, the NPT has helped prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons technology, while providing non-nuclear-weapon states access to peaceful uses of atomic energy. The NPT is one of the most widely signed international legal treaties. Since it opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, 190 out of 194 UN-recognized states have signed. In fact, between 1968 and 1998, there was at least one signatory per year.

The NPT established a two-tier bargaining system between the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the nuclear haves) and the other signatories (the nuclear have-nots). The nuclear-weapon states would work toward nuclear disarmament and help the non-nuclear-weapon states acquire peaceful nuclear technology. In exchange, the non-nuclear-weapon states agreed never to seek a nuclear weapons program. At the time, such a promise led many of the non-nuclear-weapon states to openly criticize the NPT, denouncing it as unfair, discriminatory, and insufficient in providing appropriate security guarantees. One particularly relevant critique came from the Argentines, who described it as “the disarmament of the disarmed” treaty.4

The 11 NPT articles comprise its three essential pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. A cursory glance at its articles may suggest that the NPT is fair and unbiased and that the grand bargain was upheld. For example, the “inalienable right of all Parties to the Treaty” to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy has its own article (Article IV), as does the commitment to disarm (Article VI).

A closer look, however, reveals a different conclusion. For example, the NPT does not have an article that offers the non-nuclear-weapon states negative and positive security assurances, in spite of the non-nuclear-weapon states insistence on these clauses throughout the negotiations. Such assurances would provide guarantees to the non-nuclear-weapon states that they would be protected against a nuclear attack and so would not be tempted to become nuclear-weapon states themselves. In addition, while Article VI commits the nuclear-weapon states to disarm, it does not outline when disarmament will begin, who will verify it, and what the repercussions might be for the nuclear haves to not disarm and therefore maintain their nuclear stockpiles.5 The same section requires negotiations, rather than results, without imposing any conditions or a timeline. Understanding that timing is relative, is it fair to ask whether 50 years later is still within the parameters of an “early date”?

Finally, Article X does not outline any repercussions of a state withdrawing from the NPT and subsequently proliferating. It is not new or different for a treaty to have a withdrawal clause. Article X outlines the conditions for a state-party intending to withdraw from the treaty: it must give the UN Security Council three months’ notice of its intention and provide the council with its reasons for withdrawal. This provision was intended to give the Security Council an opportunity to deal with any withdrawal that might produce a threat to international peace and security.6

Yet, who might have thought back in the 1960s, when the NPT was being drafted, that any country would invoke Article X, provide the required notice, and leave the treaty? It was not until 2003 when North Korea claimed that it was within its national sovereign right to withdraw and to withdraw “effective immediately.”7 Three years later, it tested its first nuclear weapon.

Not a Disarmament Treaty

The above clarifies what the NPT is not. It is not a disarmament treaty. It has a disarmament article, but there is a reason it is not called the Nuclear Disarmament Treaty. Article VI was negotiated largely at the insistence of non-nuclear-weapon states, particularly Brazil, India, Mexico, and Sweden.8 India and Sweden separately wanted a “package solution” that linked nonproliferation to a variety of measures, including a freeze on nuclear weapon production.9 Other states, such as Romania, favored a provision by which the nuclear-weapon states would undertake to adopt “specific nuclear disarmament measures.”10 Because neither of these recommendations were acceptable to the United States or the Soviet Union, Mexico proposed an alternative, which was an obligation to “pursue negotiations in good faith” to achieve nuclear disarmament, and this obligation made it into the NPT.11 Yet, what does “good faith” mean?

During the 1960s, as the treaty was being drafted and negotiated, most of the nuclear-weapon states categorically dismissed all proposals committing them to any specific measures of disarmament or to any time limits, hence the vague language in the NPT. Had the non-nuclear-weapon states insisted on specifics, the NPT might never have been completed. France and China—both latecomers to the NPT, having signed it in 1992—were also opposed. France believed that the only solution to Article VI was the total destruction of all existing arsenals while banning the ability to manufacture new nuclear weapons, which is why it chose not to sign the treaty in 1968. China believed that Article VI was unfair to the non-nuclear-weapon states, given the unlikelihood that the nuclear-weapon states would disarm. Only the United Kingdom seemed to approve. UK Foreign Minister Fred Mulley remarked in 1968 that Article VI was “certainly the most important by-product of the treaty and one of its most important provisions.”12

Regardless of the vague language, Article VI mandates the NPT nuclear-weapon states to reduce their nuclear stockpiles and to work toward global zero. Even though they are not close to zero, all except China have drastically reduced their nuclear weapons stockpiles over the years. (fig. 1). Russia and the United States show the largest reductions, of 89 percent and 85 percent respectively (table 1). Even though the nuclear-weapon states except for China have decreased their nuclear weapons stockpiles, the NPT does not prohibit modernizing existing nuclear weapons. So although they have reduced their nuclear stockpiles, they are “modernizing” their arsenals at the same time, investing in nuclear weapons for generations while making them more reliable.

Not Designed for Withdrawal

In addition to not being a disarmament treaty, the NPT is restricted from acting against a country that withdraws from the treaty and subsequently develops nuclear weapons. The 90-day provision outlined in Article X is intended to provide the Security Council an opportunity to address any withdrawal that might produce a threat to international peace and security. In 2003, however, North Korea provided the council with only a single day’s notice, leaving the council essentially powerless to act.13

It is impossible to determine whether the Security Council would have acted if North Korea had provided the full 90-day notice, but it could have. In fact, according to the UN Charter, if the council finds that the withdrawal might foreshadow a threat to international peace and security, it has the authority to take action.14 A withdrawal from the NPT that might produce a threat to peace would give the council jurisdiction to prohibit or condition the withdrawal. Yet, it seems unlikely that the council could have done anything, short of further sanctions and perhaps even war, that would have stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, given their intent and subsequent actions in developing nuclear weapons.

North Korea is the only state to withdraw from the NPT in its 50 years of existence. Although North Korea was sanctioned heavily, ostracized, and granted pariah status after withdrawing, the NPT was unable to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

Contribution to Peace and Security

In spite of its flaws, the NPT has made a significant contribution to overall stability. Lead proponents contend it has been a force of good over the past half-century. The NPT can be credited for curbing the number of states with nuclear weapons because it created an international norm against nuclear proliferation, which can be explained through three examples.

The first is the sheer number of signatories and the relatively low number of states with nuclear weapons. It is a remarkable accomplishment that only nine states have nuclear weapons, five of which are formally considered nuclear-weapon states under the NPT, given that more than 50 states could have pursued a nuclear weapons option but decided against it. Similarly, the NPT has contributed to the existence of fewer nuclear weapons today. At the height of the Cold War, there were about 64,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. Even though the NPT entered into force in 1970, the number of nuclear weapons did not start to decrease until 1988 (fig. 2). Still, the dramatic 85 percent reduction in the global nuclear weapons stockpile can be attributed at least in part to the NPT, given the sharp decline in stockpiles since 1970.

The second example of the international norm involves Switzerland, which was dissuaded from pursuing a nuclear weapons program because of the nonproliferation norm. Switzerland signed the NPT in 1969 and clarified that it would wait until other countries ratified before it did.15 Switzerland ratified the NPT in 1977, by which time 99 states had ratified it and the nuclear nonproliferation norm had become significant.

The third example is nuclear rollback, the unilateral and voluntary dismantling by a country of its nuclear weapons. The only such case to date is South Africa. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the countries of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited and ultimately removed former Soviet nuclear weapons. Their rollback, however, occurred under entirely different circumstances, mainly because all three countries for the most part were eager to remove them.16

When the South African government moved to end apartheid, newly elected President Frederik de Klerk announced in 1989 that he wanted to make South Africa a respected member of the international community. He believed political reform and accession to the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state were prerequisites for such an outcome.17 To rejoin the international community and end economic sanctions imposed against apartheid South Africa, it had to remove suspicions surrounding its nuclear weapons status. Acceding to the NPT and becoming a proponent of a nuclear-weapon-free zone covering the entire African continent was a clear indication that subscribing to the global nuclear nonproliferation norm was an effective way to reintegrate with the international community.

The NPT can also be credited with the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, a regional approach that strengthens global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation efforts. These zones restrict areas on the ground and in space where nuclear weapons may be freely produced, moved, tested, stationed, and used. They serve to gradually limit and denuclearize at a regional level in order to move toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. States are encouraged to establish zones in their respective territories through Article VII of the NPT. In most zones, the NPT nuclear-weapon states sign protocols to the treaty pledging their support toward the zone by agreeing to not test, store, or use nuclear weapons in the designated area.

There are currently five areas in the world that are not covered by a nuclear-weapon-free zone: North America, Europe, South Asia, East Asia, and the Middle East, areas in which states with nuclear weapons are housed. Everywhere else around the world, encompassing approximately 115 countries, is protected by a zone.18 These zones are one of the most important and effective ways to advance nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. They are an inherent part of the global nuclear order, contributing not only to regional and world peace
but also to regional and global security and stability.

Even though countries within the five areas of the world that are not protected by a nuclear-weapon-free zone are faced with an existing nuclear threat based on the mere existence of nuclear weapons on their territory, there have been limited efforts in turning these regions into zones. There have been discussions over the years about creating a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but political tensions and difficulties stalled both endeavors.

In the context of the difficulties affecting the NPT and wider disarmament and nonproliferation negotiations, nuclear-weapon-free zones provide a glimmer of hope. Important lessons can be learned from their formation because they were negotiated not only during the tensions of the Cold War but also during the complex politics and conflicts of the post-Cold War period. In general, these zones evolve out of a regional perception of an existing or imminent nuclear threat, thereby requiring regional groups to create binding treaties to ban the use, storage, and testing of nuclear weapons in their region.

Nuclear-weapon-free zones have been successfully implemented in regions with major nuclear rivalries (e.g., Argentina and Brazil) and where nuclear weapons have already been developed or deployed (e.g., Africa and Central Asia). They are arguably one of the largest yet most underexplored success stories of the NPT and a significant contributor to international peace and stability.

Most importantly, the NPT is here to stay. Article X called for its signatories to convene a conference to be held 25 years after the treaty’s entry into force in order to determine whether the treaty would remain in force indefinitely or for other additional periods of time. At its review and extension conference held in May 1995, the NPT signatories agreed to the treaty’s indefinite extension, even though the non-nuclear-weapon states expressed disappointment with the lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament and feared that a decision to extend the treaty indefinitely would enable the nuclear-weapon states to continue to maintain their nuclear arsenals in perpetuity and avoid any accountability in eliminating them.19

Next 50 Years

The NPT is not without flaws, but it has played an instrumental role in maintaining international peace and security. Skeptics may justifiably ask, “When a treaty’s only nonsignatories are states with nuclear weapons, what is the point of effectively prohibiting non-nuclear-weapon states from crossing the nuclear threshold when many of them have no desire to develop nuclear weapons?” From an international peace and security perspective, there is great value in having a treaty that prevents further nuclear proliferation, and it is a blessing that the international community’s efforts in pursuing the creation of such a treaty were not in vain. Fifty years on, its legacy continues.

In a time during which nuclear threats and hostilities are on the rise, with uncertainty in the relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the pledge in the 2018 U.S. “Nuclear Posture Review” to add new nuclear capabilities, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unveiled “invincible” nuclear weapons, the NPT’s successes stand out. Look forward to another 50 years, by which time perhaps the international community will gather to commemorate the complete and verifiable disarmament of all nuclear weapons.


1. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964), p. 280.

2. For the definitive work about the negotiation and the first decade of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), see Mohamed Shaker, The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Origins and Implementation, 1959-1979 (London: Oceana Publications, 1980).

3. President Lyndon Johnson made this remark on July 3, 1968, and again at the signing of the NPT on July 19, 1968. “Remarks at the Signing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” American Presidency Project, n.d., http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28970 (accessed May 12, 2018).

4. “Disarmament of the disarmed” was first articulated in 1968 by José María Ruda, Argentine ambassador to the United Nations. Jorge Aja Espil, “Argentina,” in Non-Proliferation: The Why and the Wherefore, ed. Jozef Goldblat (London: Taylor and Francis, 1985), pp. 73-74.

5. Article VI of the NPT states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

6. George Bunn and John B. Rhinelander, “NPT Withdrawal: Time for the Security Council to Step In,” Arms Control Today, May 2005.

7. North Korea’s stated reasons for withdrawing were that the United States was threatening its security through its perceived hostile policy toward North Korea. According to North Korea, the United States had singled it out as a target of a pre-emptive nuclear attack and had threatened it with a blockade and military punishment. See Frederic L. Kirgis, “North Korea’s Withdrawal From the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,” Insights, Vol. 8, No. 2 (January 24, 2003).

8. Thomas Graham Jr., “NPT Article VI Origin and Interpretation,” in Rebuilding the NPT Consensus, ed. Michael May, April 8, 2008, http://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/RebuildNPTConsensus.pdf.

9. Shaker, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, p. 508.

10. Ibid., p. 570.

11. Ibid., p. 571.

12. Conference of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament, “Final Verbatim Record of the Three Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Meeting,” ENDC/PV.358, January 23, 1968, para. 23.

13. North Korea provided its notice of withdrawal from the NPT in 1993. This notice was suspended shortly thereafter due to its ongoing negotiations with the United States.

14. United Nations, Charter of the United Nations, October 24, 1945, 1 U.N.T.S. XVI, ch. 7, arts. 39, 41, and 42.

15. The declaration made in separate notes dated November 27, 1969, addressed to the UK and U.S. governments.

16. For a comprehensive overview of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine’s nuclear weapons dismantlement, see Sara Z. Kutchesfahani, Politics and the Bomb: The Role of Experts in the Creation of Cooperative Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreements (London: Routledge, 2014).

17. David Albright, “How South Africa Abandoned Nuclear Weapons,” Stimson Center Occasional Paper, No. 25 (1995).

18. Marc Finaud, “The Experience of Nuclear Weapon Free-Zones,” BASIC, May 2014, http://www.basicint.org/sites/default/files/finaud_nwfz-fin_1.pdf.

19. Arms Control Association, “Timeline of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” May 25, 2015, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Timeline-of-the-Treaty-on-the-Non-Proliferation-of-Nuclear-Weapons-NPT.

Sara Z. Kutchesfahani is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and senior program coordinator for the Fissile Materials Working Group. This piece draws on material from her forthcoming book tentatively titled Global Nuclear Order (Taylor & Francis/Routledge, 2019).


Why the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains important and relevant today.

THE NPT AT 50: Successes, Challenges, and Steps Forward for Nonproliferation

June 2018
By Jackie O’Halloran Bernstein

Fifty years after the opening for signature of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT], there are many reasons to celebrate, not least among them is the continued salience and importance of this treaty.

Now, there is the addition of a new and exciting legal instrument, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which will make a strong contribution to the NPT's Article VI obligation for states-parties to pursue nuclear disarmament. The new treaty is truly groundbreaking, not only in its prohibitions on the weapons but also in its acknowledgment of the role of the hibakusha, its provisions on victim assistance and cooperation on the environment, and its commitments to disarmament education and the full and equal participation of men and women in the work of the treaty.

Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken (center) listens to the debate at the First Committee of the General Assembly on October 8, 1958. Also shown in the photo are (front row, left to right): L. Vitetti (Italy); Abba Eban (Israel); H. Jawad (Iraq); and D. Abdoh (Iran).  (UN Photo/MB)In 1958, Ireland's foreign minister, Frank Aiken, introduced at the United Nations the first of the Irish resolutions that would eventually lead to the adoption of the NPT a decade later. At that time, the prospect was very real of a world where many actors, state and nonstate, would eventually acquire the means and the technology to build their own nuclear arsenals. In his speech, which remains as prescient and true today as it was 60 years ago, Aiken spoke of how weapons that are the monopoly of the great powers today become the weapons of smaller powers and revolutionary groups tomorrow. He made clear that, while abolition of the weapons and permanent disarmament was Ireland's goal, the immediate pragmatic need was to prevent further dissemination of the weapons.

As we assess the NPT at 50, we can, I believe, agree that the treaty has, to a good extent, achieved its objectives. Very few states have remained outside the treaty and have gone on to develop nuclear weapons. It is indeed one of the most participated-in UN treaties. The five nuclear-weapon states have all joined and therefore are bound by the commitment to nuclear disarmament contained within Article VI, which remains the core legal obligation binding the nuclear-weapon states to disarm. This is also evidenced by the unequivocal undertaking that they gave in 2000 to accomplish the total abolition of their nuclear weapons.

Additionally, the states of many regions of the world have chosen to be part of nuclear-weapon-free zones in strong demonstration of their commitment to the objective of a world without nuclear weapons. Some of the strongest voices in the room at the prohibition treaty negotiations came from these regions and brought the strength of their convictions and experience to the treaty negotiations.

The NPT itself is a slim treaty, its preamble and 11 articles fitting easily on six standard letter-size pages. But the international community has built around it a strong framework of supporting institutions. The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] in particular, though predating and independent from the NPT, has built up an impressive structure of expertise and an enabling framework to facilitate that use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes while implementing strict safeguards that prevent diversion to nonpeaceful uses.

With the development of supporting export control regimes including the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, states have been successfully assisted in preventing and inhibiting proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology without preventing transfer of technology and materials for peaceful uses. This aspect of the treaty is also an essential one to which states parties need to continue to give careful support and attention.

The NPT has also, through the strengthened review process agreed at the 1995 review and extension conference, helped to promote and give impetus to many far-reaching agreements and understandings aimed at preventing further proliferation and enabling bilateral nuclear disarmament. The bilateral accords between Russia and the United States have also been greatly supportive of the NPT aims, with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks treaty, and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START] contributing to a welcome and significant reduction in the large stockpiles of nuclear warheads that had built up during the Cold War.

Equally, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] must also be counted among the NPT successes. While it hasn't entered into force, the strength of the global norm, which has been established against nuclear testing, and the development of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System rank among the great achievements of the international community in nuclear disarmament.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the NPT's latest success story. The first new legal instrument on nuclear disarmament to be adopted in over 20 years, it is a success story not only because of its groundbreaking content but also because of what it entails in terms of progress toward the fulfillment of the NPT's disarmament provisions. NPT Article VI expressly envisaged a separate and complementary treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Jackie O’Halloran Bernstein speaks at the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on April 19 in Washington. (Photo: Allen Harris/Arms Control Association)The prohibition treaty is not founded on a grand bargain whereby states agree to give up the possible military advantages and the status attached to being nuclear weapons possessors in exchange for an agreement that the nuclear-weapon states will disarm. Instead, the states who adopt the treaty agree to an unambiguous and unconditional commitment that they will never under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacturer, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

I think Frank Aiken, 50 years after the entry into force of the NPT, would be pleased that the prohibition treaty finally implements and gives effect to the NPT's disarmament provision, that almost two-thirds of the UN membership are committed to the complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, and that this took place from an appreciation of the elevated risk and catastrophic consequences that would result from a nuclear weapons detonation, accidental or deliberate.

For the security of all humanity and the future of our fragile planet, our states are making this choice. It is our great hope that, in time, all others including the nuclear weapons possessor states and their allies will join us.

Aiken was a strong supporter of the idea of the sovereign equality of all states and a firm believer in the equalizing power of the United Nations. He would, I think, have approved of the inclusive and respectful nature of the deliberations that led to the adoption of the treaty, both in the 2016 open-ended working group so ably chaired by Ambassador Thani Thongphakdi of Thailand and also at the prohibition negotiations where Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica played such a strong role in bringing the deliberations on the treaty to a successful conclusion.

In addition to the prohibition treaty, there have been other welcome advances in disarmament and arms control in recent years, including the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty [ATT] in 2014, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in 2015, and the agreements at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to establish a group of governmental experts to address the challenges raised by autonomy in weapons systems. These achievements show that the international community, states, and civil society can achieve our goals when we can agree and focus on a common purpose.

But huge challenges confront us. Growing urbanization has led to massive increases in civilian casualty rates and damage to civilian infrastructure in our cities from the use of conventional explosive weapons. The Iran nuclear accord, negotiated with such effort and attention and despite careful and positive implementation assessment by the IAEA, is under threat. The ATT is experiencing significant challenges in universalization and in implementation, while 100 years on from the Battle of Ypres, chemical weapons are again being used in war and to assassinate, despite the universal prohibition on their use.

Meanwhile, nuclear disarmament by the NPT nuclear-weapon states has stalled. Bilateral nuclear disarmament between the United States and Russia, undertaken following the successes of [the] INF [Treaty] and New START, has halted. After the successful outcome of the NPT's 2010 review conference with its ambitious but achievable action plan, including an innovative approach to progress on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, the 2015 conference did not agree on an outcome. The CTBT, despite the previously mentioned successes, has still not lived up to its promise of an end to the damage and destruction caused by nuclear testing by entering into force.

Modernization and investment in nuclear arsenals is rising in all nuclear-weapon states, and efforts to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in military doctrines and in nuclear alliances has receded. Proliferation threats are increasing, with North Korea’s nuclear program representing a particular dangerous development. Against this background, the norm against the threat of use of nuclear weapons has been seriously eroded. The world's citizens, after decades of post-Cold War complacency, are awakening to the harsh reality that, yes, nuclear weapons do still exist and that the hands of the Doomsday clock are yet again at two minutes to midnight.

So what to do amid this somewhat grim background when we have seen disarray and lack of agreement at the UN Security Council on an issue in which there should be overwhelming global agreement and abhorrence—chemical weapons use? It seems utopian to suggest that NPT states-parties should renew their efforts to engage with each other and genuinely find ways forward to overcome the divisions on approaches to nuclear disarmament that have become evident in recent years.

But that is exactly what we need to do. If the NPT could be negotiated and adopted at the height of the Cold War, then a renewed commitment to its implementation and the establishment of dialogue among its states-parties is more than possible. I am not going to list here the 13 steps or the actions from the 2010 NPT action plan on which all are agreed. Neither am I going to set out the steps put forward by the proponents of the progressive, or step-by-step, approach to nuclear disarmament.

Ireland and the other delegations to the prohibition treaty are all committed to making progress on these measures, and many of our countries have engaged actively in the work to make them happen. There is, however, one issue to address in more detail, the question of the Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. As we reach the midpoint of the NPT's 2020 review cycle with little or no progress, it is time for serious stocktaking and reassessment of how to achieve some progress on this issue despite the challenges and difficulties. Otherwise, the risk that the 2020 review cycle will also fail to agree on an outcome is strong, with a resulting strongly negative impact on the treaty.

Ireland proposed at last year's preparatory committee that a dedicated resource should be provided possibly within the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs to assist the co-conveners and other interested states and civil society actors to develop creative and innovative proposals and, in particular, confidence-building measures that could begin to move the process forward. Trust and confidence are key to the success of any negotiation, and this is what we need most of all.

Recently, Ireland celebrated an auspicious moment in our history, 20 years of the Good Friday agreement and the success of the Northern Ireland peace process. The agreement has had many challenges. It hasn't always lived up to its promise as a beacon of hope and reconciliation, but it has endured, and the hard-earned peace that is represented has lasted in spite of all the difficulties, including those that confront it today.

That achievement wasn't built in a few weeks of negotiations and only through the dedication and preparedness to take risks of some leaders, though that wasn't lacking either. But rather, it was built through decades of work within communities, schools, churches, within labor movements, business associations, political parties, academics, think tanks, working together or as individuals to establish lines of communication, to start a conversation, to build bridges instead of walls, to have a cup of coffee instead of shouting across the barricades. Mostly it was built by starting conversations and by listening to the other’s viewpoint. It was also built by women reacting to the loss and devastation within their communities and determined to end the violence once and for all.

Within the NPT process, there often is talk of needing to identify the bridge builders. Those states, groups of states, civil society actors, leaders who can find a way forward to bridge the divisions between those who seek immediate and nonconditioned implementation of the NPT's disarmament provisions and related commitments and those who believe that, while nuclear disarmament is the ultimate goal of the NPT, the conditions are not yet right for it to happen.

With the second NPT preparatory committee, we can all be bridge builders, those who believe that nuclear disarmament is essential to creating the conditions for a peaceful and secure world and those who believe we must create a peaceful and secure world before nuclear disarmament can happen.

When speaking of the Good Friday agreement and the need for renewed commitment to its implementation and objectives, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said renewal does not demand perfection. It demands leadership, courage, and hard work. For the NPT, we also need leadership, courage, and hard work. Most of all, we need to begin a dialogue to find what works and what can bring us nearer to the realization of our mutual goal, a world without nuclear weapons and a successful outcome to the 2020 NPT review cycle.

There are already some promising green shoots in the chairman's draft summary from last year's preparatory meeting, including the recognition of gendered impacts of nuclear weapons and the need to increase women's participation in nuclear disarmament forums. As Pope Francis has said, a world without nuclear weapons will not be this world just without nuclear weapons, it will be a different world. For those of us who want that different world, it's time to begin both imagining and creating it.

Jackie O’Halloran Bernstein recently completed her posting as director for disarmament and nonproliferation at Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is adapted from her keynote address to the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on April 19 in Washington.

The treaty has, to a good extent, achieved its objectives. Very few states have remained outside the treaty and have gone on to develop nuclear weapons.

THE NPT AT 50: A Historical Timeline

June 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was opened for signature on July 1, 1968. Under Articles I and II of the treaty, the nuclear‑weapon states agree not to help non-nuclear-weapon states to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, and the non-nuclear-weapon states permanently forswear the pursuit of such weapons.

William Foster, chief U.S. negotiator on the NPT, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and later Chair of the Arms Control Association Board, signs the NPT July 1, 1968, as President Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson look on. U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk is seated next to the president, and a number of ambassadors are seated at the far end of the table, including Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin (fifth from right among those seated). Photo courtesy of Larry WeilerArticle VI commits each of the states‑parties “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” Acknowledging the necessity of intermediate steps in the process of nuclear disarmament, Article VII allows for the establishment of regional nuclear-weapon-free-zones.

With its near-universal membership, the NPT has the widest adherence of any arms control agreement. Every five years, the 190 states-parties meet to assess progress on achieving key objectives and provide opportunities to discuss new measures to strengthen the treaty.

The negotiation and the indefinite extension of the NPT was not inevitable. Its future viability depends on continued leadership and action to realize its lofty objectives.


July 29, 1957: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comes into existence with the mission of promoting and overseeing the peaceful use of nuclear technology. October 17, 1958: Ireland proposes the first resolution at the United Nations to prohibit the “further dissemination of nuclear weapons.”


December 4, 1961: The UN General Assembly unanimously approves Resolution 1665, which is based on the earlier Irish draft resolution and calls for negotiations to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states. March 21, 1963: In a press conference, President John Kennedy warns, “I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have [nuclear] weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard.” February 14, 1967: The Treaty of Tlatelolco, the first of five nuclear weapons free zones is negotiated. August 24, 1967: The United States and Soviet Union separately introduce identical draft treaties to the Eighteen- Nation Committee on Disarmament on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. June 12, 1968: The UN General Assembly adopts Resolution 2373, endorsing the draft text of the NPT. The vote was 95 to 4 with 21 abstentions. July 1, 1968: The NPT is opened for signature and is signed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. China and France would not join the treaty until 1992.


March 5, 1970: The NPT enters into force with 46 states-parties. September 3, 1974: The IAEA publishes the “trigger list” developed by the Zangger Committee, identifying nuclear items that require IAEA safeguards as a condition of export. May 30, 1975: The 91 states-parties to the NPT hold the treaty’s first review conference. The treaty members decide to hold such conferences to review the implementation of the treaty every five years. January 11, 1978: States participating in the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group provide the IAEA with a common set of guidelines they will follow in making nuclear exports.


India, Pakistan, North Korea, and South Africa advanced their nuclear weapons efforts in relative secrecy. Iran began to secretly acquire uranium-enrichment-related technology from Pakistani suppliers. Taiwan’s covert nuclear weapons program was shut down under U.S. pressure. Argentina and Brazil jointly declare they will pursue nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes. Thirty more states join the NPT during the decade.


April 3, 1991: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 687 requiring Iraq to eliminate its secret nuclear weapons program, which was revealed after the Iraqi defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. July 10, 1991: South Africa accedes to the NPT. May 23, 1992: Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine sign the Lisbon Protocol committing Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty states-parties vote to extend the treaty indefinitely May 11, 1995 at UN Headquarters in New York. (Photo: Jon Levy/AFP/Getty Images)to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states and relinquish the nuclear weapons they inherited from the Soviet Union. April 1, 1993: The IAEA declares North Korea in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations and refers Pyongyang to the UN Security Council. April 11, 1995: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 984 acknowledging the unilateral pledges by the five nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT. May 11, 1995: At the fifth NPT review conference, the states-parties agree to the treaty’s indefinite extension and a package of principles and objectives on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament to hold NPT states-parties, particularly the nuclear-weapon states, accountable to their commitments. September 24, 1996: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is opened for signature. May 15, 1997: The IAEA adopts the Model Additional Protocol to enhance inspection authorities to guard against clandestine nuclear weapons activities.

2000sPresident Barack Obama reaffirms U.S. support for the NPT and steps to achieve “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” on April 5, 2009 in Prague. (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

May 22, 2000: The NPT states-parties agree to a final document at the sixth review conference that outlines the so-called 13 steps for progress toward nuclear disarmament, including an “unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” January 10, 2003: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the NPT. June 6, 2003: The IAEA issues a report detailing Iranian clandestine nuclear activities that Tehran failed to report to the agency, in violation of its safeguards agreement. December 19, 2003: Libya announces that it will dismantle its WMD programs, including a secret nuclear weapons program, and agrees to IAEA inspections and adherence to an additional protocol. September 19, 2005: North Korea commits to abandoning its nuclear weapons and programs and returning to the NPT and to IAEA safeguards in an agreement of the six-party talks on North Korean denuclearization. September 6, 2008: The Nuclear Suppliers Group agrees to permit trade in nuclear material and technology with India, despite that country’s status as a nonparty to the NPT and de facto nuclear-weapon state.


May 2010: The eighth NPT review conference agrees to 64-point action plan to strengthen implementation of the treaty. February 5, 2011: The New START agreement between the United States and Russia to cut strategic and offensive arms enters into force. It will expire in 2021 unless extended by mutual agreement. November 2012: The conveners (Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN) of a conference to establish a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East announce that the conference will be postponed because not all states in the region agree on an agenda for the conference. March 2013: Norway hosts the first of three Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, with participation from more than 120 states. The conferences focused on scientific findings on the impact of nuclear weapons use on humans, the environment, and global climate.

April 27–May 22, 2015: The ninth Review Conference for the NPT fails to reach consensus on a final conference document over differences about convening a conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and disagreements over the pace of implementation of Article VI. A group of 107 states join the “Humanitarian Pledge,” which calls on states “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” July 14, 2015: Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to curtail Iran sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities under strengthened safeguards. November 2016: UN General Assembly First Committee approves a resolution for a negotiating conference on a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons by a vote of 123-38 with 16 abstentions. July 7, 2017: The second and final round of negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons concluded with states voting 122-1-1 to adopt the treaty. September 20th, 2017: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is opened for signature.

Major nuclear nonproliferation developments

Urgent Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

June 2018
By Thomas M. Countryman and Andrei Zagorski

For more than 50 years, the leaders of the United States and Russia have recognized the value of nuclear arms control. In the past two decades, agreements between Washington and Moscow resulted in significant reductions in both nations’ nuclear weapons arsenals in a reciprocal, transparent, and verifiable manner.

Nuclear arms control treaties and the associated dialogue they fostered have enabled both countries to reduce and manage the risks of nuclear confrontation and competition throughout the course of the Cold War and beyond. Today, with relations among Washington, Moscow, and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, nuclear arms control is even more vital to contain nuclear risks, ease worsening U.S.-Russian tensions, and prevent a new nuclear arms race that would be costly and dangerous.

Russian servicemen march in Red Square May 6 during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. Russia marked the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9. (Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)Nuclear arms control has been particularly important during past times of U.S.-Russian tensions. It minimized the possibility for miscalculation or misinterpretation of military activities and headed off unintended or inadvertent escalation. The harrowing experience of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 demonstrated the critical importance of effective dialogue. The maintenance of strategic stability is key to ensuring that U.S. and Russian nuclear policies are more predictable and less dangerous to one another and to the world.

Measures such as reciprocal obligations, timely implementation of agreements, and verifiable compliance with nuclear arms control commitments have assured the leadership on each side that the other was not seeking military advantage. Yet, should the nuclear arms control regime be permitted to erode or even collapse, such assurances would evaporate. Each side would be more likely to adapt worst-case assumptions and move toward unconstrained nuclear competition.

Arms control is also vital for addressing mounting challenges of nuclear proliferation. Should the United States and Russia enter a new nuclear arms race, it would be more difficult to prevent further spread of nuclear weapons. It would diminish the effectiveness of the regime based on the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which is central to addressing the acute proliferation challenges posed by North Korea and Iran. This would further complicate the maintenance of peace and stability.

The world should share concern that not only is further reduction in nuclear stockpiles difficult in the near term, but even existing nuclear arms control agreements are now at risk. Washington and Moscow are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, with each side exceeding reasonable deterrence requirements.

Further, a compliance dispute threatens the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is set to expire in early 2021, unless it is extended by agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents or replaced by a follow-on accord. Should the INF Treaty collapse and New START expire without replacement, there will be no longer any legally binding limitations on the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles. The consequences for effective cooperative management of nuclear risks and for nuclear nonproliferation would be severe.

Looking Ahead

In light of the challenging circumstances, Russia and the United States should pursue, on a priority basis, effective steps to reduce nuclear risks and tensions and to avoid a renewed nuclear arms race by strengthening nuclear arms control instruments. The most recent authoritative statements from both capitals indicate
that this is not impossible.

The report of the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, conducted by the Trump administration, recognizes that arms control measures can “contribute to U.S., allied, and partner security by helping to manage strategic competition among states,” as well as serving to provide a “useful degree of cooperation and confidence among states” and “foster transparency, understanding, and predictability in adversary relations, thereby reducing the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation.”1

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addresses U.S. and Georgian troops participating in the Noble Partner 2017 multinational military exercise on August 1, 2017. Pence arrived in Tbilisi from Estonia, where he reaffirmed U.S. support for the Baltic nations and accused neighboring Russia of seeking to "redraw international borders" and "undermine democracies." (Photo: John W. Strickland/U.S. Army)In addition to reconfirming the U.S. commitment to arms control, the report emphasizes the willingness of Washington to engage in a “prudent arms control agenda” and to “consider arms control opportunities” and further nuclear reductions. The U.S. Strategic Command, which directs U.S. nuclear forces, confirms that it remains “committed to strategic stability with China and Russia.”2

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in an interview with NBC that New START would expire soon and stated the readiness of Russia to continue a dialogue on nuclear arms control, to maintain the regime established by the treaty, and to discuss further reductions in nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles.3 Russian officials link any further progress in nuclear arms reductions to addressing other issues that may affect strategic stability, such as the deployment of a global U.S. missile defense system; development of high-precision, non-nuclear strategic offensive arms, and the possibility of offensive weapons in outer space.

As their March 20 telephone conversation revealed, Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump keep the need to curb a nuclear arms race on their mutual agenda.4 Pursuing such measures does not imply or require a restoration of “business as usual” between the two countries. In fact, when Russian-U.S. political relations are at their worst, it remains in the vital interests of the United States, Europe, and Russia to contain nuclear tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

Recognizing the difficulties for returning to a comprehensive and complex bilateral and multilateral arms control agenda, the United States and Russia can and should take a number of steps in that direction as soon as possible. Following are the most urgent steps.

Immediately extend New START. On February 5, 2018, the United States and Russia achieved the central limits of New START, which took full effect on that date.5 The treaty imposes important bounds on strategic nuclear competition between the two superpowers. As long as the Russian and U.S. programs of nuclear forces modernization remain within the limits established by the treaty, it meets its objective of managing the strategic stability between the two nuclear states.

Although due to expire in February 2021, the treaty can be extended by up to five years by agreement between the two countries, without requiring further action by the U.S. Congress or the Russian Duma. Extending the treaty until February 2026 would preserve its significant security advantages, not only the numerical limits but also the mutual transparency provided by the treaty’s verification measures. Those measure include data exchanges, notifications, and inspections. An extension would buy time for the two countries to discuss other stabilizing measures, including further reductions in their nuclear stockpiles.

Russian officials suggested in 2017 a dialogue with Washington on an extension of New START, but U.S. officials wanted to wait until the treaty’s limits were achieved and the Nuclear Posture Review was completed. Both conditions are now met. A swift extension of the treaty until 2026 could have the important benefit of improving the bilateral political atmosphere.

On April 11, Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the administration will begin a review soon to assess the “pros and cons” of extending the treaty. Anita Friedt, acting assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting on April 19 that an extension “is something we’re looking at” but that there is no target date for the completion of the review. Friedt added that the administration will take into account Russian compliance with other arms control agreements when weighing whether to extend New START.6

Agreement on an extension would provide a positive achievement on the U.S.-Russian agenda and would help to fulfill their disarmament commitments under Article VI of the NPT. If New START is not extended, then in 2021 there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972. Unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, in numbers and technology, would spark an arms race even more dangerous than that of the 1950s and 1960s.

Resolve the INF Treaty compliance dispute. The INF Treaty made a major contribution to European and global security by eliminating all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The treaty is now at risk, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations and the United States stating that it will not allow Russia to gain a military advantage through its violation.

A collapse of the INF Treaty would end a landmark arms-reduction agreement; open the door to a U.S.-Russian arms race in intermediate-range missiles; further complicate relations among the United States, Europe, and Russia; and have negative repercussions for the entire arms control agenda.

So far, the United States and Russia have reaffirmed their commitment to the treaty and have taken some steps to discuss their noncompliance complaints. Two meetings of the Special Verification Commission, established by the treaty to resolve compliance disputes, took place in 2016 and 2017. Those talks helped clarify the complaints, but did not result in any progress on resolving the disputes.

The United States and Russia should intensify such efforts. As a next step, they should provide each other with demonstrations and technical briefings to answer U.S. questions about the range of the Russian 9M729 (SSC-8) ground-launched cruise missile and Russian questions about the ability of MK-41 launchers in Romania and Poland, intended for Standard Missile-3 missile defense interceptors, to hold offensive missiles.

Yet, no further meetings of U.S. and Russian technical experts are scheduled to address this dispute. A resolution requires high-level leadership from the White House and the Kremlin.

Maintain regular dialogue on strategic stability. After a break of several years, U.S. and Russian officials held a round of strategic stability consultations in September 2017, but subsequently postponed a follow-up round to be held in March. They should make this dialogue a continuing and regular part of the U.S.-Russian agenda.

Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile systems roll through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9. (Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)Given the evolving nature of strategic stability, maintaining stability today is a more complex question than during the Cold War. Whereas strategic stability previously focused only on U.S. and Russian strategic offensive nuclear forces, with some attention to ballistic missile defense, today’s stability model must account for third-country actors and new concepts and technological advances, such as precision-guided conventional strike systems and actions in the cyber and space domains.

The dialogue should also include U.S., NATO, and Russian military issues, with a view to enhancing understanding and avoiding misperceptions. One topic should be the so-called Russian escalate to de-escalate doctrine, which posits a limited use of nuclear weapons in order to stop an overwhelming conventional attack on Russia. Russian officials deny this is an official doctrine, but it is taken as a reality by NATO planners and in the Nuclear Posture Review. An earnest dialogue on doctrine is essential in order to avoid lowering the threshold for use of nuclear weapons.

U.S. and Russian diplomatic and military officials should pursue a broad, systematic, and continuing dialogue on these matters with a view to understanding the other’s concerns; clarifying misperceptions about key issues, including each side’s nuclear use doctrine; and at some point defining mandates for negotiations on specific issues. One important and most welcome first step in this direction would be publication by Russia of its more detailed nuclear posture in a format similar to that of the Nuclear Posture Review report.

Sustain military-to-military dialogue on key conventional issues. Over the past five years, the instances of U.S. and NATO military aircraft and warships and Russian military aircraft and warships operating in close proximity to one another have increased dramatically. NATO has deployed ground forces to the Baltic states and Poland, putting them in closer proximity to Russian ground forces in Russia and Kaliningrad. These raise the prospect of accidents and miscalculations that would be in neither side’s interest and that could escalate to a full-fledged armed conflict, especially in the Baltic region or the Black Sea.

Dangerous military incidents and brinkmanship have become a routine matter, as they were during the Cold War. The United States, NATO, and Russia have reactivated past arrangements in order to prevent incidents at sea and in the air and should continue to improve and update such arrangements. NATO and Russia should launch a sustained military-to-military dialogue on how to arrest any unintended or inadvertent escalation, avoid miscalculations, and reduce the risk of hazardous military activities in Europe.


Despite the current tensions and the political difficulty of returning to the arms control agenda, the prevention of a new nuclear arms race requires joint U.S.-Russian leadership and urgent steps. There is the opportunity to reduce nuclear risk by recognizing that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Important steps in that direction would come from extending New START, preserving the INF Treaty while resolving compliance disputes, and resuming discussion of the strategic stability agenda, from which both sides and the broader world community will benefit.


1. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF.

2. John E. Hyten, statement to the U.S. House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, March 7, 2018, http://www.stratcom.mil/Portals/8/Documents/2018%20USSTRATCOM%20HASC-SF%20Posture%20Statement.pdf?ver=2018-03-07-125520-187.

3. Office of the President of Russia, “Interview to American Channel NBC,” March 10, 2018, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57027.

4. “Readout of President Donald J. Trump’s Call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia,” The White House, March 20, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/readout-president-donald-j-trumps-call-president-vladimir-putin-russia-3/.

5. Arms Control Association, “New START at a Glance,” March 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART.

6. Kingston Reif, “Administration to Review New START,” Arms Control Today, May 2018.

Thomas M. Countryman, a former acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, is chair of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association. Andrei Zagorski is director of the Department of Disarmament and Conflict Regulation at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations and a professor of international relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. This paper is adapted from an April 2018 statement by the Deep Cuts Commission, of which both are members.

With U.S.-Russia relations at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War, arms control efforts are even more vital to contain nuclear risks.

REMARKS: Quitting the Iran Nuclear Deal: ‘A Serious Mistake’

June 2018

Former President Barack Obama’s May 9 statement on President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord. It has been slightly edited for length reasons.

There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.

Former President Barack Obama speaks at an innovative communications conference in Paris, on December 2, 2017. (Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working; that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. secretary of defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest; it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish; its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes, with Iran, the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.

That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.

Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So, it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.

First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council resolution.

Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran’s nuclear program and achieved real results.

Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust. It is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.

Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until 10, 15, 20, or 25 years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.

Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior, including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in
the Middle East.

We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.

Former President Barack Obama’s criticizes President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord.

‘Libya Model’ Upsets Summit Planning

June 2018
By Kelsey Davenport and Terry Atlas

The United States and North Korea engaged in diplomatic brinkmanship over a prospective summit meeting, after provocative remarks by top U.S. officials citing the “Libya model” for disarmament drew a strong pushback from Pyongyang.

For days, it was unclear whether the resulting decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to cancel the historic meeting with North Korean leader King Jong Un would be a serious breakdown, raising the risk of military conflict, or a temporary setback as each side sought advantage ahead of an eventual summit.

North Korean officials watch the demolition May 24 at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where North Korea appeared to destroy at least three tunnels, observation buildings, a metal foundry and living quarters at the remote mountain site. (Photo: News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)Less than 24 hours after his cancellation, and following a conciliatory public reaction from Pyongyang, Trump said that the two sides were talking, and summit planning resumed with both leaders signaling they wanted the meeting.

Asked if North Korea had been playing games, Trump said, “Everybody plays games.” And an official North Korean statement, following an emergency meeting May 26 between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said Kim had expressed his “fixed will” to meet with the U.S. president.

Trump abruptly called off the summit May 24, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” shown in North Korean statements. Just hours earlier, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui had said Kim might reconsider the June 12 summit due to “ignorant and stupid” remarks by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

It appeared that Trump wanted to look strong by aborting summit plans rather than risk being dumped, after preparations were upset following remarks from Pence and Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, both hard-liners on North Korea.

In a Fox News interview May 21, Pence warned that North Korea’s government could end like that of Moammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader who was killed during a U.S.-backed uprising in 2011, if Kim does not agree to rapid elimination of its nuclear weapons and related infrastructure. Asked if he was threatening Kim, Pence said, “I think it’s more of a fact.”

In her statement, Choe said, “Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

Trump, in his cancellation letter to Kim made public, said, “I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.” He thanked Kim for the “beautiful gesture” of releasing of three American prisoners and left open the possibility of meeting at a later time.

Trump also included a less-than-subtle threat: “You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Ky Gwan, responding to Trump’s announcement, said North Korea was ready to talk with the United States “at any time.” He said that North Korea’s earlier comments were “just a reaction to the unbridled remarks made by the U.S. side” and that Trump’s unexpected cancellation may be a sign that he lacked the will or confidence to attend the summit.

The cancellation appeared to catch South Korea off guard despite Moon’s White House meeting with Trump just 48 hours earlier. Moon called the cancellation “regretful and disconcerting,” and he subsequently met with Kim May 26 in an effort to get the summit back on track.

A summit has the potential to be a major diplomatic achievement for Trump, who has advocated a Nobel Peace Prize for himself. But it also holds peril given his shortcoming in dealing with the complexities of nuclear negotiations and his need to produce an agreement more demanding than the rigorous Iran nuclear deal he repudiated and abandoned.

The cancellation by Trump came just hours after North Korea, acting on one of its unilateral promises, blew up tunnels at its Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site. The government did not bring in inspectors from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to assess the extent to which the site is no longer usable.

The Trump administration stumbled in its policy coordination, with Pence and Bolton citing the provocative “Libya model” while the president himself publicly indicated flexibility for the timing of disarmament steps. Bolton told CBS on April 28 that the Trump administration is “looking at the Libya model,” which would require Kim to give up his nuclear weapons program quickly before any concessions are granted.

Libya never possessed nuclear warheads, but pursued an illicit nuclear weapons development program, which it gave up in 2003 and dismantled under the presence of inspectors. (See ACT, January/February 2004.) When that process was completed, the United States lifted sanctions in 2004.

That case, however, is freighted with symbolism for North Korea’s leadership since Gaddafi was toppled and killed seven years later by U.S.-aided rebel forces. For North Korea, the nuclear weapons program is seen as a powerful deterrent against U.S. attack, as well as an assertion of its concept of radical self-reliance known as juche.

Kim Ky Gwan said on May 16 that it is “absolutely absurd to dare compare” North Korea with Libya. The U.S. remarks are an “awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq, which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers,” he said.

If Washington insists on forcing “unilateral nuclear abandonment,” Pyongyang will no longer be interested in dialogue, he said.

Trump muddied the waters about the U.S. approach to negotiations the following day, when he downplayed the Libya model. His comments, however, made clear he did not understand that Bolton was referring to the 2003 nuclear dismantlement agreement.

Trump said that, “in Libya, we decimated that country,” likely referring to the NATO intervention in 2011 and the death of Gaddafi. He said that if an agreement is reached, Kim will remain in North Korea “running that country.” But Trump warned that North Korea would face the same fate as Libya “if we don’t make a deal.” North Korea did not respond publicly Trump’s comments, instead focusing on Pence and Bolton.

During the surprise U.S.-North Korean diplomacy this year, one challenge has been the differing interpretations of “denuclearization,” which the United States regards as the complete, verifiable elimination of North Korea’s entire nuclear weapons infrastructure. For its part, Pyongyang views denuclearization as a two-sided process that includes U.S. nuclear weapons that are part of Washington’s core defense commitment to allies South Korea and Japan. (See ACT, May 2016.)

A comprehensive agreement that addresses North Korea’s entire program in one step may sound appealing, in that it would address the legitimate concern that Pyongyang is just buying time and is not serious about denuclearization. Yet, the size of North Korea’s nuclear program and the role its warheads play in the state’s security make the approach less feasible.

Unlike Libya, North Korea possesses a stockpile of weapons-usable material, 10 to 20 nuclear warheads, plutonium- and uranium-production facilities, a nuclear testing site, and a variety of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads against targets in the region and in the United States. North Korea also has a history of cheating on its nuclear declarations to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even in the Libya case, when Tripoli was cooperating with dismantlement efforts, some materials were missed during the dismantlement process.

Beyond North Korea’s explicit rejection of an approach that requires “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterward,” Pyongyang’s characterizes its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against U.S. policy. Putting that deterrent on the table ahead of U.S. action to reduce the “hostile policy” toward North Korea is highly unlikely.

An alternative to the Libya model is a step-by-step approach with reciprocal actions. Under this approach, the United States and North Korea would agree on overarching goals at the onset, then pursue a phased action-for-action strategy that exchanges steps toward dismantlement for security assurances and economic relief.

North Korea appears to favor that model. In his May 25 statement, Kim Ky Gwan said “the first meeting will not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way” would improve the relationship.


Why U.S. talk of the “Libya model” drew a strong pushback from North Korea.

EU Moves to Block U.S. Iran Sanctions

June 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions on that country is spurring Europe to block U.S. measures and shore up support to sustain the agreement.

By pulling out of the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement, Trump delivered on a campaign promise to “tear up” the deal with Iran, which he has frequently disparaged as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” In doing so, he rebuffed personal last-minute appeals by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their visits to the White House in late April.

President Donald Trump leaves the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House May 8 after announcing his decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)Trump said on May 8 that if he “allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” Trump said the process he initiated in January to work with European partners to “fix” the accord is not possible under the “decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” despite U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling allies days before the announcement that he felt an agreement could be reached to address U.S. concerns. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Following up the president’s action, Pompeo in a May 21 speech outlined a broad list of demands on Iran and said the United States will impose the “strongest sanctions in history” to force Iran to end certain nuclear activities and missile programs, aid to the Syrian regime and support for militant groups in the region. The set of demands, stopping just short of an explicit call for regime change, sets the stage for further U.S. tensions with European allies and the Islamic Republic.

Even before Pompeo’s policy speech, Trump’s announcement earned sharp rebukes from Washington’s partners in the agreement, as well as the European Union, and commitments by those nations to continue implementing the accord. The extent to which that is possible is unclear, given that major foreign companies face being cut off from the U.S. banking system and other punishment if they do not adhere to U.S. sanctions on Iran.

European Council President Donald Tusk was particularly direct in his criticism, tweeting on May 16 that “[l]ooking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies?”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated Iran’s commitment to continue abiding by the agreement, so long as Iran’s national interests are met, and said he was pleased that “the troublesome member has been eliminated” from the deal.

But Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that he wants to see “definite reassurance” and “practical guarantees” that Iran will receive the sanctions relief envisioned under the deal.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said that guarantees are not possible but that the EU is determined to “act in accordance with its security interests and to protect its economic investments.” She met on May 15 with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK to discuss moving forward without the United States.

How Might Iran Expand Its Nuclear Capacity?

In deciding to violate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump has put at risk the extensive measures the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) imposed to block Iran from building nuclear weapons.

How long would it take if Tehran’s leaders now decide to race for the bomb? One accomplishment of the nuclear deal is that it imposed hurdles intended to ensure that Iran could not do it in less than a year. Further, for now, Iran would not be able to attempt it without being detected, thanks to the robust international inspection and monitoring required by the nuclear accord.

That timeline and the inspection tripwires could, however, become less reliable depending on Iran’s actions following the unilateral U.S. decision to reimpose sanctions.

Iranian leaders have raised the possibility of abandoning some or all of the tough nuclear restrictions they accepted in 2015 in return for the lifting of nuclear-related international sanctions. Iran could take steps, such as scaling up its nuclear program or reducing cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, that would violate its JCPOA commitments.

“If necessary, we can begin our industrial [uranium] enrichment without any limitations,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on May 8. “We will wait for some weeks and will talk with our friends and allies and other signatories of the nuclear deal, who signed it and who will remain loyal to it. Everything depends on our national interests.”

Iran currently has 5,060 installed IR-1 centrifuge machines and a relatively small inventory of low-enriched uranium of less than 300 kilograms. Iran could quickly begin enriching the material to 20 percent uranium-235, although it would still take at least 12 months to amass enough uranium enriched further to bomb grade for one nuclear device.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on April 21 that if the decision were made, it would take just four days to resume enrichment to 20 percent U-235. Enrichment to that level is short of the enrichment level of 90 percent necessary for weapons use, but it would reduce the time needed to produce bomb-grade material. The nuclear deal limits enrichment to levels below 3.67 percent U-235, suitable for fueling nuclear power reactors.

Iran also could reorient the Fordow underground enrichment complex, which became a physics and technology research center under the deal, and use some 1,000 IR-1 machines there. Iran’s centrifuge-based nuclear infrastructure could be further augmented with the redeployment of some 1,000 advanced IR-2M centrifuges, which were put into monitored storage under the JCPOA. Because these are two to three times more efficient than the IR-1s, their use, along with the IR-1 machines at Iran’s disposal, would reduce the time necessary to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb to two to three months.

With the existing IAEA monitoring system in place, all of these steps would be promptly detected. But within months of a decision to exceed the JCPOA limits, Iran could have a vastly shorter “breakout” timeline.

Breakout calculations must take into account the fact that, before 2004, Iran engaged in an organized program of experiments useful for the development and design of nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA report that program is no longer underway, although it is prudent to assume that Iran has the know-how to assemble a nuclear device.

At present, Iranian engineers and scientists, building on past know-how, would likely need at least a year to assemble a workable nuclear device and mate it to a reliable ballistic missile delivery system.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

Subsequently, at a May 17 meeting of the European Commission, the body agreed to take steps in response to Trump’s reimposition of sanctions, including revising a blocking statute used by the EU in the 1990s to protect entities from U.S. sanctions on Cuba. The blocking regulation “forbids EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions, allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgements based on them,” according to a May 17 press release.

The EU is aiming to have the measure in force by Aug. 6, the day some U.S. sanctions go into effect. Although the United States has reimposed sanctions, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on May 8 that entities would be given 90 or 180 days to wind down activities in Iran before sanctions would be enforced.

For large, multinational companies with a significant presence in the United States, the blocking regulation is unlikely to provide enough assurance for them to remain in the Iranian market. Several announced that they are winding down business in Iran and exiting contracts.

The regulation sends a strong political signal, however, and may provide cover for smaller businesses with less of a presence in the United States to continue doing business in Iran. The EU also launched a process whereby the European Investment Bank will be able to support investment activities in Iran.

EU measures to blunt the impact of sanctions call into question Trump’s plan to pressure Iran back to negotiations. Brian Hook, State Department director for policy planning, in a May 18 press conference described the goal of sanctions reimposition as creating “necessary pressure to bear on Iran to change its behavior and to pursue a new framework” that addresses Iran’s ballistic missile development and its support for terrorism, as well as its nuclear program.

In the lead up to the 2015 nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), EU sanctions and EU compliance with U.S. sanctions were a critical part of the pressure campaign that pushed Iran to negotiate. With the EU and China, Russia, and other states retaining business ties with Iran, it is unlikely that the United States will be able to press Iran into new negotiations.

Trump Draws International Criticism for Quitting Iran Deal

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal drew unusually strong criticism from U.S. allies and from partners in the negotiations. Some of those reactions:

“France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision…. The nuclear nonproliferation regime is at stake.”—French President Emmanuel Macron

“Imagine all the mutually contaminating civil wars and internecine conflicts that rage across the Middle East today. Then turn the dial, and add the possibility of a regional nuclear arms race triggered by Iran dashing for a bomb. That is the scenario which the agreement has helped to prevent.”—UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson

Newspapers in Tehran on May 9 headline the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. (Photo:  Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)“The [deal], agreed to with Iran in 2015 and endorsed by the UN Security Council, is not perfect. It has, however, helped to curb a real threat to international peace and security. Canada regrets that the United States has decided to withdraw…particularly given that, according to the [International Atomic Energy Agency], Iran continues to implement its…commitments.”
—Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

“I believe that it’s not right to unilaterally cancel an accord that was negotiated, that was confirmed in the UN Security Council unanimously.”—German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“The action plan does not belong to the United States alone but is a domain of the entire international community, which has repeatedly reaffirmed its interest in the preservation and long-term sustainable implementation of the [Iran deal] for the sake of strengthening international and regional peace and security as well as the nuclear nonproliferation regime.... Russia is open to further cooperation with the other…participants and will continue to actively develop bilateral collaboration and political dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
—Russian Foreign Ministry statement

“The agreement is not perfect, and we must continue to address concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in the region…. The U.S. decision is a step backwards. The Netherlands will work with our partners to find a solution that safeguards our own security and that of the entire European Union.”—Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok

“Australia is disappointed.”—Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Iran has left open the option to resume troublesome nuclear activities in response to the U.S. violation and withdrawal from the deal. In a move likely meant to signal that Iran will leave the JCPOA if the remaining parties to the agreement cannot deliver on sanctions relief, Rouhani ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to be “fully prepared for subsequent measures if needed, so in the case of need, we will start up our industrial enrichment without limitations.”

Other Iranian officials, including AEOI head Ali Akhbar Salehi, have specifically said Iran would resume enriching uranium to 20 percent uranium-235, a level that would put Tehran closer to the 90 percent U-235 required for use in nuclear weapons.

Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent U-235, a level suitable for nuclear power reactors, using no more than 5,060 installed centrifuges. The accord also limits Iran to a stockpile to 300 kilograms of uranium enriched to that level, a measure to hinder any nuclear-bomb effort.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed on May 8 that Iran is meeting its commitments under the accord, and the agency’s May 24 quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities further confirmed that Tehran had not taken any steps to violate the deal after Trump withdrew.


Close U.S. allies push back after Trump rejects personal appeals not to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

Nuclear-Weapon States Spar at NPT Meeting

June 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The international conference to prepare for the 2020 review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was marked by quarreling among nuclear-weapon states and revised U.S. positions put forward by the Trump administration.

Tensions among Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States about chemical weapons use in attacks in Syria and the UK, although not part of the NPT agenda, bled into the debate. An April 24 meeting among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states was unable to produce a consensus statement, but the states were united in opposition to assertions by non-nuclear-weapon states that the nuclear powers have not adequately complied with their NPT Article VI obligations to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations in good faith.

U.S. officials brief reporters April 26 at the 2018 NPT preparatory conference. The speakers (left to right) were Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation; Anita Friedt, acting assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance; and Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament. (Photo: Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission)The Trump administration said that U.S. disarmament measures would depend on changes in the international security environment. A U.S. working paper, “Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament,” presented at the conference contends that the “easing of international tension,” “strengthening of trust,” and other specific conditions are prerequisites for progress on global disarmament.

Some of the specific conditions identified include the denuclearization of North Korea; Iran’s verified compliance with its nonproliferation commitments; the recognition of the right of Israel to exist; adherence by all states to the Model Additional Protocol established by the International Atomic Energy Agency; a moratorium on the production of fissile material; a halt to the increase and diversification of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean nuclear weapons arsenals; an improvement in the transparency of nuclear policies; the development of nuclear disarmament verification technologies; and compliance by all states with all international agreements, particular by Russia with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and by “some” states with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The preparatory talks, held from April 23 to May 4 in Geneva, were divided into three thematic sections: disarmament, nonproliferation, and nuclear energy. At the conclusion, Adam Bugajski of Poland, the conference chairman, presented a factual summary that was not voted on or adopted by the conference as a consensus document.

Many nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states did agree on supporting several interim measures toward nuclear disarmament, including risk reduction efforts, negative security assurances, extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and the resolution of U.S.-Russian compliance disputes involving the INF Treaty.

Dozens of states emphasized their support for the Iran nuclear agreement, subsequently abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump; advocated for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), including calling for North Korea to sign and ratify the treaty; and supported the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). The United States announced that it will officially support work toward an FMCT.

Many states welcomed recent developments, including the diplomatic moves between North and South Korea and the July 2017 adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Although France and Russia condemned the prohibition treaty, which is opposed by all the nuclear-weapon states, it was not a major point of contention at the conference.

NPT signatory states agreed on the right of all treaty parties to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and on the importance of nuclear security and nuclear safety. Many highlighted national initiatives to advance these goals.

The United States sparked a debate by stating in a working paper that “the NPT review cycle cannot be the primary mechanism for progress” on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East but that regional states should work to establish the conditions needed to make progress on the initiative. At the 2015 NPT Review Conference, disagreement on this subject blocked agreement on a final consensus document.

The Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement were among those to reject the U.S. approach, stating that the decision during the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference to indefinitely extend the NPT would not have been possible without the resolution on the Middle East calling for a WMD-free zone.

Two nonproliferation statements were circulated for members to sign during the conference. One statement, distributed by Russia and China, expressed support for the Iran nuclear accord. Another denounced North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments and welcomed the recent diplomatic overture. Some states did not sign that document because it did not include a call for North Korea to join the CTBT.

The day before the conference’s end, Bugajski released his factual summary. Nuclear-weapon states largely accepted the document and did not point out changes to be made in the document.

Other countries suggested revisions to better reflect the views expressed at the conference. New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, recommended adding a reference to maintaining the moratorium on nuclear testing pending the CTBT’s entry into force and removing the word “some” when describing nuclear modernization programs that are not consistent with NPT obligations. Several states argued that the document should assert that states had “welcomed” the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty instead of “noting” it.

The conference selected Shahrul Ikram of Malaysia to be chairman of next year’s preparatory meeting, to be held in New York.


Talks prepare for the major review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2020.


Subscribe to RSS - June 2018