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The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Nonproliferation Through Disarmament
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Special Briefing on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference

April 20, 2005
United Nations Headquarters Building
Delegates Dining Room

Prepared Remarks of ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has made the world safer by significantly raising the political costs of and technical barriers to the development of nuclear weapons. It has helped establish a global norm against the acquisition, trade, testing, modernization, and use of nuclear weapons.

Despite the very significant accomplishments of the NPT, the nuclear nonproliferation system, is under great stress. As the May 2005 NPT Review Conference nears, it is evident that global security and proliferation challenges are as politically and technically complex as they were in the 1960s when the NPT was conceived and created.

The NPT is not broken, but it must be strengthened if past successes are to be preserved and if today's and future proliferation threats are to be rolled back.

In his overview of the Carnegie report, Universal Compliance, George Perkovich has outlined an important overall strategy to deal with the nuclear danger. Larry Schienman, who served as policy advisor for the International Atomic Energy Agency Experts Group on the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, has explained the need for better regulation of sensitive uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies. In my comments, I want to offer some observations about the value of this conference, the need for a comprehensive approach to reinforce the NPT, and the importance of disarmament to international security and the nonproliferation cause.

The 2005 Review Conference is more than just a once every five years conference to evaluate compliance implementation with the treaty and a forum to exchange ideas about new proposals. It is a vital opportunity for U.S. policymakers and other leaders to organize broad international support around an effective plan of action to update and strengthen the treaty to defeat old and new threats before they become catastrophes.

While it is clear that NPT states parties want to strengthen the treaty, there are a wide variety of approaches about how to do so reflecting the different interests and concerns of states parties and regional groups. We have carefully studied these different proposals and ideas and we've summarized them in our resource guide on Major Proposals to Strengthen the NPT.

A successful conference should ensure that the various governments of states-parties and their bureaucracies begin to get serious about implementing all their obligations. In practical terms, this means that the states-parties should recommit themselves to the legal and political obligations established by the treaty and successive NPT Review Conferences, as well as agree on a specific and balanced program of action to strengthen treaty implementation and compliance.

With these realities in mind, the Campaign to Strengthen the NPT formulated our April 5 statement and action plan. It is supported by over 20 former senior government officials with direct experience on the NPT, including three former U.S. Cabinet secretaries, as well as the 2002 Chairman of the NPT Prep Com Henrik Salander and former U.S. ambassadors Bob Grey, Thomas Graham, and George Bunn.

The statement notes that viability and success of the NPT depends on universal compliance with tighter rules to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It proposes a comprehensive, balanced, and practical set of six recommendations, including:

  • Better compliance monitoring through the Additional Protocol;
  • Securing weapons-usable nuclear material to the highest standards;
  • New and more effective regulations on sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities;
  • More effective regional security strategies to address proliferation dangers in the Middle East, South Asia and Korea; and
  • Renewed progress toward fulfillment of the nuclear-weapon states' NPT disarmament obligations.

The goal is to sustain progress and implementation with all, not just some, of the treaty's objectives.

Unfortunately, the current approach of the five NPT nuclear-weapon states, and especially the United States, is not likely going to help build agreement on such a program of action. At the last three preparatory committee meetings for the 2005 Review Conference, U.S. officials have pushed for greater limitations on other states while arguing that it needs to do little or nothing more on nuclear disarmament.

Some U.S. and French officials have even suggested that their 2000 NPT Review Conference commitments on specific disarmament measures-also known as the "13 practical steps"-are no longer relevant. U.S. officials, such as former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton have argued that "[W]e cannot divert attention from the violations [of the NPT] we face by focusing on [disarmament] issues that do not exist."

Instead the U.S. delegation and some others will argue that the Review Conference should focus on the "crisis of compliance," which is highlighted by the North Korean, Libyan, and Iranian nuclear programs. While the conference does need to seriously confront the disturbing activities of these states, it does not excuse the nuclear-weapon states' record of inaction and lost opportunity on their Article VI related disarmament obligations.

What is more, this is a dangerous invitation to other states to ignore other commitments made at previous review conferences-not the least of which is the indefinite extension of the treaty in 1995. It also significantly reduces the chance that the United States will win support from other states on important measures that it supports. Former U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Grey has called the current U.S. stance "a radical departure from past American practice."

It is in the self interest of leading states to urge Washington and the other nuclear-weapon state capitals, to revise their stance and adopt a more balanced and productive approach.

Let's take a quick look at the nuclear-weapon states' disarmament record since 2000.

President George W. Bush continues to oppose entry into force of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would impede development of new types of nuclear warheads by existing nuclear powers and would-be proliferators. The administration claims that it has "no plans" to resume testing. China and other key CTBT hold-outs have followed suit by delaying CTBT ratification.

Adding insult to injury, Bush has approved a military strategy-outlined in the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review-that calls for new nuclear capabilities designed to enhance the credibility and range of options for the possible use of nuclear weapons. After Congress rejected funding for the high-yield Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator last year, the Bush administration renewed its request for funding to complete the research phase of this project by 2007. Although the U.S. arsenal has been maintained safely and reliably without testing since 1992, the administration has recently proposed a program, called the "Reliable Replacement Warhead" that aims to produce a small number of new nuclear warheads by 2012 to replace existing nuclear bomb designs and capabilities.

The program would be useful if it were only intended to make existing warhead more reliable in order to help sustain the nuclear test moratorium, but if Congress does not limit its scope and purpose, it could become a means by which the U.S. tries to build new nuclear weapons for new military missions and it could lead to calls by some to resume testing to confirm the new designs.

Not to be outdone, Russia claims it is developing a more advanced nuclear delivery system. Meanwhile, China continues to slowly modernize its nuclear arsenal of approximately 100 warheads, while France and the United Kingdom are reportedly considering nuclear force modernization. Maintaining and expanding reliance on nuclear weapons only undermines nonproliferation efforts by suggesting to other states that nuclear weapons are necessary for their security.

Stalled for years by China, negotiations on the fissile material cutoff treaty are now blocked by U.S. opposition to a verification system. The stance is short-sighted and self-defeating. Such a treaty is effectively verifiable and would lock in the production freeze observed by the NPT's five nuclear-weapon states. It would also cap the supply of bomb material available to NPT holdouts India, Israel, and Pakistan.

The United States and Russia will cite their progress toward securing Soviet-era weapons-usable material and dismantling weapons banned under the 1991 START agreement. While important, their efforts reflect commitments made a decade ago.

Washington and Moscow will also tout their newest arms reduction pact, which promises to reduce their stockpile of deployed strategic weapons to 2,200 by the year 2012. But contrary to arms reduction goals of the 1990s, the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty does not require the verifiable destruction of warheads or their delivery vehicles. As a result, the United States may maintain a "responsive force" of up to 2,400 stored strategic nuclear warheads. Furthermore, the START agreement of 1991 provides the only relevant verification mechanism and it expires in 2009.

In addition, the pace of the SORT reductions is too little too late: it will allow each side to maintain massive strategic nuclear arsenals of 5,000 warheads or more past 2012-about 10 times the size of any other states' current nuclear stockpile. In the last year, the United States reported a net reduction of 2 strategic nuclear warheads.

U.S. and Russian leaders have also failed to discuss how they might reduce their so-called tactical nuclear weapons, which total at least 4,000. Greater Russian reliance on such weapons combined with NATO states' reluctance to part with the 200-400 U.S. tactical warheads based in Europe impedes progress.

President George W. Bush has also approved nuclear-use policies-specifically NSPD-17-that allow for the use of nuclear weapons to defeat chemical and biological weapons threats, thereby undercutting previous commitments to nonuse of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states in the context of the NPT.

Although NPT member states will not likely reach consensus on a new disarmament action plan at the next review conference, they cannot afford to retreat from their past commitments.

NPT states should reiterate their support for the CTBT. Those states unwilling to do so at this time should express their affirmative support for the indefinite continuation of the global nuclear test moratorium and commitment to re-evaluate their position on the CTBT in the near future. While differences exist among states about the verifiability of the FMCT, they should agree to initiate negotiations without prejudice to the outcome on verification and agree to a plan that addresses other priorities for discussion at the Conference on Disarmament.

In order to provide an "objective guarantee" of their commitment to fulfill Article VI, NPT states could also try to reach agreement on language to urges utmost restraint with respect to the development of new nuclear weapons for new military missions and which might lead to requirements for nuclear testing.

If requisite leadership from the nuclear-weapon states on these matters is not forthcoming, then they should at least follow the United Kingdom's example and agree to publish detailed plans on the conditions by which nuclear disarmament could be achieved.

The May 2005 Review Conference is a crucial forum for parties to measure progress-or lack of progress-in implementing their mutual NPT nonproliferation and disarmament commitments. Individual elements of the NPT's bargains cannot be approached singularly; neither can one or another of these elements be ignored or minimized.

The multiple threats to the nonproliferation cause also make the Review Conference an indispensable opportunity to demonstrate the political will to strengthen peace and security for all states, not just a few.

Thank you.