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New ACA Report - Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament: 2009-2010 Report Card
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For Immediate Release: October 27, 2010

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107; Peter Crail, (202) 463-8270 x102

Click here to download the full report (PDF).

The independent Arms Control Association (ACA) today released a new study by its research staff that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament and nuclear security categories over the past 18 months.

The study, Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament: 2009-2010 Report Card gives grades to China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan—each of which possess nuclear weapons—and North Korea—which maintains a nuclear weapons capability—as well as Iran and Syria, which are under investigation for possible nuclear weapons-related activity.

“The findings of our 2009-2010 Report Card suggest that the global system that has been established over the decades to reduce nuclear weapons dangers is neither on the verge of crumbling nor on the cusp of success,” said Peter Crail, ACA’s nuclear nonproliferation analyst and lead author of the 65-page report.

“The past two years have seen relatively stronger support from the five original nuclear weapon states for the international norm against nuclear testing, for an end to fissile material production for weapons, and there is renewed progress to verifiably reduce U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear stockpiles, but the nuclear weapons states still fall short of the international standard in key areas,” he noted.

“None of the states possessing nuclear weapons reviewed in ACA’s 2009-2010 Report Card merit an overall, ‘A’ grade, and North Korea, which has violated nearly every nonproliferation and disarmament standard over the past two years, pulls up the rear with an overall grade of ‘F.’ The failure of two states of concern—Iran and Syria—to meet their international nuclear safeguards commitments and basic nuclear export control standards brought their overall grades down to a ‘D,’” Crail said.

“Unfortunately, some nuclear weapon possessor states, including China, India, and Pakistan, continue to build up their nuclear arsenals, while the United States and Russia continue to maintain their weapons on high alert,” noted Crail.

“While there has been widespread rhetorical support for the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, the record shows clearly that the world’s nuclear weapons possessor states all have work to do in order to meet the standards established by the international community aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating the nuclear weapons threat,” Crail said. “Getting to zero remains a long-term endeavor but it still requires sustained progress by many states, on many levels. Action in some areas but not others is not going to get the job done,” he said.

“The ‘states of concern’—Iran and Syria—must be persuaded to come back into compliance with nuclear nonproliferation standards and requirements, or else confidence in the system and their claims not to be pursuing nuclear weapons will deteriorate,” Crail said. “Many countries take aim at the nuclear weapon states for not doing enough on disarmament, and there is merit to that criticism, but that should not be a reason to excuse or ignore states that are clearly breaking the rules,” he said.

The Report Card grades the countries’ records on an A through F letter-scale and details the basis for each grade. The highest grade of “A” requires full adherence to the international standard; a “B” is assigned if the state has taken “significant steps” to adhere to meet the standard; a “C” is assigned if the state has taken “limited or declaratory steps to adhere;” a “D” is assigned if the state has taken “no action” to adhere; and a failing “F” grade is assigned if the state has taken steps “inconsistent with or has rejected” the international standard.

The Report Card gives the United States good grades in some key areas.

“It is important to note that President Barack Obama has devoted significant attention and political capital to advancing initiatives on nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security in his first two years in office. U.S. leadership efforts have shifted the terms of the international debate, put pressure on others to contribute to the global nuclear risk reduction enterprise, and forged broader agreement on the actions required to strengthen the nonproliferation system at the 2010 NPT Review Conference and with UN Security Resolution 1887,” said report contributor and ACA director Daryl G. Kimball.

“Over the past 18 months, the Obama administration has effected improvements in the U.S. record in some key areas measured in this Report Card, such as verifiable nuclear force reductions, the U.S. commitment to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, nuclear material security, and negative nuclear security assurances,” Crail said.

“Progress has been slower and some U.S. grades lower, however, due to the fact that several U.S. nuclear risk reduction measures require congressional action. The Test Ban Treaty, New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), four nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, still require Senate approval for ratification. Two international accords to prevent nuclear terrorism require the adoption of implementing legislation,” Kimball noted. “U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation depends on stronger congressional support,” Kimball said.

India, Israel, and Pakistan—the only three states never to have signed the NPT—earn slightly lower overall grades in the “C” range due largely to their policies on nuclear testing, their continued production of fissile material, and the gradual increase of their nuclear forces. Pakistan is currently responsible blocking multilateral talks on a fissile material cutoff treaty.

“Although India claims to be a ‘responsible’ nuclear power, it has not taken on many of the obligations that are expected of nuclear-armed states. To move further into the nuclear nonproliferation ‘mainstream,’ both India and Pakistan must take steps that would slow down the nuclear arms race, including codifying their nuclear testing moratoria and halting fissile material production for weapons,” Kimball said.

Israel’s grades were affected, in part, by its systematic lack of transparency on nuclear matters. Israel, which will neither confirm nor deny the existence of its nuclear arsenal, has as many as 200 weapons.

“While North Korea has violated nearly every international nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament standard during 2009-2010, it is not known to have pursued the most dangerous action of all: providing nuclear weapons-material to rogue states or rogue actors,” Crail noted. “Preventing renewed North Korean fissile material production and preventing its sale to others must be a top priority,” Crail urged.

“The Report Card is an ambitious attempt to help describe what constitutes the ‘mainstream’ of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament behavior expected of responsible members of the international community. We hope it will serve as a tool for the public and policy makers to assess the status of nuclear risk reduction efforts and hold governments accountable,” Kimball said.

“By outlining the many responsibilities and the records of states on nonproliferation, disarmament and nuclear security, this Report Card is a reminder that success in reducing the nuclear threat depends on implementation of tougher standards. All states, including those that are not analyzed in this report, have a responsibility to provide the leadership necessary to eliminate the threats posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Kimball said.

The full report, Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament: 2009-2010 Report Card, is available online. To download the full report, please click here.

A summary of the basis for the standards identified in the report, grading methodology, key trends, and country-by-country highlights, is also available here.