In their 1995 agreement to extend the life of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) indefinitely, the parties to the treaty, including the five countries that the pact designates as nuclear-weapon states, committed themselves to a set of principles and objectives for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. The lack of progress over the past 15 years has led to increasing frustration among many of the non-nuclear-weapon states.
The 2010 NPT Review Conference, which will take place in
The NPT is middle-aged and tired. Life could begin again at 40 for the treaty, but that will require a sincere effort combined with a willingness to believe that promises made in 2010 will be better kept than those made in 1995 and 2000. This is true for the implementation of the 1995
As multilateral arms control treaties go, the NPT, which was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, has been extraordinarily effective. There are 189 states-parties and three states that have remained outside the treaty for its duration—
It was not easy to get so many states on board.
The NPT Review Cycle
Since 1970, treaty members have come together every five years to review the implementation of the treaty and chart the course for the next five years or more. Originally the treaty was written to last 25 years, with the option of extending it indefinitely or for an additional fixed period or periods. The 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference decided to extend the treaty indefinitely, but it was not a decision with which all states-parties have been comfortable. The decision to extend the treaty was part of a set of agreements that also included a statement of principles and objectives for nonproliferation and disarmament, mechanisms to strengthen the review process, and a resolution on making the
The 1995 Principles and Objectives document called on states that operate unsafeguarded nuclear facilities—this was particularly addressed to India, Israel, and Pakistan—to join the NPT and called for measures such as the immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiations on a nondiscriminatory and universally applicable convention banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Specifically, the nuclear-weapon states committed themselves to determined pursuit of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of elimination. Yet, there has been little movement on either these objectives or on the
There was a breakthrough at the 2000 review conference, where the parties adopted a review document that included a 13-step action plan for complete nuclear disarmament. These steps included the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes, with a view to their conclusion within five years; establishing a CD subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament; and an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament. The 13 steps also included a commitment to the “early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III as soon as possible while preserving and strengthening the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty” and the further reduction of nonstrategic nuclear weapons. The steps also called for measures to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems and for a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies.
The failure to meet these commitments has weakened the NPT regime. The damage has been compounded by the nuclear weapons tests of
The 2005 NPT Review Conference was unable even to agree on an agenda.
In preparing for the 2010 review conference, the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings that took place in 2007 in
The CTBT still seems a long way from ever entering into force. Although Vice President Joe Biden’s speech to the National Defense University in February will increase trust in the intention of the U.S. government to make a solid push for ratification, there is deep concern that this U.S. administration will not be able to deliver on its promises and the CTBT may remain off the statute books. It is not that friends, allies, and even enemies do not believe in the good intentions of the current
The CD has been a source of disappointment as well. Its adoption last May of a work program, for the first time since 1998, seemed to signal the potential for progress in that body. Since that historic decision, however, procedural matters have been used to block the commencement of work in 2009, and so the CD in 2010 once again finds itself unable to begin negotiations. Despondency is setting in, and unless there is some breakthrough very soon, the situation in the CD could infect the atmosphere in the NPT. On the other hand, perhaps because the problems in the CD are for the most part caused by
Big Issues in 2010
There are four major issues for this year’s review conference: the implementation of the 1995 Middle East resolution,
The 1995 resolution was an integral part of the decision to extend the NPT indefinitely. The resolution was co-sponsored by the three depositary states:
The decision in 1995 to extend the NPT indefinitely was not adopted by consensus. The consensus was that “a majority exists among States party to the Treaty for its indefinite extension.” This is very different from a genuine consensus.
Furthermore, immediately following adoption of the extension decision, a number of states said that they had not been in favor of the indefinite extension of the NPT and would have preferred a shorter time period for the extension. These states included many from the Middle East;
Although Middle Eastern countries that are parties to the treaty have made a number of proposals and taken practical steps, there has been no sustained engagement from the other NPT members, including the nuclear-weapon states. Recently there have been renewed efforts by the three depositary states and by key players in the Middle East, particularly
Egypt, Russia, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), and Nabil Fahmy have all recently proposed similar steps that could pave the way forward for progress on the creation of the Middle East WMD-free zone. There is a growing convergence of opinion that the UN secretary-general should use his good offices to host a series of meetings over the next five years to discuss practical steps toward a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the
The most important aspect of these proposals is that they are for a long-term sustainable set of steps, with reporting mechanisms so that progress can be monitored. Governments and foundations could make significant contributions by providing sustained support for regional expert seminars and research projects on the scope and content of a WMD-free zone in the
Disarmament. Disarmament and lack of progress toward it will certainly be one of the features of the discussion. The START follow-on will most definitely be welcomed, as will an announcement that new talks on a wider-ranging treaty containing deeper cuts will take place. Concerns over lack of progress in the CD will be raised, but because this is no longer the fault of any of the nuclear-weapon states, blame will not reside in the room. If there are any fresh ideas about negotiating the fissile material ban, now is the time to throw them into the mix. This may be the time for Mexico, Sweden, and others to dust off their earlier proposal to place the negotiations and other items in the CD work program under the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, and carry out the negotiations and deliberations in Geneva, with the clear understanding that the issues would return to the CD should it ever be able to begin work.
Yet, mixed messages will be sent and received on the new Russian nuclear doctrine and the new U.S. Nuclear Posture Review. Even though it is clear to nuance-watchers that both have taken steps in a positive direction and that a reduced reliance on nuclear weapons lies behind each of the documents, for many countries it will be difficult to square the stated claims of being in favor of nuclear disarmament with the continuing dependence on nuclear weapons within the security doctrines of the two countries.
The situation is similar for
Diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies and military doctrines is a major theme for non-nuclear-weapon states, and a commitment to no-first-use policies, such as that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear weapons, would go a long way to reduce the cynicism over professed commitments to nuclear disarmament and would support existing negative security assurances. Another positive step would be for the nuclear-weapon states to strengthen such assurances.
Peaceful uses. The peaceful use of nuclear energy is referred to as an inalienable right within the NPT, and many states feel that the right has been eroded for some, whereas India, a country that has remained outside the treaty, will now benefit from the 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group decision that gives New Delhi access to the international nuclear market without having to take on the responsibilities that NPT members are obliged to undertake. The Technical Cooperation Program of the IAEA is particularly important for developing countries, and financial support for the program from developed states is an important commitment. The various proposals for multinational approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle and assurance of supply are having a difficult time gaining traction in the developing world. There are persistent fears that the nuclear supplier countries are plotting price-fixing cartels and that they have a long-term aim of infringing on Article 4 rights.
What Success Might Look Like
Although the 2009 NPT PrepCom could not agree on the draft elements paper as proposed by the chair, there was enough consensus on the basic framework of the paper to inspire confidence in the possibility of such a document being agreed.
The draft elements paper included an action plan for the three pillars of the treaty: nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and safeguards, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In addition, there were sections on ways and means to strengthen nuclear safety and security, to implement regional nonproliferation and disarmament initiatives and explore future initiatives, and to implement the 1995 Resolution on the
Various proposals have been put forward for potential action plans for disarmament. Notable among these is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Five-Point Plan that he launched in October 2008 and the ICNND’s “A New International Consensus on Action for Nuclear Disarmament.”
Ban proposed (1) negotiations on nuclear disarmament, either on a convention or framework of agreements banning nuclear weapons; (2) negative security assurances; (3) full realization of existing treaties and agreements such as the CTBT, those establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, and additional protocols; (4) increased transparency on stockpiles and arsenals by the nuclear-weapon states; and (5) work on complementary measures on other weapons of mass destruction, conventional forces, missiles, and space weaponization.
The ICNND proposals include (1) a reaffirmation of the unequivocal undertaking to eliminate nuclear weapons and for non-NPT parties to make a similar undertaking, (2) entry into force of the CTBT and negotiation of the fissile materials ban, (3) deep reductions and no-first-use doctrines by 2025, and (4) the need for de-alert status, negative security assurances, increased transparency, verification and accountability, irreversibility, and steps toward complete disarmament.
The 2009 draft elements paper underwent several revisions and was not adopted, but there are some interesting features that may well be retained for the 2010 review conference.
As a starting point, a reaffirmation and updating of the commitments made to nuclear disarmament in 1995 and 2000 will be a basic requirement for most NPT members.
On nonproliferation and safeguards, strong language will have to be found to underscore the importance of compliance with all articles of the NPT and with the IAEA safeguards obligations. Reaffirmation that IAEA safeguards are a fundamental pillar of the regime and support for the universal adoption of the Model Additional Protocol are vital. Increasing the number of countries with an additional protocol in force is essential for the long-term survival of the NPT, and garnering support for the protocol is well worth striking compromises.
Similarly, the reaffirmation of the inalienable right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with NPT Articles 1, 2, and 3, as the language of Article 4 stipulates, needs to be stressed, along with support for the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Program and bilateral assistance programs. The issue of multinational approaches to the fuel cycle will remain difficult to handle. Nuclear security and safety will also feature in any outcome document; the nuclear security summit scheduled to be held in
Regional issues, particularly nuclear-weapon-free zones, will be one of the most exciting features of the conference. The entry into force of the Central Asian and the African nuclear-weapon-free zones last year boosted the cause of nonproliferation and disarmament. The nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states should do everything they can do to support those zones. The states outside the zones may not like every detail of these agreements, but these are freely arrived at, showing the commitment of regions and their constituent states to the NPT—not to be sneezed at, given the concerns over the future of NPT. Too often, the nuclear-weapon states act as if they are against such measures. If this review conference could mark a shift in that negative attitude, there could be a positive effect in support for other aspects of the NPT agenda. In particular, as discussed above, support for the implementation of the 1995
This may be the year that NPT parties finally address the problems of the enhanced review process that was established by the 1995 review and extension conference. The original idea was to establish a substantive process addressing the important aspects of the treaty on a near-annual basis. There is significant frustration with implementation of the process, and over the last decade, a number of states, most notably Canada and Ireland, have proposed a sensible set of ideas for strengthening accountability, including focusing on special topics year by year and instituting a dedicated secretariat for the treaty. In addition, there is the thorny problem of the right to withdraw from the NPT and how to prevent a state from using the technical assistance rights of the treaty to develop a clandestine capability and then withdraw, with all the technical equipment and know-how acquired intact and no penalty to pay.
Finally, the importance of civil society in the implementation of the treaty and the need to invest in training the next generation of experts and educating the public have become increasingly obvious to all concerned. The review conference is a real opportunity to pay serious attention to the development and support of civil society. A world free of nuclear weapons will depend on public support and action. States that support nongovernmental efforts in disarmament research, education, training, and action, for example, in developing new civil society verification methodologies, will be making a significant investment in a more peaceful and secure global future.
A framework with the elements outlined above would cover all the bases required for a successful outcome document, but is that the same thing as a successful outcome?
Perhaps the motto for the 2010 NPT Review Conference should be “respice prospice,” meaning “look to the future and learn from the past.” Success at the review conference will require an understanding of what is needed for the NPT in the next five years and beyond.
First and foremost, the parties need to agree on a way forward. It may be that they can never completely agree on the past, but they do need to agree what should come next. For that, they need an approach that allows parallel tracks for the “respice,” the looking-back elements, and the “prospice,” the looking-forward elements. If states were able to separate out the papers for this process, then lack of agreement on history would not have to wreck future progress. In a sense, this happened in 1995, with the extension decision being separate from the review process, which failed. It also requires groups of people working together to formulate an action plan, based on the elements and framework put forward at the 2009 PrepCom.
An action plan for the forthcoming review period perhaps does not have to be so complicated. Working on the “less is more” principle, it may be better to set in place some practical, achievable short-term goals for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, peaceful use, and safeguards. There is much to build on. The 1995 Principles and Objectives give clear guidance, and the 2000 conference document shows what can be done when states work across the political divides, such as between the New Agenda Coalition—Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden—and the nuclear-weapon states; commit to a positive outcome; and work toward it together. There is a clear need for a new action program to supersede the 13 practical steps. It should contain both aspirational and practical steps—steps for the long term and the short term. A framework that includes practical steps toward zero nuclear weapons through a nuclear weapons convention would have the greatest chance of success.
Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), states are classified as either nuclear-weapon states or non-nuclear-weapon states. There are five nuclear-weapon states:
The treaty is essentially a bargain among the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states, involving the three key elements, or “pillars,” of the treaty.
Article 1 of the NPT prohibits the nuclear-weapon states from transferring nuclear weapons or their control to anyone and from assisting non-nuclear-weapon states in acquiring nuclear weapons. For their part, the non-nuclear-weapon states are prohibited by Article 2 from receiving or seeking nuclear weapons technology or assistance. These paired obligations make up the nonproliferation pillar of the treaty, as they are aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear-weapon states.
The second pillar is the Article 6 undertaking by all the 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.”
The third pillar, based on Article 4, is that all the parties agree to facilitate exchanges of information, technology, and assistance for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and that all states have the right to participate in the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The caveat is that the non-nuclear-weapon states have to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency access to their nuclear facilities to verify that the information, materials, and technology do not cross into military programs.
A recurring theme of the NPT review conferences has been the tension that has resulted from the different emphases that different states have placed on each of the three pillars.
Patricia Lewis is deputy director and scientist-in-residence at the
1. UN Security Council, Resolution 1887, S/RES/1887, September 24, 2009, www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions09.htm.
2. Merle David Kellerhals Jr., “Biden Discusses U.S. Nuclear Agenda,” America.gov, www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2010/February/20100218161933dmslahrellek4.514712e-02.html. For the full text of the remarks, see Office of the Vice President, The White House, “The Path to Nuclear Security: Implementing the President’s Prague Agenda,” February 18, 2010, www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-vice-president-biden-national-defense-university.
3. “Resolution on the
5. “1995 NPT Review Conference Package of Decisions,” www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/npt/1995dec.html#3 (“Decision 3: Extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”).
6. Rebecca Johnson, “Indefinite Extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Risks and Reckonings,” ACRONYM Report, No. 7 (September 1995), www.acronym.org.uk/acrorep/acro7.htm.
7. Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Implementation of the 1995 Resolution and 2000 Outcome on the Middle East: The Final Outcome of the Last Session of the Preparatory Committee: Working Paper Submitted by Egypt,” NPT/CONF.2010/PC.III/WP.20, May 4, 2009, www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Nuclear/NPT2010Prepcom/PrepCom2009/documents.html.
8. Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in New York, “Statement by the Delegation of the Russian Federation at the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: Implementation of a Resolution on the Middle East Adopted by the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference,” n.d., www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/npt/prepcom09/statements/8MayME_Russia.pdf.
9. International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), “Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers,” December 15, 2009, www.icnnd.org/reference/reports/ent/index.html.
10. Nabil Fahmy, “Ways Forward to a NWFZ in the Mid East and the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” Center for Nonproliferation Studies, January 2010. Fahmy, formerly
11. “Draft Elements of an UNGA60 First Committee Resolution: Initiating Work on Priority Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Issues,” May 10, 2005, www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/1com/1com05/docs/draftelementsinitiating.pdf.
12. Ban Ki-moon, “The United Nations and Security in a Nuclear-weapon-free World” (speech, East-West Institute,
16. For example, see “Draft Recommendations to the Review Conference,” NPT/CONF.2010/PC.III/CRP.4/Rev.2., May 15, 2009, www.reachingcriticalwill.org/legal/npt/prepcom09/papers/CRP4Rev2.pdf.
19. See UN General Assembly, “Letter Dated 17 December 2007 From the Permanent Representatives of Costa Rica and Malaysia to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General,” A/62/650, January 18, 2008, annex, www.icanw.org/files/NWC-english.pdf (“Model Nuclear Weapons Convention”).