"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, December 5, 2018

Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that Iran will give the European Union more time to work out the details of its Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), destined to facilitate trade with Iran, but said that Tehran will not “wait forever.” While Iran remains in compliance with the multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian officials have repeatedly stated that Tehran will abandon the agreement if it is no longer in the country’s best interest. The SPV, announced by EU foreign policy...

Unmet Promise: The Challenges Awaiting the 2020 NPT Review Conference

November 2018
By Sérgio Duarte

On July 16, 1945, the first experimental detonation of a nuclear device, known as the Trinity test, was conducted in the Nevada desert. Less than a month later, the vast power of this new technology was employed twice in war. Since then, nuclear weapons have continued to proliferate, bringing the current number of possessor nations to nine, as the international community has sought to slow or reverse that course.

Sérgio Duarte speaks at the August 2017 Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs held in Astana, Kazakhstan. (Photo: Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs)This article describes the multilateral process that resulted in the adoption 50 years ago of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the treaty’s gradual acceptance by the overwhelming majority of the international community despite the permanence of divergences about its objectives and concerns about its credibility. What follow is a discussion of the role played by the successive five-year review conferences and an argument that the “enhanced review process,” adopted in 1995, has contributed to clarifying positions and concerns but has not yet produced consensus on a binding commitment by all parties to achieve the common objective of nuclear disarmament. The unfinished task before the 2020 NPT Review Conference is to help pave the way to a world without the threat of nuclear weapons.

The question of nuclear weapons nonproliferation was considered by the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) from 1965 to 1968 in response to a request by the UN General Assembly. By then, five nations had successfully obtained a nuclear weapons capability, and there was considerable and well-grounded concern that others would follow.1

Multilateral Process

Established in 1962 to succeed the short-lived Ten-Nation Disarmament Committee, the ENDC was composed of five members from the Warsaw Pact (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union), five members of NATO (Canada, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and eight nations (Brazil, Burma, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Sweden, and the United Arab Republic, later succeeded by Egypt) that did not belong to either military alliance. Its permanent co-chairs were the representatives of the United States and the Soviet Union. France chose not to occupy its seat on the committee, although it maintained unofficial consultations with other members.

The UN Charter does not mention nuclear weapons, as it was concluded about three weeks before the Trinity test. The first General Assembly resolution, however, adopted on January 24, 1946, established a commission “to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy and other related matters” and to make specific proposals on the control of atomic energy and on “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons.”

The emerging ideological confrontation between the two major powers and their rivalry and mutual mistrust prevented agreement on the substance of the issue during the following years, and the commission was finally abandoned without producing any tangible result. Still, the hopes and fears raised by the discovery of nuclear energy led to the establishment the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957. Upon ratifying the statute of the fledgling organization, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower said that “the splitting of the atom may lead to unifying the entire divided world.”2 Unfortunately, his optimistic prediction did not come true.

In 1958, Ireland introduced at the United Nations the first of what became known as the “Irish Resolutions” calling the attention of the international community to the possibility of further proliferation. The international community agreed that preventing the spread of atomic weapons, fostering peaceful uses of atomic energy, and nuclear disarmament were desirable common objectives. General Assembly Resolution 2028 (XX), adopted by consensus on November 19, 1965, called on the ENDC to “give urgent consideration” to the question of nuclear nonproliferation and to reconvene “with a view to negotiating an international treaty to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” This resolution also set forth the main principles on which such a treaty should be based.

a. The treaty should be void of any loop-holes which might permit nuclear or non-nuclear Powers to proliferate, directly or indirectly, nuclear weapons in any form;

b. The treaty should embody an acceptable balance of mutual responsibilities and obligations of the nuclear and non-nuclear Powers;

c. The treaty should be a step towards the achievement of general and complete disarmament and, more particularly, nuclear disarmament;

d. There should be acceptable and workable provisions to ensure the effectiveness of the treaty;

e. Nothing in the treaty should adversely affect the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to ensure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories;

The last of those principles was inserted at the insistence of Latin American nations that were already negotiating what became the successful establishment of the world’s first zone free of nuclear weapons in 1967 through the Treaty of Tlatelolco, a move originally frowned on but later supported by the nuclear weapon states.3

Separate, but Identical Drafts

Even before the adoption of Resolution 2028, the United States and Soviet Union were talking to each other on developing their own proposals for a nonproliferation instrument. Initially, each introduced its own draft text at the ENDC; on August 24, 1967, the two co-chairs presented separate but identical drafts4 that included some changes and additions with respect to earlier formulations. The two proponents explained that they had sought to reflect concerns raised by non-nuclear states, particularly the members of the Group of Eight.

The Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament meets in Geneva’s Palais des Nations on March 18, 1969. (Photo: United Nations)The objective of nuclear disarmament was mentioned in the preamble of each draft. The identical texts kept the original language of the previous draft articles dealing with the obligations of nuclear and non-nuclear states, the recognition of the rights of all parties to the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and amendments to and review of the operation of the treaty. The final language of the provisions on safeguards on fissionable materials for peaceful purposes would be defined by ongoing negotiations outside the ENDC. A new Article V dealt with the availability of “benefits” deriving from “peaceful applications of nuclear explosives” through “appropriate international procedures.” The question of peaceful nuclear explosions was the subject of intense and inconclusive debate and disagreement at the ENDC and elsewhere for several years until it became clear that the explosive technology had in fact no useful civil applications.

In response to the concerns of members of the group of eight countries, a new draft article was introduced containing an undertaking by all parties to the treaty 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.” This became Article VI of the new instrument, and its formulation still generates controversy. The right to conclude regional treaties on the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones was recognized in a new Article VII. Article X provided for the convening of a conference after 25 years to decide, by a majority of the parties, on an indefinite extension or additional fixed periods.5 The right of parties to withdraw from the treaty under specific conditions was also recognized in Article X.6

Several ENDC members proposed a number of additional amendments to the identical texts. The question of security assurances was among the main concerns of non-nuclear-weapon states, but was not mentioned in the drafts. The Soviet, UK, and U.S. delegations informed the ENDC of their intentions to introduce a resolution at the Security Council on that matter.7

To a large extent, the logic of the Cold War determined the positions adopted by different ENDC members. Members belonging to the Warsaw Pact and NATO generally supported the drafts, as well as the decisions of the co-chairs on procedure. They participated actively in the discussions and presented suggestions that contributed to a better understanding of the issues involved, particularly regarding verification of compliance and the thorny question of peaceful nuclear explosions.

Countries from the Group of Eight proposed changes to bring the text under examination more in line with the principles contained in Resolution 2028. The absence of a clear prohibition on deploying nuclear weapons in territories of third states and the sharing of nuclear forces were seen as at odds with principle (a). The lack of provisions to curb quantitative and qualitative aspects of proliferation by nuclear-weapon states was similarly criticized. Given the built-in asymmetry of a text intended to apply to unequal parties, that is, possessors and nonpossessors of nuclear weapons, non-nuclear-weapon countries also wanted to ensure a fairer balance of mutual responsibilities and obligations. Accordingly, the renunciation of nuclear weapons should be matched, in their view, by a strong commitment to disarmament, consistent with principles (b) and (c). With different emphases, some delegations also argued unsuccessfully against what they felt were undue restrictions on certain aspects of nuclear technology.

No Consensus

Some of the proposals for changes were not accepted by the ENDC co-chairs. A revised draft that amalgamated the previous texts and incorporated some other suggestions by ENDC members was converted into a single joint draft by the co-chairs and introduced on March 11, 1968. Predictably, the new text failed to obtain the agreement of the ENDC membership. In view of the lack of consensus on substance and on the follow-up procedure, the co-chairs decided on their own authority to send a document titled “Report of the Conference of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament”8 to the General Assembly on behalf of the conference. An annex to the report contained the draft treaty as accepted by them. An addendum9 listed all proposals and amendments presented during the discussions.

The report was placed before the UN General Assembly First Committee at its March-June 1968 session. A number of delegations sponsored a draft resolution endorsing the text annexed to the report. Three revised versions of the draft resolution were subsequently submitted, and on May 3, the two ENDC co-chairs agreed to certain revisions of the draft treaty itself, which were accepted by the co-sponsors of the draft resolution.


The First Committee adopted this new draft resolution recommending the endorsement of the draft nonproliferation treaty as revised. Among Western European states, France, Portugal, and Spain abstained on this vote. On June 12, 1968, General Assembly Resolution 2373 (XXII), co-sponsored by 48 states, was adopted by a vote of 95 to 4, with 21 abstentions. This time, France, Portugal, and Spain voted in favor. Brazil, Burma, and India were among those abstaining. Voting against were Albania, Cuba, Tanzania, and Zambia. The resolution commended the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and requested that it be opened for signature and ratification.

At present, 191 states are members of the NPT, making it the instrument with the greatest adherence in the field of arms control.10 Yet, the 50-year history of the treaty shows more confrontation and disagreement than cooperation between its armed and unarmed members. The Non-Aligned Movement and many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have militantly advocated the need for compliance with the commitments, particularly those contained in Article VI, to which the nuclear-weapon members of the treaty subscribe. A recurrent point of discord is that the five NPT-recognized nuclear-weapon states act as if the treaty will last forever in its present form, thus legitimizing their perpetual possession of such arms.

In the last couple of decades or so, the word “disarmament” seems effectively to have disappeared from the lexicon of some of the nuclear-armed states. They continue to affirm their right to keep their nuclear arsenals for as long as they consider necessary for their own security interests and “as long as nuclear weapons exist,”11 a self-serving tautology for everlasting possession. Such a posture entails a grave threat to all members of the international community, including the nuclear-weapon states themselves, and constitutes in fact a powerful incentive to proliferation.

In fact, in recent years, sections of the public in some developed non-nuclear-weapon states have been openly advocating the acquisition of an independent nuclear weapons capability. Episodes of alleged clandestine programs in that direction by a few other countries have been resolved by a combination of political, diplomatic, and sometimes military means.

Review Process

The deep divisions among NPT parties are underscored by the fact that five out of the nine quinquennial treaty review conferences held since the treaty’s inception have failed to produce a consensus final document on the status of treaty implementation. Further, important agreements reached on two such occasions—the 13 “practical steps” of 2000 and the plan of action of 2010—still await implementation.

Algerian Ambassador Taous Feroukhi (on screen), president of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, closes the conference May 22, 2015 with delegates failing to produce a consensus outcome. The next review conference is planned for 2020.  (Photo: Eskinder Debebe/United Nations)The 1995 review and extension conference succeeded in extending the NPT indefinitely and adopted a decision to strengthen the review process. A preparatory committee meets in each of the three years prior to the review conference to consider principles, objectives, and ways to promote full treaty implementation and to make recommendations to the conference. According to the decision, review conferences should look at past experience and identify areas and means through which further progress should be sought. In practice, however, the outcomes of the preparatory committee’s sessions and review conferences held since have not gone much beyond recording the disagreement over substantive issues.

Unfortunately, the gulf between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon parties over compliance and other issues has widened considerably over the decades and still prevents meaningful dialogue. This trend was particularly noticeable at the 2005 review conference, which was unable to agree on an agenda and program of work until well into the middle of the third of its four weeks’ duration, due to lack of flexibility and unwillingness to negotiate on the part of some key states. The most recent review conference, in 2015, was equally unable to adopt a final document despite much effort. The hardening of positions since the beginning of the 21st century also explains the absence of any mention of disarmament in the outcome document adopted by the 2005 World Summit held at UN headquarters.12

Challenges and Prospects

The 2020 review conference will take place in a particularly uncertain international environment due to two recent major developments: the U.S. abandonment of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and the possibility of advancing toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula as a result of the June 12, 2018, meeting between the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Also relevant for the outcome of the 2020 conference is the strong sentiment of frustration among several Middle Eastern states with the difficulties surrounding the proposed establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in that part of the world.13

Still, the NPT can be considered successful in helping contain the spread of nuclear weapons. Several reasons explain the decision by the vast majority of the members of the international community not to develop their own nuclear arsenals. Much has been written on this subject, which falls beyond the scope of this article. Obviously, a large number of states do not possess the scientific, industrial, and financial capability to undertake the effort to build a credible nuclear arsenal. Further, the nuclear-weapon possessors exert constant pressure on prospective proliferators against such moves and have extended positive security assurances to some of them.

Last but certainly not least, most of the latecomers to the NPT concluded that their security was better protected by not embarking on a nuclear weapons development program and therefore decided to join the treaty. The recognition of the inalienable right of all its parties to pursue peaceful nuclear energy activities was certainly important in making that decision. Some non-nuclear-weapon states have developed national programs in that direction, including uranium enrichment under IAEA safeguards.

Nuclear-weapon states and a number of non-nuclear ones that depend on security arrangements based on the possible use of nuclear weapons have been persistently proposing and supporting the adoption of measures to enhance verification procedures needed to determine the absence of declared and undeclared nuclear activities. Some of these proposals envisage unorthodox methods that would, in effect, turn existing voluntary agreements into compulsory commitments subject to sanctions and intervention.

NPT parties undoubtedly recognize the important contribution of the treaty, not only for their individual security but also for strengthening the confidence of the international community as a whole in the existing norms-based regime and in the need for its improvement. The exacerbation of divergences is not in the interest of any of the parties and would result in gradually discrediting the NPT as a valid and reliable international legal norm.

Obstacles to Progress

In one way or another, all existing instruments in the arms control field deal with nonproliferation by prohibiting nuclear weapons only where they do not exist (outer space, the Antarctic, the seabed, nuclear-weapon-free zones). Yet, none of the instruments in force so far establishes legally binding, time-bound, and effectively verifiable provisions aimed at the elimination of nuclear arsenals. This is considered by many parties the main flaw of the existing regime.

The nuclear weapons possessors keep arguing in favor of a step-by-step approach that, in their view, would facilitate progress toward nuclear disarmament, but there has been no effort to state in clear terms the objective of the proposed steps or to define the timelines along which such steps should be undertaken.14 There has not been a clearly articulated sequence that would lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons within a reasonable, realistic horizon.

For this reason, the promise of nuclear disarmament contained in the NPT remains unfulfilled, and the task of achieving agreement on meaningful measures leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons is still unfinished.15 The strengthened review process established by the 1995 conference has contributed to the identification of areas of divergence and clarification of the concerns of different states. The bottom line is that nuclear-weapon states remain convinced that their exclusive possession of such armament protects their security, while non-nuclear ones see the existence of nuclear weapons as a threat to their own security and that of humanity as a whole.


As the arms race continues, it is imperative to find a solution to this conundrum. The 2020 review conference is the proper forum to start work on reducing those differences and enlarging the areas of coincidence. The practice of merely recording divergent views should be discontinued. The third session of the preparatory committee on April 29–May 10, 2019, must recognize the achievement of nuclear disarmament as the common objective and recommend that the review conference adopt a clear commitment by all parties to that end. Such a commitment would provide the basis for further action.

The adoption on July 7, 2017, of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was designed to provide effective ways of filling the gap between nonproliferation and disarmament norms. Promoted by several states in the General Assembly since 2015 and drawing on the fruitful and patient work of some governments and NGOs over a number of years, the mere idea of negotiating this treaty elicited fierce opposition from nuclear-weapon states since it was first proposed several years ago.

The adverse reaction of nuclear-weapon states and their allies to the prohibition treaty may delay attainment of the number of ratifications needed for its entry into force. Nevertheless, the coming into being of this treaty, adopted by 122 states, and the progress of its signature and ratification process represent an eloquent rejection of nuclear weapons by the majority of the international community. It seeks to reinforce the trend to delegitimize these weapons and consolidate a specific norm against their use, based mainly on humanitarian considerations.

In fact, the prohibition treaty should not be seen as an opponent of the NPT; nor does it contradict the idea of progressing by sequential, organically complementary steps. Rather, it supports this notion by providing a path for the phased fulfillment of the obligations contained in NPT Article VI.

In the present climate of persistent insecurity, to which the continuing armaments race to a large extent contributes, total global expenditures on instruments of war stand at higher levels than the estimated resources that would be needed for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN. New and more powerful nuclear weapons systems and advanced warfare technologies under development increase global insecurity and the chance of war between the major powers. The risk of a nuclear conflagration remains high, and its effects will not be confined to the belligerents. At the same time, local conventional conflicts in peripheral areas undermine prospects for social and economic progress.

In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed a five-point plan for nuclear disarmament that advocated for, among other measures, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the negotiation of a convention to prohibit the manufacture, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons. In his recently unveiled disarmament agenda titled “Securing Our Common Future,” Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the “existential threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity must motivate us to accomplish new and decisive action leading to their complete elimination.”

All states should heed these calls for action. There exists the necessary tools, including the UN Charter, the CTBT, five nuclear-weapon-free zones, and other important instruments such as the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

After half a century, the NPT remains an essential element for the completion of this task. It does not provide a definitive answer to the concerns of the international community. Indeed, it is but a part, a crucial part, of the continuing search for stability and security that can only be attained by means of generally recognized, collectively elaborated, and legally binding norms that apply equally to every state.

Exceptionalism does not fit in today’s interdependent world. Established norms and principles of international law and respect for generally accepted standards of behavior among nations are the essential foundation for the achievement of an international order that ensures lasting peace and security for all. Nuclear disarmament, one of mankind’s highest aspirations and a stated goal of the NPT, must not be put on hold for another 50 years.



1. Proliferation continued after the Trinity experiment. The Soviet Union carried out its first successful nuclear test explosion in 1949; the United Kingdom followed suit in 1952, China in 1954, France in 1966, India in 1974, and Pakistan in 1998. Although officially not confirming or denying, Israel is believed to have acquired nuclear weapons in 1979. In the opposite direction, South Africa relinquished its nuclear arsenal. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine negotiated with the Soviet Union the return of the nuclear weapons stationed on their territories.

2. Dwight Eisenhower, Remarks at ceremony following ratification of the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency, July 29, 1957, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=10850.

3. The creation of the Treaty of Tlatelolco thus preceded the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and did not derive from it. It was first proposed in 1961 by the Brazilian delegate at the UN General Assembly and shortly afterward endorsed by other Latin American states. The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones was a response to the belief that the absence of nuclear weapons enhances the security of states in a region. Principle (e) of UN General Assembly Resolution 2028 (XX) intended to affirm the right of states in a region to govern and define the requirements of the process of establishing their nuclear-weapon-free zones. Nuclear-weapon states have interpreted and qualified their pledges in the protocols on the nonintroduction of nuclear weapons that they are requested to sign, which in practice defeats the purpose of keeping the zone free of all nuclear weapons.   

4. The U.S. draft took the number ENDC/192, and the Soviet draft took the number ENDC/193.

5. At the review and extension conference in 1995, agreement that the NPT would remain in force indefinitely was found to exist.

6. In 1993, North Korea gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty. It subsequently suspended this action and finally announced withdrawal in 2003. Several parties believe the move was not warranted under international law. The question is now of academic interest because the UN Security Council took no action and North Korea developed its own nuclear arsenal.

7. On June 19, 1968, after the endorsement of the NPT by the UN General Assembly, the Security Council adopted Resolution 255 with 10 votes in favor and five abstentions (Algeria, Brazil, France, India, and Pakistan).

8. UN General Assembly, “Report of the Conference of the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament,” A/7072, March 19, 1968.

9. UN General Assembly, A/7072/Add.1, March 19, 1968.

10. Only India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and South Sudan are not parties to the NPT.

11. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Statement by President Barack Obama on the Release of Nuclear Posture Review,” April 6, 2010, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/statement-president-barack-obama-release-nuclear-posture-review.

12. UN General Assembly, “2005 World Summit Outcome,” A/RES/60/1, October 24, 2005.

13. 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, “Final Document,” NPT/CONF.1995/32 (Part I), 1995, annex (“Resolution on the Middle East”).

14. The 2000 NPT Review Conference agreed on “13 practical steps for the systematic and progressive effort to implement Article VI of the Treaty.” Only steps 2 and 5 can be said to have been fulfilled, although not in their entirety. The 2010 NPT Review Conference recommended 64 specific “actions,” but no timetable was defined for implementation, and in any case they remain as a mere declaration of intention.

15. See Hans Blix, “When Disarmament Goes Backward,” Arms Control Today, September 2018.


Sérgio Duarte, a former UN high representative for disarmament affairs, is president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He was president of the 2005 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.



It is time for a clear commitment by all parties to the common objective of achieving nuclear disarmament, says
a former UN disarmament chief.

Trump’s Counterproductive Decision to “Terminate” the INF Treaty



Volume 10, Issue 9, October 21, 2018

Under the influence of his new National Security Advisor, John Bolton, Trump announced Saturday at a campaign rally that he will “terminate” a key nuclear arms control agreement that helped end the Cold War race–the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in response to a long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the treaty. 
The decision represents a shift in the administration’s INF response strategy  which was announced in January and before Bolton joined the administration.
Trump’s move to blow-up the INF Treaty is unnecessary and self-defeating wrong turn that could lead to an unconstrained and dangerous nuclear arms competition with Russia.
The breakdown of the agreement and uncertain future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) creates the most serious nuclear arms control crisis in decades.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said today that the U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty is “unacceptable” and “dangerous.” Russia continues to assert that there is no basis for the U.S. claim that Russia has violated the treaty, but the Russian Foreign Ministry said “there is still room for dialogue."
Bolton meets Monday in Moscow with President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov.
The INF Treaty Still Matters 

The INF Treaty, which was negotiated by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km (300 to 3,500 miles).
The treaty successfully eliminated an entire class of destabilizing nuclear weapons that were deployed in Europe and helped bring an end to the spiraling Cold War arms race. It has been a cornerstone of the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control architecture. And as NATO defense ministers said earlier this month, the INF Treaty “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.”
Without the INF Treaty, we will likely see the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere.  

Russian Noncompliance

The INF Treaty, while very successful, has been at risk for some time. In 2014, Washington charged that Moscow had tested a weapon, which it later identified as the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, at a range beyond the limit set by the treaty. In 2017, the Pentagon declared that Moscow had begun deploying the weapon. 

Russia denies that it has violated the treaty and asked the United States to divulge the technical details behind the charge. Moscow has expressed its own concerns about U.S. compliance with the pact, notably that U.S. missile defense interceptor platforms deployed in eastern Europe could be used for offense purposes that would violate the treaty.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue have been limited and to date unsuccessful. Since Trump took office, U.S. and Russian officials have met only twice to try to resolve the compliance dispute. 

Clearly, neither side has exhausted the diplomatic options that could resolve their concerns. 

U.S. Withdrawal Would Be An “Own Goal.” 

Trump claims that the United States is pulling out to show Russia that it will not tolerate Russia’s alleged violation of the treaty. “We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” Trump said. 

Trump may want to sound tough, but the reality is that withdrawing from the treaty weakens U.S. and allied security and does not provide the United States any military advantage in Europe or elsewhere.

  • U.S. withdrawal does nothing to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF Treaty and it distracts from the fact that it was Russia’s actions that precipitated the INF Treaty crisis. 
  • U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty opens the door for Russia to produce and deploy the missile of concern, the 9M729, in greater numbers without any constraints.
  • There is no military need for the United States to develop, as Trump has proposed, a new and costly INF Treaty-noncompliant missile. The United States can already deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets that ground-launched missiles that are prohibited by INF Treaty would. 
  • NATO does not support a new INF Treaty-range missile in Europe and no country has offered to host it. Attempting to force the alliance to accept a new, potentially nuclear missile would divide the alliance in ways that would delight the Kremlin.

Even without the INF Treaty in force, the U.S. Congress and NATO governments should reject Trump’s push to develop a new U.S. ground-based INF Treaty-range missile in Europe (or elsewhere), and instead focus on maintaining conventional military preparedness to deter adversaries without violating the treaty.

Does the United States Need Ground-launched, INF Treaty-Range Missiles to Counter China?

No. In 2011, long before any Russian INF compliance concerns surfaced, John Bolton proposed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Washington should to withdraw from the treaty in order to counter China, which is not party to the treaty. In his Oct. 20 remarks on withdrawing from the treaty, Trump also pointed to China as a reason for abandoning the INF Treaty.

When asked at a congressional hearing in July 2017 about whether withdrawal from the INF Treaty could be useful because it would allow the U.S. to develop new ground-based systems to hit targets in China, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva said that such a move was unnecessary because the United States can already hold those targets at risk with treaty-compliant air- and sea-based assets.

In his remarks Saturday, Trump suggested he might support a ban on INF Treaty-range missiles if "Russia comes to us and China comes to us” ... "and let’s none of us develop those weapons.” Russia did approach the United States in 2007 and jointly proposed in a UN General Assembly resolution multilateralizing the INF Treaty. The idea of “multilateralizing INF has been around for more than a decade, but neither Russia nor Washington have devoted serious effort into the concept and China is highly unlikely to join an agreement that would eliminate the bulk of its missile arsenal.

Trump’s INF Treaty decision is a debacle. But without New START it will be even worse 

If the INF Treaty collapses, as appears likely, the only remaining treaty regulating the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles will be New START. New START is due to expire in 2021 unless Trump and Putin agree to extend it by five years as allowed for in Article XIV of the agreement.

Unfortunately, Bolton may try to sabotage that treaty too. Since he arrived at the White House in May, he has been slow-rolling an interagency review on whether to extend New START and refusing to take up Putin’s offer to begin talks on its extension. 

Key Republican and Democratic Senators are on record in support of New START extension, which can be accomplished without further Senate or Duma approval.

Instead, one option Bolton is talking about is a “Moscow Treaty" approach that would dispense with New START and its rigorous inspection system on warheads and missiles to ensure compliance. This option would simply set limits on deployed warheads only and without any verification—an approach Moscow is very unlikely to accept because it could give the United States a significant breakout advantage.

The current crisis makes it all the more important to get a serious U.S.-Russian arms control dialogue back on track. 

Trump and Putin should agree to relaunch their stalled strategic stability dialogue and commit to reaching an early agreement to extend New START by five years to 2026 – which is essential if the two sides are to meet their legal commitment under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty "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 …."

If they fail to extend New START, an even more dangerous phase in U.S.-Russian relations is just over the horizon.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director, and KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy


Under the influence of his new National Security Advisor, John Bolton, Trump announced Saturday at a campaign rally that he will “terminate” a key nuclear arms control agreement that helped end the Cold War race–the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in response to a long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the treaty. Here's why that's counterproductive.

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The Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty: Interpreting the Ban on Assisting and Encouraging

October 2018
By Stuart Casey-Maslen

The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was negotiated by more than 120 states, has changed the conversation about nuclear weapons and their legitimacy.

An anti-nuclear protester holds a placard at a February 5 rally in Sydney, Australia. Supporters of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and Japan’s Peace Boat group gathered to urge the Australian and Japanese governments, both United States defense allies, to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)The treaty prohibits the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, installation and threat of use of nuclear weapons. In so doing, it reinforces states’ commitments to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Additionally, the prohibition treaty has a broad provision that specifically obligates each state-party to never, under any circumstances, “assist, encourage, or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity” prohibited to a state-party under the treaty.1 This key nonassistance provision has attracted considerable discussion because of its implications for countries allied with nuclear weapons possessor states, such as those under the United States’ so-called nuclear umbrella, as well as for non-nuclear-weapon states that have or seek access to nuclear materials and technology for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

For nuclear-armed states, assistance from other countries is needed not only to maintain but also to modernize their arsenals and even to deploy them operationally in certain parts of the world. This is because, for instance, they require quantities of fissionable material for enrichment or reprocessing, relevant software, and missile technology that may be available from non-nuclear-weapon states. Similarly, they may desire basing permissions for bombers close to where they may be needed in the event of major conflict. The practical significance is that the nuclear-weapon states, mindful that the assistance provision will be an impediment to the effectiveness and legitimacy of their weapons stockpiles, are using their considerable influence to discourage countries from joining the treaty.

Further, there are concerns among some non-nuclear-weapon states about the reach of the provision. For instance, early in the main session of the 2017 UN diplomatic conference that negotiated the treaty, the Netherlands, where the United States reportedly stores tactical nuclear bombs,2 called for “assist,” “encourage,” and “induce” to be defined.3 Singapore subsequently stated that the provision was “not clear.”4 One concern is whether unrelated commercial trade might be adversely affected by the provision. This article explores the extent to which these concerns are legally justified.

Prohibitions in Disarmament Law

A clause outlawing different forms of assistance for prohibited activities has been a staple of comprehensive disarmament treaties—those that prohibit the possession and transfer of weapons and require the destruction of any stockpiles—since 1972, with the adoption of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).5 Prior even to that, the NPT included a nonassistance clause,6 although its scope of application was limited to the nuclear-weapon states named under that treaty, essentially the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.7

The precise framing of the assistance provision in comprehensive disarmament treaties has barely changed since the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),8 which had broadened the scope of the undertaking to encompass natural and legal persons (individuals and corporate entities). The BWC had prohibited assisting only other states and international organizations. Since the opening of the CWC, its formulation of the assistance provision has been employed most often, including in the wording for the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty. In contrast, in the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, negotiators omitted the words “in any way” as a number of NATO members wished to leave open the possibility of joint planning with the United States for the use of cluster munitions.

Scope of the Prohibition

The scope of the undertaking is certainly broad. The words “in any way” mean that the prohibition encompasses indirect and direct actions. As such, it would cover supply of the key components of any nuclear explosive device, at least where there was knowledge on the part of the state-party of the recipient’s intent to use them in a nuclear weapon. In this regard, under the Draft Articles on State Responsibility for violations of international law (“internationally wrongful acts”) finalized by the International Law Commission in 2001, “[a] State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so if … that State does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the internationally wrongful act.”9

The word “anyone” in the prohibition on assistance in the ban treaty applies to any recipient of assistance whatsoever. In addition to any other state, this therefore concerns helping any individual, company, or international organization, as well as any nonstate actor, thereby buttressing UN Security Council Resolution 1540.10

The treaty makes it unlawful for states-parties to gather and share intelligence to be used for the purpose of targeting nuclear weapons. One example might involve the so-called Five Eyes program, the intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)The activities prohibited for a state-party under the ban treaty are those set out in the other subparagraphs of Article 1(1) of the treaty, namely to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear explosive devices; to transfer them to any recipient directly or indirectly; to receive their transfer or control over them; and to use or threaten to use or allow any stationing of such devices in any place under their jurisdiction or control. A state-party can therefore not help anyone to develop or obtain nuclear weapons or control over them or to pass them on to any other party.

What is the nature of the prohibition on assisting such activities? The notion of unlawful assistance is well known in public international law under the rules of state responsibility.

Under the rules referenced above, one state assists another to commit a violation of international law if it does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the other state’s violation and if the act by the recipient state that amounted to the violation would be a violation had it committed the act itself. With regard to the prohibition treaty, of course, there is a slight distinction insofar as the state receiving the assistance might not be party to the treaty and therefore might not itself be violating international law, but the same principles of nonassistance apply. Under Article 1(1)(e), state-party A cannot assist state B (irrespective of whether it has joined the treaty) to develop, produce, or stockpile any nuclear explosive device. An obvious instance of unlawful assistance would be the supply of fissile material or related technology, where the supplying state-party knows the use to which such material or know-how will be put.

Where it was known that the missile program of the assisted recipient was intended for the delivery of nuclear weapons, the provision of ballistic missile technology would also be unlawful. Jointly planning with a nuclear-weapon state that is about to test or use nuclear weapons on how and where a weapon will be detonated would be another clear case of a violation. Evidently, too, a state-party that allows a nuclear-weapon state to deploy its nuclear weapons on its territory would be engaging in prohibited assistance for the possession and probably also stockpiling of the weapons. In any event, the act of allowing the stationing, installation, or deployment of any nuclear weapons on a state-party’s territory is explicitly outlawed by Article 1(1)(g).

Also, it would be unlawful to gather and share intelligence to be used for the purpose of targeting nuclear weapons. One example might involve so-called Five Eyes, the intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.11 Its work to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons is lawful, but intelligence used to assist the UK or the United States in identifying sites to be hit with nuclear weapons, such as in North Korea, would clearly breach the assistance provision. That would amount to a significant treaty violation if the intelligence came from a state-party.

The NATO Issue

The prohibition on encouraging prohibited activities concerns, in particular, members of nuclear alliances, most obviously those states belonging to NATO. The preface to the alliance’s latest “strategic concept,” adopted in November 2010, commits NATO to “the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons” but “reconfirms that, as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”12 The strategic concept further recalls that “[d]eterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy. The circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated are extremely remote. As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”13

It is certainly lawful for a member of NATO to sign the prohibition treaty, but would it also be lawful for a member state to ratify or accede to the treaty and become a state-party? The Netherlands, for one, says it cannot support the treaty because it is “incompatible” with its NATO obligations.14

The notion of encouragement covers efforts to persuade someone to do something or to continue to do it, whether or not those efforts are successful. NATO’s 2010 strategic concept explicitly envisages the possession and potential use by certain members of a nuclear alliance. Indeed, the strategic concept stipulates that NATO will “maintain an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces.” As observed in April 2018,

[i]t is difficult not to read the current Strategic Concept as an “encouragement” of the nuclear-armed allies’ continued retention of nuclear weapons. In France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, increased spending on nuclear weapons is frequently justified as a means of “reassuring” allies or meeting “extended deterrence commitments.” The language contained in the Strategic Concept enables such justifications and, by extension, the development and possession of nuclear weapons. The language of NATO’s current Strategic Concept appears incompatible with Article 1(1)(e).15

At the same time, adhering to an international treaty overrides, as a matter of international law, commitment to an earlier political declaration or instrument, which is the nature of the 2010 NATO strategic concept. Indeed, there is a certain irony in the position that a nuclear-weapon state may adhere to the prohibition treaty and be in conformity with it, subject to its compliance with the obligations to not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, to remove them from operational status, and then to destroy them,16 but an umbrella state would be in violation the moment it joined.

That said, it would be straightforward for a nuclear umbrella state to openly disavow support for nuclear weapons and then to comply with the rest of the treaty as would any other state-party. This would represent good faith application of the treaty, as the law of treaties demands of all states-parties to any treaty. Furthermore, “NATO members are not obliged to endorse every line of alliance language. There is a long tradition of member states’ ‘footnoting’ or attaching interpretative statements to alliance documents.”17

Flanked by French Deputy Representative to the United Nations Alexis Lamek (L) and British Representative to the United Nations Matthew Rycroft (R), U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley criticizes the negotiations for a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty at United Nations headquarters March 27, 2017. Given U.S. opposition, only one NATO ally, the Netherlands, participated in the negotiations and it voted against the final treaty language. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Moreover, as was the case with the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, there is no problem in “merely” participating in military maneuvers with states that possess the prohibited weapons as long as those maneuvers do not rise to the level of assistance or encouragement to possess or use the weapons. For example, were Sweden to adhere to the prohibition treaty, it could lawfully pursue military exercises such as Aurora 17, which took place in Sweden in September 2017 with the participation of the United States and other NATO states.18

In 2016, prior to the negotiation of the treaty, the United States drafted a diplomatic discussion document, a so-called nonpaper, on the ramifications it foresaw of the future treaty.19 In it, the United States argued that the future treaty “could” degrade security relationships and “delegitimize the concept of nuclear deterrence.” More substantively and with specific respect to the assistance provision, the United States argued that the treaty could force a signatory, presumably a state-party, to “repudiate” U.S. statements that “it would defend the signatory with nuclear means.”20

This is an accurate assessment of Article 1(1)(e), but the nonpaper also suggested that a state-party could believe that it was “legally required” to “block all NATO nuclear cooperation” even if it were not involved in any nuclear “burden-sharing.”21 This is clearly wrong. A state-party to a treaty is bound to comply with its own obligations, not to impose disarmament on other states. To “assist” or “encourage” does not mean to “permit.” Perhaps what is most interesting about this nonpaper is the implicit recognition that a state-party to the treaty is not obligated to withdraw from NATO.


In sum, the prohibition treaty precludes states-parties from assisting or encouraging the possession, transfer, or use of any nuclear explosive devices, for instance by providing technological know-how for development or fissile material for production or by endorsing declarations by regional organizations calling for the maintenance of a nuclear deterrent.

Yet, it does not stop states-parties from generally collaborating with other states in military affairs and operations or from being a member of a regional organization, some of whose members possess nuclear weapons. This is the position of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. In a recent, thoughtful paper, the clinic argues that the prohibition treaty requires a state-party “to renounce its nuclear umbrella status, but does not stand in the way of alliances with states that continue to possess nuclear weapons.”22

The prohibition on assistance is broad in scope, requiring explicit disavowal of any existing nuclear-umbrella guarantee, but realistic in application. It is an integral component of the prohibition of nuclear weapons.



1. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), 2017, art. 1(1)(e), https://treaties.un.org/doc/Treaties/2017/07/20170707%2003-42%20PM/Ch_XXVI_9.pdf.

2. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Worldwide Deployment of Nuclear Weapons, 2017,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 73, No. 5 (Aug. 31, 2017), pp. 289-297.

3. Remarks of the Netherlands in plenary, Second Session of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination, 16 June 2017 (notes on file with author).

4. Remarks of Singapore in plenary, Second Session of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination, 16 June 2017 (notes on file with author).

5. Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction art. III, April 10, 1972, 1015 U.N.T.S. 163.

6. “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes … not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons art. I, July 1, 1968, 729 U.N.T.S. 168 (hereinafter NPT).

7. “For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclear-weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January, 1967.” NPT, art. IX(3).

8. Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction art. I(1)(d), January 13, 1993, 1974 U.N.T.S. 45.

9. International Law Commission, Report on the work of its fifty-third session, A/56/10, 2001, art. 16 (“Aid or assistance in the commission of an internationally wrongful act”).

10. The UN Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, decided that “all States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.” UN Security Council, S/RES/1540, April 28, 2004.

11. See, e.g., Yusra Aziz, “The Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance,” Privacy End, March 16, 2018, https://www.privacyend.com/five-eyes-intelligence-alliance/.

12. NATO, “Active Engagement, Modern Defence: Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” November 19, 2010, https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_publications/20120214_strategic-concept-2010-eng.pdf.

13. Ibid., para. 17.

14. Kingdom of the Netherlands, “Explanation of Vote of the Netherlands on Text of Nuclear Ban Treaty,” July 7, 2017, https://www.permanentrepresentations.nl/latest/news/2017/07/07/explanation-of-vote-of-ambassador-lise-gregoire-on-the-draft-text-of-the-nuclear-ban-treaty.

15. “Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor: Preliminary Research,” Norwegian People’s Aid and International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, May 2018, p. 26, http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Nuclear-Weapons-Ban-Monitor.pdf.

16. See TPNW, arts. 1, 2, and 4.

17. “Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor,” p. 26.

18. With respect to Sweden, see Bonnie Docherty, “The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Its Compatibility With Sweden’s Security Arrangements,” International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School, June 2018, http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Sweden_TPNW.pdf.

19. NATO, “United States Non-Paper: ‘Defense Impacts of Potential United Nations General Assembly Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty; Note by the Secretary,’” AC/333-N(2016)0029 (INV), October 17, 2016, annex 2, http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NATO_OCT2016.pdf.

20. Ibid., para. 4.

21. Ibid., para. 5.

22.  International Human Rights Clinic, “Nuclear Umbrella Arrangements and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” Harvard Law School, June 2018, p. 1, http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Nuclear_Umbrella_Arrangements_Treaty_Prohibition.pdf.


Stuart Casey-Maslen is research and policy coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. He was co-editor of Nuclear Weapons Under International Law (2014).


The treaty prohibits the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, installation and threat of use of nuclear weapons.

The Nonproliferation Treaty Review Process: Major Milestones and the Way Forward

September 2018
By Thomas Markram

My first encounter with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was 30 years ago when I joined a meeting held in August in Vienna between the South African foreign and mineral affairs ministers and the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and United States. The purpose of that meeting was to explore how South Africa could join the NPT. The answer from the depositaries was simple: South Africa could join without nuclear weapons.

Thomas Markram, deputy to the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, briefs the Security Council April 4 on the situation in Syria. (Photo: Manuel Elias/United Nations)Much has been written on the reasons why South Africa joined the NPT in July 1991. Most acknowledge there were in fact a combination of factors.

Geopolitically, under the 1988 Brazzaville Protocol, the Soviet-aligned Cuban forces withdrew from Angola, thereby ending what had been the security rationale for a nuclear deterrent. The top levels of the South African apartheid government had accepted that long-term security would be better assured through the abolition of nuclear weapons. South African President F.W. de Klerk had in fact regarded nuclear weapons as a “rope around our neck.” The years between the dismantlement of the program in 1991 and its disclosure in 1993 were marked by a delicate balancing act by the political leadership in South Africa, seeking to prevent a conservative backlash while undertaking serious fundamental reforms in a transition to a full democracy and obtaining reacceptance into the international community.

Important voices in the African National Congress and anti-apartheid movement had long campaigned against the regime’s nuclear weapons program. The new democratic government in 1994 was keen to demonstrate that South Africa was a responsible possessor of advanced technologies. Its disarmament and nonproliferation policy thus was integral to its commitment to democracy, human rights, sustainable development, social justice and environmental protection. These dynamics also shaped South Africa’s position within the NPT.

Another critical dynamic was the international environment, which, at the time when the treaty was negotiated, was very different than when South Africa joined, in the same review cycle that the treaty was due to expire. According to an account of the negotiations and early implementation, the 1.0 version of the NPT was primarily an affair between the nuclear blocs and about managing the dynamics of the Cold War. It put a brake on further proliferation to give political space for negotiations among the major powers on the arms race and disarmament. This version of the treaty featured a weak safeguards regime, as was eventually discovered in 1991 in Iraq, and a permissive arrangement for nuclear weapons cooperation among allies.

Nonproliferation was never meant as an end in itself, but rather the treaty was conceived as a partial measure for nuclear disarmament and for general and complete disarmament. Between 1970 and the mid-1990s, UN bodies and bilateral negotiations produced a substantial range of agreements aimed at halting the arms race, reducing nuclear arsenals, and strengthening nonproliferation. The treaty’s review process served to support progress in these various efforts.

Beginning in 1995, the review process took on a very different function. NPT version 2.0 became a framework for disarmament and nonproliferation. The negotiations that South Africa joined in 1995 regarding the extension of the treaty were very much between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states.

It was in this context that South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo proposed at the review and extension conference the “Principles for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament” and “Strengthened Review Process.” These proposals provided the means through which progress toward achieving nuclear disarmament could be achieved and provided yardsticks to accomplish the goals of the treaty. They formed an integral part of the package deal of three decisions and resolution adopted in 1995 and formed the basis on which the treaty was extended indefinitely.

Under the strengthened review process, the NPT evolved into a de facto negotiating forum for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. Its function in this regard has only been reinforced by the long stalemates in the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission. Subsequent review conferences reached agreement on specific steps designed to lead to the full implementation of the treaty, especially Article VI.

In this sense, the review conferences have functioned as more than a mere safety valve designed to vent pressure from parties disgruntled over the pace of progress. They have served as the primary multilateral body within the framework of the United Nations for elaborating agreement between the nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states.

The agreed outcomes in 1995, 2000, and 2010 were quite distinct from the political declarations of 1975 and 1985. From 1995 onward, states-parties viewed NPT outcomes as politically binding agreements that should be fully and faithfully implemented, which is where the strengthened review process of the treaty has run into real difficulty. In a sense, the 13 “practical steps” of 2000 simply gave substance to the principles and objectives of 1995.

Yet, there continued to be a sense among many parties that too little had been done to implement these agreements in the 15 years following the indefinite extension of the treaty. The 2010 action plan was a remarkable achievement by providing a well-articulated road map for implementation, albeit mostly of past commitments, and the 2015 review conference ultimately failed at continuing this scenario because the parties were unable to agree on benchmarks and timelines.

Nevertheless, 25 years after the indefinite extension, we have perhaps reached a point where even successful efforts to describe old commitments in more granular levels of detail cannot make up for divisions resulting from perceptions of insufficient implementation and their pace. This is perhaps the largest political factor that led nearly two-thirds of member-states to conclude the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty last year.

Ultimately, this leaves us with the question, What is next for the strengthened review process?

The nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime is facing stress and pressure from all sides. Unlike when the NPT was negotiated, we now have to contend with multiple spheres of power and influence; a growing multiplicity of interests, conflicts, and asymmetries; and disarmament machinery hobbled by archaic rules and practices. Rapid technological progress is also lowering political costs for the use of force, tempting states and nonstates to conduct hostile and malicious acts in circumstances that they regard as a grey area in the law and blurring the line between strategic and nonstrategic weapons.

These trends point to a real risk that norms of disarmament, nonproliferation, and common security may give in to what seems like a growing acquiescence for military solutions to international problems. These dynamics are also serving to increase the nuclear risks we face and should compel the pursuit of new measures with a sense of urgency.

So do we need an NPT version 3.0? If so, what would that look like, and how would it function?

On its surface, nothing appears to be wrong with the mechanism, especially as review conferences have succeeded in forging agreements even where less inclusive bodies such as the Conference on Disarmament have continuously failed. Thankfully, the current crossroads at which the NPT finds itself do not reflect any waning commitment to the objective of nonproliferation. It appears that the NPT will remain indispensable and its historical significance at being nothing less than the system of international security at the heart of the United Nations will continue in ensuring no conflict can escalate to the level of an existential threat to humanity.

In this sense, I have no doubt that the legacy of the NPT can continue to endure long into the future. It is the most universal body seized with elaborating effective measures relating to disarmament. It also contains the only treaty-based obligation to negotiate in good faith to this end. Thus, it represents the only forum where non-nuclear-weapon states have any effective leverage in bargaining directly with the nuclear-weapon states.

Although many characterize the 2015 review conference as a failure, I see it instead as a watershed because its result reinforced the perception among a majority of non-nuclear-weapon states that they can bring pressure to bear through various means in the absence of demonstrable steps by the nuclear-weapon states to implement previous commitments.

Reversing this trend will necessitate a return to the traditional conception of the role of disarmament as the ultimate security assurance. This will require states to come back to treating the obligation to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament as an obligation to achieve a result, not as an open-ended invitation to retain nuclear weapons. This is the distinction between making progress “in” disarmament, as opposed to progress “toward” disarmament.

It will require, at a minimum, an unequivocal recommitment by the nuclear-weapon states to their obligations and a serious demonstration of serious progress in implementing past commitments. I think this will be a key factor in ensuring the legacy of the NPT can be preserved for another 50 years.

Thomas Markram is director and deputy to the high representative for disarmament affairs, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. This article is adapted from remarks at the U.S. Department of State conference titled “Preserving the Legacy: NPT Depositary Conference on the 50th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” held June 28 in Washington. The views expressed are those of the author.

The nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime is facing stress and pressure from all sides.

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, August 24, 2018

U.S. Touts Sanctions Success as EU Announces Iran Package During an Aug. 19-22 trip to Israel, National Security Advisor John Bolton said U.S. sanctions reimposed on Iran are having economic effects “even stronger than we anticipated” and that the United States expects that Europeans will see that the “choice between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States is very clear.” Iran figured prominently in discussions between Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At a joint Aug. 20 press conference , Netanyahu again thanked the Trump administration for...

ACA Board Chair on Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World



Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon Free World

Remarks by Thomas Countryman
Chairman of the Arms Control Association
to the International Symposium for Peace 
Nagasaki, Japan
July 28, 2018


Panelists discuss working toward sustainable peace at the International Symposium for Peace “The Road to Nuclear Weapons Abolition” held on July 28 in Nagasaki. (Photo: Kengo Hiyoshi/Asahi Shimbun) Let me thank the organizers of today’s conference for bringing me again to Japan. In my current focus outside the government of the United States, continuing to push for real progress on nonproliferation and arms control measures, it's always a special pleasure to come to Japan. The Japanese role in leading the international diplomatic challenge to create the highest standards in arms control and nonproliferation is unparalleled. Not only as a partner of the United States but in its own leadership role, Japan has done much to create the modern nonproliferation regime that has greatly reduced but not yet eliminated the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose to all of us.

It is especially moving to be here in Nagasaki. Visiting the memorial yesterday, a sacred place, brought back to me what President Abraham Lincoln said at the site of the bloodiest battle America ever witnessed: that those who have fallen on this site “have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract”. I sensed on this spot what no book can convey: the enormous challenge and the risk that humanity continues to face in the presence of 15,000 nuclear weapons in this world. Here I want to commend the very special role the hibakusha have played in preserving vital lessons for the memory of humanity. For 70 years, they have spread the simple truth that a human being is not just a statistic. They will touch future generations long after their own has passed from this world. I wish that every American and every world leader would have the opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki as I have.

Current Challenges

It is much easier to talk about the challenges to nuclear disarmament than it is to describe a simple path to a world free of nuclear weapons. So let me dwell first on the current challenges that we face.

First, the two major nuclear powers, the United States and the Russian Federation, have passed a turning point in their nuclear doctrines and nuclear arsenals. After about 40 years of a steady decrease in the size and diversity of their nuclear arsenals and the mission that each assigned to their nuclear weapons, both Washington and Moscow have turned a corner towards expanding the size and variety of arsenals and the circumstances for their use.

U.S. 2018 Nuclear Posture Review

The U.S. administration’s Nuclear Posture Review from this February is not a radical change from the previous nuclear posture but it is a significant change in direction. In calling for the development of new low-yield nuclear weapons, the United States is thinking more actively and – in my view - making more thinkable the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in the context of a conventional conflict. As so many have pointed out, there is no such thing as a limited nuclear war once that threshold has been crossed. “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon," George Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan's top diplomat, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in January. "You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there."

Secondly, the Nuclear Posture Review describes with more specificity than before circumstances under which the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons to encompass not only first use by an opponent but also a response to a devastating attack by cyber or other means. Just two years ago, the Obama administration considered carefully the possibility of proclaiming a no-first-use doctrine for U.S. nuclear weapons. That U.S. policy has now shifted towards a broader definition of possible first use is of deep concern to me.

Finally, I am most disappointed in the Nuclear Posture Review in that it effectively renounces the traditional leadership that the U.S has exercised on non-proliferation and arms control issues. It makes no mention of America’s binding legal obligation under Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to pursue a reduction in arsenals. It makes no new proposals for how the U.S. will move forward in negotiations with Russia and others. And it defers any meaningful action until security conditions in the world have improved. This retreat from global leadership, whether in arms control, in climate policy or in free trade agreements is unworthy of a nation that claims to be a superpower.


As concerned as I am about the direction of U.S. policy, I am even more concerned about the continuing development by Russia of new weapons and new delivery methods. Russia seems driven by an exaggerated fear, in fact, a paranoia, about the future capabilities of U.S. missile defense. I call these fears exaggerated because I believe that missile defense can never provide an impenetrable shield. Russia is building not only new generations of ICBMs but even more dangerous weapons systems that seem to step out of the pages of a science fiction comic book, including a nuclear torpedo of unlimited range and a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Russia seems intent on probing the boundaries of existing arms control agreements, particularly the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which laid the basis for the next 25 years of successful arms limitations. Even more than the uninformed statements by the U.S. president, the rhetoric of the Russian president - increasingly defining Russia’s national power as a function of its nuclear arsenal - erodes both the prospect of future arms control and the moral taboo against initiating the use of nuclear weapons. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is due to expire in 2021 and although President Putin has raised the prospect of extending the treaty, President Trump has so far rebuffed such proposals.

Joint Comprehensive Program Of Action

In the shorter term, I am especially concerned about the U.S. decision to withdraw from, that is to violate, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action with Iran. This agreement is unprecedented, both in its inspection and verification requirements, and it prevented the risk of a tenth state breaking into the nuclear weapons club. I do not believe that Iranian development of a nuclear weapon is imminent but I am deeply concerned about the follow-on effects of this decision, that is the undermining of U.S. credibility and commitment to any agreement, the creation of a serious dispute between the U.S. and its best allies in Europe and Asia, the erosion of the international rules-based order and a resurgent radicalism in Iran.

North Korea

I am less pessimistic but still deeply concerned about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. President Trump did the right thing, trading in violent rhetoric for an opportunity for dialogue. There are dozens of reasons to distrust North Korea’s approach to negotiations and to doubt the capability of the Trump administration to negotiate a meaningful, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea. But the pursuit of negotiation is far preferable to simply sleepwalking towards war, as we seemed to be doing a year ago.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty remains central to our shared global ambition to prevent the development of new nuclear weapons and to reduce existing arsenals. On the surface, the deliberations at NPT conferences often seem utterly divorced from the real world. In fact, all the concerns I’ve just listed have a real effect on the degree of consensus you can reach among NPT parties and on the commitment that other parties show to the treaty.

For the 2020 Review Conference, I can foresee the worst but I am determined to work for the best. The RevCon can easily be upset either by the U.S. and Russia sniping at each other or by the continued inability of the states in the Middle East to sit down together and begin the process of discussing a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East. But the most severe threat to the unity of states-parties is the growing frustration of non-nuclear weapon states with the pace of nuclear disarmament. Seeing no new U.S.-Russian agreements since 2010 and the new threatening developments in Washington and Moscow that I’ve already described, the majority of the world’s non-nuclear weapon states have made clear that they will demand more urgent progress in 2020.

Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World

So what can we do to move towards a world free from nuclear weapons?

Near-Term Steps

There are a number of steps that the United States and Russia could take right now that would change the current trajectory. First and most simply, to hear President Trump and President Putin repeat what Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan said in 1985 - that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought - would be of value, would provide some reassurance that these two leaders understand their responsibilities to humanity. Secondly, the United States and Russia need to extend New START. Third, they need to make a political decision to work harder on resolving the dispute about compliance with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. And fourth there needs to be a more regular dialogue between Moscow and Washington on both the military and political level, to pursue risk reduction measures that would prevent a conventional conflict from escalating to a nuclear one and to explore other steps that would allow each to maintain security at a lower level of armament. Finally, the United States should reassert the leadership it showed after 2010 when it led an intensive dialogue among the P5 nuclear-weapon states to give the world greater transparency, to reduce nuclear risks, and to lay the groundwork for future multilateral arms control.

It’s not easy to get either Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin to do something that reminds them of Mikhail Gorbachev or Barack Obama. In fact, it’s not easy to get them to do something unless you can convince them that it was their own brilliant idea. But it is an obligation of the rest of the world to continue to press for this. I know from my own experience with bilateral diplomacy that meetings with either Russian or American leaders always have an agenda filled with urgent items and that concerns about long-term items such as arms control simply fall out of the conversation. It is crucial that not only Japanese leaders but all world leaders press both Presidents to take serious action.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Moscow and Washington, what can non-nuclear weapon states do for themselves to move us towards a nuclear-weapon-free world? Many non-nuclear weapon states have sought to answer that question by negotiating a new treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted last July.

The drafting of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year was historic. Some would like to see it as simply an expression of frustration on the part of the non-nuclear weapon states. It’s a lot more than that. It is a strong moral and ethical statement. And more than that, it is something tangible, something that can be touched by the hibakusha and the citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a statement of reality that the risk of nuclear war is not born only by the nuclear-weapon states but by the entire world. And it is intended to serve as an impulse for further action globally on nuclear disarmament. I’m well aware of its limitations. The TPNW will not by itself immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons. And it does not provide a pathway for Washington and Moscow to overcome their current impasse.

I don’t see the discussion between advocates and skeptics of the TPNW as being an argument about practicalities or about whether this treaty can work. It is - or it should be - a respectful discussion about deterrence. Nations that face no immediate military threat tend to underestimate the importance that military alliances and military deterrence play for those states that do face actual military threats. Similarly, those states whether in Europe or in Asia that feel reassurance under the nuclear umbrella of the United States tend not to appreciate how strongly concerned other states are about the disastrous humanitarian effects that a nuclear war would cause.

What is needed now is a multi-sided discussion on a topic that is easy to define and extremely difficult to resolve: how to guarantee the security of the world and of each nation without resort to nuclear deterrence. This is a discussion that has to bring together not only the idealists and social activists who helped to bring about the TPNW but also the security experts and military leaders who have the responsibility of providing for their nations’ security. It has to bring together not only nuclear-weapon states but those who are allies of nuclear-weapon states and those who feel themselves to be far from any military threat. Given my own experience with the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as a place to discuss such difficult issues, I think it has to start smaller than a conference of 190 countries.

UN Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda

Washington and Moscow are not going to lead this discussion. What can the rest of the world do? The UN Secretary General has laid out a comprehensive blueprint on what needs to be done on disarmament issues to provide genuine security for our citizens. I love the document. I’d like to focus in particular on what he says about nuclear disarmament.

He calls on the United States and Russia to resolve INF compliance concerns, extend New START and pursue additional reductions. He encourages all states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty, establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, pursue nuclear risk reduction measures, and develop nuclear disarmament verification standards and techniques. He warned that the international community is moving backward on disarmament. “Let us all work together to bring new urgency to achieve the universal goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said while unveiling his agenda at the University of Geneva in late May.

So how do we take forward an idea on which not only everyone in this room but most of the world is united upon?

Joint Enterprise

Now is the time to convene a high-level summit approach to help overcome the impasse on nuclear disarmament. Leaders from a core group of states can invite their counterparts - 20 to 30 heads of states of nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon countries - to join a one or two day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This could be a starting point for ongoing regular disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial level. As the former foreign minister Kishida argued, this dialogue must be based both on a clear understanding of the devastating impact of nuclear weapon use and an objective assessment of the security concerns of states.

This is not a new idea. Four of the best American thinkers on such issues - George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn - have been arguing for several years for a Joint Enterprise, a new multilateral effort that would take concrete, practical steps to create the conditions that would make possible genuine nuclear disarmament. As outlined by the “four horsemen,” a Joint Enterprise summit would be supplemented by a joint communique from all participating states and national commitments to work towards disarmament. Unfortunately, the leadership of such an effort will not come from either Washington or Moscow. When the long-time ‘leader of the free world’ is deliberately stepping away from leadership, the other democratic nations of the world must take up the challenge. It’s up to Japan, to Germany, to Canada, to other nations that still believe in multilateralism to get this effort started.

Discussion of the conditions that would help achieve a nuclear weapons-free world must become as common among world leaders as discussions about tariffs or immigration. The constant raising of this topic is the responsibility of Presidents and Prime Ministers, and it is the duty of citizens of all nations to remind their leaders of this responsibility.

It is written in Pirkei Avot, a well-known Jewish text, that “you are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Here in Nagasaki, we say again that all of us – elected leaders, civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens – “we will not desist from this duty.”

Thank you and God bless you!




Remarks by Thomas Countryman to the International Symposium for Peace in Nagasaki, Japan

Country Resources:

IAEA Safeguards Agreements at a Glance

June 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: June 2018


Safeguards agreements ensure that all nuclear activity a state undertakes is for peaceful purposes and that a state is not engaging in illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is the independent organization charged with applying safeguards.

The IAEA and Canada concluded the first safeguards agreement in 1959 and in 1961, the IAEA’s Board of Governors approved a document outlining the principles of safeguards. Since 1961, both the scope and application of safeguards have evolved.

Under Article III of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), all non-nuclear weapons states-parties are required to conclude a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), known as a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA or INFCIRC/153 corrected). Given the near-universal membership in the NPT, safeguards are now widespread.

These agreements allow for states to exercise their right under the NPT to peaceful nuclear energy without causing concern that they may actually be developing nuclear weapons in violation of the treaty.

The five NPT nuclear weapons states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) are not required to have IAEA safeguards agreements under the NPT. All five, however, have signed voluntary offer safeguards agreements that permit the IAEA to apply safeguards to material in select eligible facilities. This covers civilian nuclear material and sites. All five nuclear weapon states have also concluded additional protocols to the voluntary offer safeguards agreements.

States with minimal or no nuclear material may sign a small quantities protocol, abstaining them from some of the obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement as long as they meet certain criteria. The small quantifies protocol was revised in 2005, and now contains fewer exemptions.

Non-states-parties to the NPT may also sign safeguards agreements with the IAEA known as item-specific safeguards agreements.  India, Pakistan and Israel for instance, have placed civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards and India has an Additional Protocol in force.

IAEA safeguards measures do not prohibit additional bilateral or multilateral safeguards measures. For instance, Brazil and Argentina reached an agreement on bilateral safeguards inspections in 1991 (ABACC) and Euratom’s safeguards, which predated the NPT requirement, and contribute to its member states’ safeguards agreements negotiated with the agency. 

Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA)

The Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) is required for non-nuclear weapon states under the NPT and is an option for non-NPT members. In concluding a CSA with the IAEA, states must declare the type and quantity of material subject to safeguards in an initial report. The IAEA verifies that a state’s declaration of nuclear material is correct and complete. A CSA also gives the IAEA the authority to independently verify that all nuclear material in the territory or jurisdictional control of a state is not diverted for nuclear weapons or explosives purposes and that nuclear facilities are not misused. 

The IAEA notes four main processes for the implementation of safeguards. 

  1. Collection and evaluation of safeguards-relevant information: The IAEA collects safeguards-relevant information to determine if a state’s declarations about its nuclear program are correct.
  2. Development of a safeguards approach for a state: A safeguards approach indicates which safeguards measures are needed to verify a state’s declarations.
  3. Planning, conducting and evaluating safeguards activities: The IAEA then develops a plan to conduct the safeguards activities based on the safeguards approach and identifies areas that may need to be followed up.
  4. Drawing of a safeguards conclusion: Upon completing the safeguards implementation cycle, the IAEA issues safeguards conclusions, which provide credible assurances to the international community that states are abiding by safeguards commitments.

According to the IAEA, there are 174 states with Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements, as of June 2018. Each year the IAEA reports on safeguards implementation to the agency’s Board of Governors, which is comprised of IAEA member states.

Strengthening Safeguards

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began an effort in 1993 to better constrain NPT member-states' ability to illicitly pursue nuclear weapons after secret nuclear weapons programs in Iraq and North Korea exposed weaknesses in existing agency safeguards.

Program 93+2

Iraq, an NPT state-party, successfully circumvented IAEA safeguards by exploiting the agency's system of confining its inspection and monitoring activities to facilities or materials explicitly declared by each state in its safeguards agreement with the agency. To close the "undeclared facilities" loophole, the IAEA initiated a safeguards improvement plan known as "Program 93+2." The plan's name reflected that it was drafted in 1993 with the intention of being implemented in two years.

Putting "Program 93+2" into effect, however, took more time than expected, and the program has subsequently been implemented in two parts. The IAEA, within its existing authority, initiated the first part in January 1996. This first step added new monitoring measures, such as environmental sampling, no-notice inspections at key measurement points within declared facilities, and remote monitoring and analysis.

Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to a Safeguards Agreement

Modified Code 3.1 requires countries to submit design information for new nuclear facilities to the IAEA as soon as the decision is made to construct, or authorize construction, of the facility. Modified Code 3.1 was introduced in the early 1990s to replace the 1976 code, which only required states to inform the IAEA of new facilities not later than 180 days after the beginning of its construction. States that implement Modified Code 3.1 provide the IAEA with additional time to respond to a state’s expansion of its nuclear program and to adjust safeguard agreements as needed. 

The Model Additional Protocol (AP)

The second part of "Program 93+2" required a formal expansion of the agency's legal mandate in the form of an additional protocol to be adopted by each NPT member to supplement its existing IAEA safeguards agreement. The IAEA adopted a Model Additional Protocol on May 15, 1997. The essence of the Additional Protocol is to reshape the IAEA's safeguards regime from a quantitative system focused on accounting for known quantities of materials and monitoring declared activities to a qualitative system aimed at gathering a comprehensive picture of a state's nuclear and nuclear-related activities, including all nuclear-related imports and exports. The Additional Protocol also substantially expands the IAEA's ability to check for clandestine nuclear facilities by providing the agency with authority to visit any facility, declared or not, to investigate questions about or inconsistencies in a state's nuclear declarations. NPT states-parties are not required to adopt an Additional Protocol, although the IAEA is urging all to do so.

The model protocol outlined four key changes that must be incorporated into each NPT state-party's Additional Protocol.

  1. Expanded amount and type of information to be provided to the IAEA
  • In addition to the current requirement for data about nuclear fuel and fuel-cycle activities, states will now have to provide an "expanded declaration" on a broad array of nuclear-related activities, such as "nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development activities—not involving nuclear materials" and "the location, operational status and the estimated annual production" of uranium mines and thorium concentration plants. Thorium can be processed to produce fissile material, the key ingredient for nuclear weapons.
  • All trade in items on the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) trigger list will have to be reported to the IAEA as well. The NSG is a group of 48 nuclear supplier countries that seeks to voluntarily prevent the use of peaceful nuclear technology for military purposes by restricting nuclear and nuclear-related exports.
  1. Increased number and type of facilities the IAEA can inspect
  • In order to resolve questions about or inconsistencies in the information a state has provided on its nuclear activities, the new inspection regime provides the IAEA with "complementary," or pre-approved, access to "any location specified by the Agency," as well as all of the facilities specified in the "expanded declaration."
  • By negotiating an additional protocol, states will, in effect, guarantee the IAEA access on short notice to all of their declared and, if necessary, undeclared facilities in order "to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities."
  1. Streamlining the visa process for inspectors
  • The agency's ability to conduct short notice inspections is augmented by streamlining the visa process for inspectors, who are guaranteed to receive within one month's notice "appropriate multiple entry/exit" visas that are valid for at least a year.
  1. Increased right to use environmental sampling
  • The Additional Protocol provides for the IAEA's right to use environmental sampling during inspections at both declared and undeclared sites.
  • It further permits the use of environmental sampling over a wide area rather than being confined to specific facilities.

Credit: International Atomic Energy Agency

As of June 2018, 132 countries and Euratom have concluded Additional Protocols that are now in force. Another 16 states have signed Additional Protocols but have yet to bring them into force. Iran applies its Additional Protocol pending its pursuit of ratification as part of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1. 

Although the Additional Protocol is widely accepted as a standard safeguards practice, several states have opposed the expansion of safeguards to include it.

Integrated Safeguards

In addition to strengthening safeguards through the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol, in the late 1990s and 2000s, the IAEA also developed methods to improve the efficiency and efficacy of safeguards implementation for states with both CSAs and APs in force. The IAEA began using a “state-level concept” to evaluate a state’s compliance with safeguards agreements comprehensively, instead of on a facility-by-facility basis. It also began issuing “broader conclusion” determinations for states in order to ease safeguards implementation burdens by applying the state-level approach.

Broader Conclusion

The IAEA began issuing a “broader conclusion” designation for certain states with both the CSA and AP in force as part of a continuing effort to improve the efficiency and efficacy of safeguards and to cut costs. The IAEA must recertify a broader conclusion each year, verifying that a state’s declaration is both correct and complete. In other words, its nuclear material must remain in peaceful purposes with no indication of diversion.

If the IAEA derives a broader conclusion for a state, it may implement “integrated safeguards,” which are tailored to each individual state. Therefore, the resulting safeguards enforcement for that state becomes less burdensome and less costly.

The first state with a broader conclusion was Australia in 1999. The IAEA drew broader conclusions for 69 states in June 2017. 

State-Level Concept

Over the years, the IAEA has also developed the state-level concept, which has become the designation for an integrated safeguards approach. Under the state-level concept, the IAEA considers each state as a whole when implementing and evaluating safeguards, including nuclear-related activities and capabilities, instead of examining each facility in a given state separately. Based on the broader range of information, the agency can then tailor a safeguards approach to the specific country.

The term “state-level concept” was first used in an IAEA document in 2005 although the IAEA had been following the practice since the early 1990s. The state-level concept is used for all states with a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, an Additional Protocol in force, and a broader conclusion finding.  In a 2013 report, the Director-General of the IAEA indicated his intent to continue to develop state-level approaches for safeguards implementation for additional states.

Note: This factsheet was previously titled “The 1997 IAEA Additional Protocol at a Glance.”

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

Fact Sheet Categories:

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.


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