Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, May 30, 2005

"NPT Achievements," May 30, 2005.

What country voluntarily ceased production of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium and plutonium during the 90s in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty?

Don't touch that dial. You'll learn the answer to that question and more in the next 10 minutes.

Sobered by the French nuclear test in 1960, the Cuban missile crisis in 1963, and the Chinese nuclear test in 1964, and fearing that more nations would develop nuclear weapons, the US and USSR began negotiations on a treaty to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons. (du Preez Security assurances Apr 04)

At that time, experts speculated that 15 to 20 countries would likely acquire nuclear weapons by the end of the 1960s. JFK despaired: 'I ask you to stop and think for a moment' he said, 'what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world,' Kennedy warned. 'There would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament'" (Kitfield Totters May 16 05).

The Nonproliferation Treaty, which came into effect in 1970, became the foundation of nuclear arms control precisely because it avoided the volumes of often-indecipherable technicalities on missile throw-weights and blast radii that typified arms control treaties of the day. Instead, it expressed a simple principle in plain terms. Nuclear weapons are a threat to humankind and thus an inherently negative force. It proposed what came to be known as the "grand bargain" to first limit nuclear weapons and then reduce them, ultimately to the point of extinction. The "grand bargain" was this: In exchange for a pledge by the five original nuclear states - the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and China - to eliminate their nuclear stockpiles on an unstated timetable, and to share civilian nuclear energy technology, 183 other nations eventually agreed to forgo nuclear weapons altogether" (Kitfield Totters May 16 05).

Every five years since 1975, all the countries who have signed the treaty meet together at a review conference to take stock, make changes, and plan for the future. This year, 2005, was time for one of those conferences. It was a hard year. It took nearly two weeks just to agree on an agenda. This Saturday the Seventh NPT Review Conference ended in deadlock and the participants adopted what the Nuclear Threat Initiative called a "substance-free final document."

Under such circumstances, it's easy to be cynical, but with a subject as important as preventing our collective nuclear annihilation, searching for a few seeds of hope is a worthy task.

Conference president Duarte of Brazil said that little “in terms of results” was accomplished at the meeting, but cautioned against making dire assessments of the long-term implications.

“I don’t think we can say that the results of the conference have or have not undermined the treaty. … We have to see the way in which the results of the conference will impact on the treaty,” he said at a press conference."

In that spirit, let's remember that the Nonproliferation Treaty has been called one of the most successful currently in effect. Not everyone agrees with that assessment, but today we have a look at some of the treaty's most important achievements both potential and actual.

The Middle Powers Initiative, chaired by Canada's former Minister for Disarmament, Senator Douglas Roche, lists six "...initiatives on which disarmament and non-proliferation work can be undertaken without agreement of all States parties" (MPI Mar 22 05).

"First is what has come to be called de-alerting. The UK, for example, took all its nuclear forces off high-alert status in 1998 so that they would now be ready for use within weeks or months rather than in days or hours.

Just this month, in an article for Foreign Policy magazine, former US Secretary of Defense Robert S. Macnamara urged that "At a minimum, we should remove all strategic nuclear weapons from “hair-trigger” alert, as others have recommended, including Gen. George Lee Butler, the last commander of SAC. That simple change would greatly reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear launch. It would also signal to other states that the United States is taking steps to end its reliance on nuclear weapons" (Apocalypse soon). Macnamara estimates that "Of the 8,000 active or operational US warheads, 2,000 are on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched on 15 minutes’ warning."

"Second, MPI recommends removal of tactical weapons from external deployment The US nuclear weapons deployed in Greece, for example, were recently removed. Similar tactical nukes are still believed to be in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, and the UK. (Rauf)

Reducing the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrine is a third option. NATO has begun a process reviewing the role of nuclear weapons in its security doctrine. However, this review has floundered and needs to be revised and continued" (MPI Mar 22 05).

France "dismantled its nuclear test facilities in the Pacific ... ceased production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium in 1992 and 1996, respectively.... In 1998, [France] began to dismantle the Marcoule reprocessing plant and the Pierrelatte enrichment facility…. France ratified the NPT in August 1992"[2] (NTI,

Some options are also open to NNWS. The establishment of nuclear weapon free zones has, in some cases, been a way of persuading nuclear weapon states to offer a limited policy of no first use. This year, Mexico invited all States Parties to regional nuclear weapon-free zones to participate in a conference on NWFZs just prior to the NPT Review Conference. Other States parties to the NPT were invited to attend as observers. Tlatelolco, Mexico, April 26-28 Since its founding in 1960s in the the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the host organization OPANAL serves as an example for other regions that have the goal of establishing Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZs).

On November 24, 1961, as a consequence of the first French nuclear test in the dessert of Western Sahara, the General Assembly appealed to UN Member States to stop these tests. Three years later, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) solemnly declared that they were ready to achieve a treaty prohibiting production and absolutly controlling nuclear weapons in their region. Of course this proposal did not make any progress till the Cold War was over. Indeed it was after 1991 when South Africa, the continent's only country with the technological capacity for making nuclear weapons, acceded to the NPT and real prospects for establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in Africa opened. The African Treaty bears the name of Pelindaba in honor of the South African nuclear plant that developed a number of nuclear warheads which were eventually dismantled. The fact that South Africa took such a decision of political character allowed the Pelindaba Treaty to have an end that had been expected for so many decades. The Treaty was opened for signature on April 12, 1996, in the city of Cairo. With the Pelindaba Treaty there are 54 independent states of international community that may become members of this nuclear weapon free zone.

Africa, Latin America, South Pacific, South Asia, Mongolia, and Central Asia have all declared their sovereign territories free from nuclear weapons. Antarctica is also a nuclear weapon free zone.

A fifth possibility is verification work. The UK, for example, has undertaken a study, conducted by the Atomic Weapons Establishment, on the verification requirements for the elimination of UK nuclear weapons. However, the UK has not opened this study up to participation by other States despite requests to do so.

A sixth option which is also open to both weapons states and non-weapons states is consideration of legal, technical and political requirements for the abolition and elimination of nuclear weapons. In 1997 Costa Rica submitted a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention to the United Nations which outlined the political, legal and political considerations for achieving nuclear disarmament (A/C.1/52/7). Malaysia has released a working paper following up on the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. The working paper considers legal, technical and political requirements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear weapons free world.

Finally, the frequent badgering of Hans Blix and the IAEA inspectors as not rigorous enough during the inspection period before the invasion may have drawn attention away from Iraq as another success of the NPT and the IAEA. But former chief inspector, Scott Ritter, has recently written that " is now clear that Iraq had in fact disarmed in compliance with security council resolutions. One of the tragic ironies of the decision to invade Iraq is that the Iraqi WMD declaration required by security council resolution 1441, submitted by Iraq in December 2002, and summarily rejected by Bush and Blair as repackaged falsehoods, now stands as the most accurate compilation of data yet assembled regarding Iraq's WMD programmes…. Saddam Hussein has yet to be contradicted on a single point of substantive fact. Iraq had disarmed; no one wanted to accept that conclusion" (Ritter Guardian Oct 9). That's Scott Ritter writing in the Guardian Oct 9 04 and
Digg This

Recommend this Post

Sphere: Related Content