Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, May 16, 2005

"NPT and the failure of disarmament," May 16, 2005.

Today on Monday Morning World Report we look at the treaty: what it is, how it works--or not--and where it's headed.

Ever since it went into effect in 1970, the Nonproliferation Treaty and the international bureaucracy for implementing it have attempted to balance three vital functions. On one side, countries which still do not have nuclear weapons agree not to develop them; that's the nonproliferation side. In exchange, countries that possess nuclear weapons agree to negotiate among themselves the terms of full and complete nuclear disarmament. That’s the disarmament side. Finally, the treaty guarantees all states the right to develop any or all of the full nuclear fuel cycle they need for peaceful uses of atomic energy.

Every five years, all the countries that have signed the treaty get together to review the events of the previous half-decade and make whatever chages are necessary in order for them to commit to the treaty for another five years. "The Seventh Review Conference of the NPT started on May 2 and will carry on till May 27. This time only North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel have not signed the treaty.

The Review Conference of 1995 agreed to extend the Treaty indefinitely. According to Dr. S. Chandrasekharan of the South Asia Analysis Group there are two views on the effect of the extension.

"One is that with the indefinite extension of NPT…, the review conferences have assumed critical importance to have a reality check on the commitments made by the Nuclear weapon states towards disarmament under Article VI of the treaty and also the use and misuse of Articles II, III & IV by the non weapon States.

"There is yet another view," says Chandrasekharan, "with the indefinite extension of NPT literally forced on the non weapon countries in 1995. The sense of urgency towards disarmament by the nuclear powers has receded and the nuclear weapon countries continue to improve, develop with more sophistication of their nuclear assets with immunity no matter what their commitments would be to the non nuclear club."

The Associated Press presents this divergence of views with slightly different emphasis. "If the US has its way...[the review conference now under way] will be all about Iran and North Korea. But the rest of the world...wants to focus on the US and the other five official nuclear powers (China, Britain, France and Russia), and their "slow pace" towards total nuclear disarmament.

In 2000, the Review Conference agreed by consensus to implement Article VI, the disarmament clause of the Treaty, with thirteen practical steps. These included the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the conclusion within five years of a non discriminatory, multilateral, effectively verifiable fissile material cut off treaty (FMCT); the preservation and strengthening of the anti-ballistic missile treaty (ABM); "An unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear arsenals;" and the further development of verification capabilities for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Since then, disagreement has arisen about the meaning of the phrase "unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear arsenals."

President Clinton signed the CTBT, but "in October 1999, the US Senate rejected the treaty. The Bush administration has openly declared that it does not support the treaty and will not ask the Senate to reconsider it."

Progress on the FMCT was impeded initially by China which linked this issue to the weaponization of space. When the Chinese finally relented, the US objected that the treaty cannot be "effectively verified."

On June 13, 2002, the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty (Anti-Ballistic Missile) in order to pave the way for its BMD program.

All the weapon powers have increased their reliance on nuclear weapons thus nullifying the very principle of Article VI of the NPT.

In December 2001, The US in their Nuclear Posture review reaffirmed the centrality of nuclear weapons as a critical factor in their security posture. Sophistication in lower yield weapons and development of deep earth penetrating devices are being thought of, more for use than for deterrence.

Russia abandoned its 1993 policy of no first use and has said that it would reserve the right to use nuclear weapons to “repulse armed aggression” if other responses failed. Russian moves toward the mobile TOPOL-M ballistic missiles and a new submarine launched ballistic missile Bulava are not consistent the undertakings given in the thirteen steps.

Two issues relating to Britain should cause concern. One is that in 2004, the British Government renewed US-UK mutual defence agreement of 1958, which would help Britain to maintain a "credible nuclear force." ( Declared by George Bush.) The second is the sophisticated equipment, including what is said to be the world's most powerful laser is being installed at the UK's atomic weapons establishment at Aldermaston in southern England as part of a two billion pounds scheme that will enable Britain to produce a new generation of war heads.

China is known to be developing mobile land-based long-range ballistic missiles and is also replacing liquid fuel ballistic missiles with solid propellant models. To its credit, China is the only nuclear weapon state that has continued to declare a “no first use” doctrine.

France, is said to be developing a new submarine launched nuclear missile.

The nuclear weapon states can scarcely claim to have held up their part of the bargain.

So far this year, it took the first week and a half of the conference to agree on an agenda that didn’t blow off the Thirteen Practical Steps altogether.

In an analysis of progress on the Thirteen Practical Steps prior to the conference for a Strategy Consultation held by the Middle Powers Initiative, Tariq Rauf, a Canadian at IAEA “concludes that scant progress has been achieved…and that the prospects for future progress appear bleak, at least in the short term.” (Rauf)

This year's review conference "occurs in a new climate: the age of global terrorism, which erupted on September 11, 2001, and the pre-emptive use of force in response to suspected proliferation as undertaken, for example, by US-led coalition forces against Iraq.

"The United States, in particular, has turned its attention to the development of counter-proliferation measures outside multilaterally negotiated treaties, and has thus established collaborative mechanisms to prevent transfer of WMD related materials to 'States of concern' (the Proliferation Security Initiative) and initiated Security Council action to address proliferation concerns including the role of non-State actors (Resolution 1540)" (MPI Mar 22 05).

"The US particularly has antagonized many States by rejecting two of the 13 Practical Steps (ABM and CTBT) that all States agreed to in 2000 and undermining several more; the mood has been further soured by US insistence that Article VI issues 'do not exist'" (MPI Mar 22 05).

Why would anyone claim that the NPT has been a successful treaty? We’ll look at that and at the Canadian role in these negotiations next week.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Johnson of the Acronym Institute gave a hint in her report on last week’s meetings: "Despite the lack of formal progress, delegates' time has been far from wasted. Dr Hans Blix, Chair of the Stockholm-based Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, convened a fascinating discussion on "Why Do States Abandon Nuclear Weapons Ambitions", spearheaded by the research of Dr Jim Walsh of Harvard's Managing the Atom project. The large meeting was hosted by Finland, with presentations from Ambassador Abdul Minty on why and how South Africa gave up its nuclear weapon programme, and Commission-member Dr Patricia Lewis of UNIDIR, who analysed the larger implications for reinforcing the credibility of the nonproliferation regime that has played such an important part in creating the conditions for states to abandon nuclear weapon aspirations" (Johnson Auto-pilot May 10 05).

This feature comes from the United Nations Information Center, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middle Powers Initiative, South Asia Analysis Group, Associated Press, the Global Security Network, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy.

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