WASHINGTON — Movement toward disarmament by the five declared nuclear weapons states appears to be stalled and could use significant new initiatives, several experts said yesterday (see GSN, June 8).
The five countries — Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States — are required by Article VI of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to work toward disarmament, and the countries reaffirmed that commitment at the 1995 and 2000 treaty review conferences as part of a bargain for indefinitely extending the international nuclear weapons ban.
Speaking on a panel at the Carnegie conference yesterday, though, Disarmament Diplomacy editor Rebecca Johnson, Carnegie Moscow Center analyst Alexei Arbatov, and senior U.N. political affairs officer Randy Rydell, speaking in his personal capacity, appeared to agree the states were not doing enough.
“Deterioration and perhaps eventual disintegration” of the nonproliferation treaty is occurring, Arbatov said.
“The great powers have to live up to their commitments” under Article VI of the NPT in order to successfully discourage other countries from seeking the bomb, he said.
‘Inconsistency’ Is the Problem
The issue, though, is not numbers of weapons possessed by the declared nuclear weapons states, but rather, doctrines for use and development of new capabilities, Arbatov said.
“The main problem for nuclear proliferation presently is not North Korea or Iran, it is inconsistency,” he said.
If the legitimate nuclear powers do not live up to their commitments, “this is a guarantee that nuclear proliferation will follow,” he said.
Arbatov urged the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Bush administration currently opposes, and proposed making the 2002 U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty a “full-scale treaty” with counting rules, and de-alerting U.S. and Russian strategic forces.
Toward Ensuring Compliance
Rydell spoke of a more general need for measures to ensure compliance with nuclear reduction requirements. He said true disarmament would be irreversible, transparent, comprehensive, verifiable and binding and listed numerous ways in which he said that standard is currently not met.
He said, for instance, that the reductions in deployed nuclear weapons called for by the U.S.-Russian Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty are reversible and not transparent, that the actual number of nuclear weapons and fissile material stores around the world is not known, and that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty had not yet entered into force.
Johnson said the nuclear weapons states should be prohibited from producing new weapons, and even from modernizing or upgrading existing models.
“This is what the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was originally intended to do,” she said.
The goal would be effectively “disarmament by attrition,” she said.
U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration head Linton Brooks said in a speech earlier yesterday that he was “bothered by the charges that our policy hurts nonproliferation, because our nonproliferation policy is exceptionally good.”
“Our nuclear posture and our nonproliferation policy are supportive and entirely consistent with our obligations under Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty,” he said.
He said maintaining a strong U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal discourages other countries from trying to surge past the United States and helps to restrain friends and allies from acquiring nuclear weapons because they know they are protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
The 2005 NPT review conference, Johnson said, should not simply “itemize a wish list” for disarmament but should “decide whether to give states parties the tools” for enforcing compliance.
She said the United States and France at the 2004 preparatory meetings for the 2005 NPT review conference tried to “back away” from an agreement at the 2000 review conference on 13 steps the legitimate nuclear states would take toward nuclear disarmament (see GSN, May 10).
Arbatov was pessimistic that the legitimate nuclear powers would accept a move toward complete nuclear disarmament any time soon.
“As far as I know how things are discussed in Moscow … [and] imagine how things are discussed in Washington, using the term ‘nuclear disarmament’ is the most guaranteed way of getting people to stop listening to you,” he said.
“Short of that, a lot of things may be proposed and perhaps implemented,” he said.