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Non-nuclear Weapons States Forget How Much Power the NPT Affords Them

January 29, 2013 ·

Non-nuclear weapons states forget that the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty exists at their pleasure.

Non-nuclear weapons states forget that the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty exists at their pleasure.

Back in November, at Truthout, David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, wrote about the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty's linchpin article -- the infamous number VI.* He explained that it

… contains three obligations: "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."

… It has been 42 years since the treaty entered into force, and the nuclear arms race continues. All of the NPT nuclear weapon states are modernizing their arsenals. They have not negotiated in good faith to end the nuclear arms race at an early date.

Nor have they negotiated

… to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Nor on placing nuclear weapons

… under strict and effective international control.

Krieger levels a damning indictment.

The NPT nuclear weapon states seem perfectly comfortable with their failure to fulfill their obligations under Article VI of the NPT.

But

… the prospects for a new international treaty are dim if states continue with business as usual.

Therefore the "non-nuclear-weapon states need to demonstrate to the nuclear weapon states that they are serious about the need for a new international treaty," which is only "the means to fulfill the NPT Article VI obligations" anyway.

Because

UN General Assembly resolutions are not getting the job done. They are not being taken seriously by the nuclear weapon states, nor are exhortations by the UN secretary-general and other world leaders.

Thus

… the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation called for bold action by the non-nuclear weapon states in its briefing paper for the 2012 Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Among the call for action's other premises, Krieger cites:

• The understanding that even a regional nuclear war would have global consequences (e.g., nuclear famine modeling).

• The risks of nuclear war, by accident or design, have not gone away. Stanford Professor Emeritus Martin Hellman, an expert in risk analysis, estimates that a child born today has a one-in-six chance of dying due to a nuclear weapon in his or her 80-year expected lifetime.

• The understanding that humans and their systems are not infallible (e.g. Chernobyl and Fukushima).

• The understanding that deterrence is only a theory that could fail catastrophically.

Among Krieger's examples of what constitutes bold action.

• Announcing a boycott of the 2015 NPT Review Conference if the nuclear weapon states have not commenced negotiations for a [new treaty].

• Commencing legal action against the NPT nuclear weapon states, individually and/or collectively, for breach of their NPT Article VI obligations.

• Withdrawal from the NPT as a protest against its continuing two-tier structure of nuclear haves and have-nots.

• Declaring the NPT null and void as a result of the failure of the nuclear weapon states to act in good faith in fulfilling their Article VI obligations.

You can see that David Krieger isn't fooling around. Of course, the measures he suggests require political will and/or wise prioritizing on the parts of the non-nuclear-weapon states. They just need to remember that without them -- the have-nots, largely on whose behalf the NPT was negotiated -- there would be no NPT.

*Note lower-case "n" in "nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty." Many forget that it's the last two words that NPT abbreviates.