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P5 faces the Non-Proliferation Treaty

Posted by Dadie Loh on August 10, 2012

More than four decades ago, the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force. Its implementation is still faced with legitimate critics from non-nuclear weapons states and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the basis that nuclear weapons states are not doing enough to advance the debate on disarmament. In fact, Article VI of the treaty exclusively demands all parties to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations in good faith. Nuclear weapons states reject the accusation of dragging their feet and, instead, turn their critics against rogue states such Iran for committing a significant breach to the NPT. Also, there is an underlying division within the P5 concerning India and Pakistan about their refusal to take a full membership to the NPT. Russia and China seem to be softer on Pakistan while the other three western states (France, US and UK) openly defend India’s record on nonproliferation.   

The political ping-pong between nuclear states and non-nuclear states and even within the P5 itself has been a warning sign for proponents of a nuclear free world of the difficult road ahead. However, the determination with which advocates of a world free of nuclear weapons have been pushing indefatigably against the snail-like machine that is the P5 is remarkable and should be cheered and intensified. 

The underlying objective of the P5, to secure their citizens from harm, is a legitimate pursuit for any government. However the acquirement of nuclear weapons or their maintenance is simply not the best way to build a national security environment. By nature nuclear weapons are extremely expensive to build and to maintain. For instance, budget allocated to nuclear weapons building, testing, deployment and maintenance since 1941 at the début of the Manhattan Project, is conservatively estimated in more than 7.5 trillion dollars, thus breaking all time record of budget allocation in United States 231 years’ history. Some of this budget was allocated secretively with no official documentation. It is fair to recognize that nuclear weapons are contributing to the massive debt the American people have been subjected to. Other P5 states are spending over 105 billion dollars annually on their nuclear arsenals and their delivery system while world population only needs 50-60 billion dollars to mitigate poverty by 20151.

However, in all fairness, global security has been a serious concern of every P5 state’s national defense apparatus.  For instance, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the State Department has taken numerous initiatives since 9/11 aiming to counter global terrorism but more importantly increasing the security of nuclear materials within the US and reducing the availability of the same nuclear materials in countries with questionable security safeguards.  The executive branch of the US government has put forth a great effort to renegotiate the bilateral treaty (New START Treaty) with its Russian counterpart and with a firm lobbying effort has convinced the Senate to ratify it. Since early 2007 the United Kingdom and Norway have bilaterally started a nuclear dismantlement and verification initiative that is characterized as the first of its kind and encouraged by many leaders and NGOs. France has encouraged and greatly supported the African nuclear-free-zone by signing the treaties additional three protocols. China has been pushing the other four P5 members to abandon their First-Use deterrence policy. The United States and Russia are both entering a new era of mutual trust in the area of nuclear warheads reduction.  

All these efforts from the P5 are constructive in essence, but more could be done to expedite the process. What is blocking progress among the P5 is not a lack of scientific knowledge or technical means, but insufficient political attention and will on the urgency of nuclear abolition. As a patent example, the US Senate has not even considered to open debate on the two Protocols attached to the Treaty of Pelindaba (which establishes a nuclear free zone in Africa) since they were submitted by the White House in May 2011. Moreover, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has suffered significant defeat and delays due to partisan posturing in the US Senate since 1999. While the United States fails to move on key international treaties, Pakistan’s own reluctance to take part in the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations is being treated by the some of the P5 countries as the key threat to non-proliferation efforts. Thus, nuclear weapons states deliberately shift the debate on disarmament to areas where they can also shift blame to other nations. Although India has been in better nuclear non proliferation standing than Pakistan, some of the P5 states are trying to dismiss the fact that both countries (India and Pakistan) are rivals on anything and that a war can breakout at anytime  over some old issues that may involve the use of nuclear weapons. Leaders of both countries were responsible enough to neglect the use of nuclear weapons during the Kargil War in 1999. Then again, the said-war was a limited one. Also, Pakistan did not acquire nuclear weapons’ technology on its own. It is no secret that Pakistan received help from Western as well as Eastern countries, all P5 members. Nuclear weapons states would gain geopolitically and financially from a peaceful relation between India and Pakistan. Emphasizing on their differences is self-damaging.    

The premeditated antagonistic approach among the NPT member states is worrisome for the future of the regime. For illustration, since its last nuclear test at Moruroa and Fangataufa Atoll test site in the South Pacific in January 1996, contrarily to what they claim, the French have not made a significant effort toward nuclear disarmament. France officials have stated, several times, that their government will not allow any reduction of their nuclear arsenals until the United States and Russia reduce theirs to the same level as France (which has 300 warheads).  This uncompromising move could only be understandable if 300 warheads were an absolute threshold for all nuclear weapon states. China is reported to have 240 and England 225. Could France reduce its nuclear arsenals to one of those numbers to show its good faith on an active disarmament? No matter how willing the French might seem on other issues pertaining to nuclear disarmament, the bottom line is active disarmament. Everything else is diplomatic nonsense.

Furthermore, most NPT member states agree with the proposal of the universalization of the Comprehensive Safeguards except for the P5. The intrusive methods known to the safeguards implementation body (IAEA) frighten the P5. As they stand, the comprehensive safeguards are unjustly worded and unfairly executed. Only non-nuclear weapons states are sent to the battlefront against nuclear proliferation by being regularly checked, while the P5 claim security concerns when it comes to doing their part.

The P5’s lack of enthusiasm on the universalization of the Comprehensive Safeguards and the blame game between the P5 and non-nuclear states are not serving the NPT’s mission which is to protect the entire human race against nuclear catastrophe by making as priority the elimination of all nuclear weapons.



[i] David Krieger, “The Costs of Nuclear Weapons”, October 28, 2011, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/db_article.php?article_id=300

 

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