NPT PrepComm Agrees to Disagree

Tasneem Jamal

Author
Douglas Roche

The Ploughshares Monitor June 1999 Volume 20 Issue 2

Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Senator Douglas Roche, O.C., is the Chair of the Middle Powers Initiative.

A total collapse was averted, but the outcome of the 1999 PrepComm was but a thin cover over the deadlock persisting between the Western Nuclear Weapons States and the leading Non-Nuclear Weapons States. Given the worsening international climate, this continuing stalemate signals a struggle of immense proportions to maintain the viability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty after 2000.

The third and final preparatory meeting for the 2000 Review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) concluded at 10:30 p.m. May 21st with an agreement to disagree. In the arcane world of nuclear diplomacy, this was considered a step forward, since the 1998 Second PrepComm had concluded in disarray without an agreement that the parties disagreed. Nonetheless, the only real accomplishment of the 1999 PrepComm was to demonstrate the extent of the deadlock that persists between the Western Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) and the leading non-Nuclear Weapons States over the future of nuclear weapons and the NPT.

Deadlock and disagreement

The approaches taken by the delegations to the PrepComm varied widely. China excoriated the United States for “wantonly bombing Yugoslavia for more than 40 days,” bullying other countries, and pursuing an inflammatory missile defence system. The US stated that its commitment to the NPT’s Article VI “is broad and deep,” but refused to allow a subsidiary body, which would examine the details of nuclear disarmament, to be established at the 2000 Review. The New Agenda Coalition (NAC) tabled a working paper with 44 co-sponsors, criticizing the NWS for re-rationalizing their continued possession of nuclear weapons, and calling for “a clear and unequivocal commitment to the speedy pursuit of the total elimination” of nuclear weapons, which “will require a multilateral agreement.” The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) went further, with its repeated call for the commencement of negotiations on a phased program of nuclear disarmament within “a specified framework of time, including a Nuclear-Weapons Convention….” Canada, building on its new nuclear weapons policy statement, presented a draft of new Principles and Objectives for the 2000 Review, which called for acceleration of the START process, the engagement of the three other NWS “in the near future,” and additional new measures such as de-alerting.

A lengthy list of States’ proposals was blended into a 61-paragraph Chairman’s Paper which, while not going as far as the NAM desires, went well beyond what the Western NWS would accept. The Chairman, Ambassador Camilo Reyes of Colombia, included: a call for negotiations on the elimination of non-strategic nuclear weapons; de-alerting, de-targeting, and de-activating all nuclear weapons and removing nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles; an expression of “deep concern that Israel continues to be the only State in the [Middle East] which has not yet acceded to the [NPT] and refuses to place all its nuclear facilities under the full-scope safeguards of the IAEA; a legally binding negative security assurances regime; and an ad hoc committee at the Conference on Disarmament “with a negotiating mandate to address nuclear disarmament.” Several hours of debate on the Chairman’s Paper revealed once more the continuing wide split between the Western NWS and the gathering forces of the non-Nuclear Weapons States, who are increasing their demands that the “systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally,” promised in 1995, be lived up to.

Almost to the end of the PrepComm, it appeared that absolute deadlock would prevail, as occurred in 1998. But deft steering by the Chairman and a general feeling on all sides that a second total collapse of the PrepComm process could prove fatal for the 2000 Review led to an agreement to send to the 2000 Review the Chairman’s Paper along with all the papers submitted by States with the notation: “The Preparatory Committee was unable to reach agreement on any substantive recommendations to the 2000 Review Conference.”

This stratagem allows the PrepComm material, containing many ideas for strengthening the NPT, to go forward. But Western NWS opposition to the ideas themselves persists.

Progress stalled

During the three years of annual PrepComms leading up to the 2000 Review, the nuclear weapons situation has worsened. START II is blocked. The Conference on Disarmament is virtually paralyzed. Overt nuclear proliferation has spread to India and Pakistan. The Nuclear Weapons States continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals. NATO has reaffirmed that nuclear weapons are “essential.” The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is nowhere near entering into force. A fourth UN Special Session on Disarmament has been blocked by India, which says that as long as the US opposes nuclear disarmament as a chief item on the agenda, India doesn’t want the Session at all.

The 1999 PrepComm opened under the cloud of the Kosovo war, which, among its other serious consequences for the international community, has severely strained relations between the US and Russia and the US and China. NATO’s decisions to consider taking in nine more nations (on top of the three new members), operate aggressively out-of-area, and bypass the UN Security Council in prosecuting the Kosovo war have angered Russia and China in the extreme. By 2005 an additional $112-billion will be pumped into the US defence budget, which already is 18 times larger than the combined spending of the seven so-called “rogue” States identified by the Pentagon. The US Congress has enshrined in national security policy the intention to field a national ballistic missile defence system; the Pentagon has budgeted $10.5-billion over the next six years to create a workable system. Not only is the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty now under threat, the whole non-proliferation regime is under siege. A new nuclear arms race is certain, unless Washington, Moscow and Beijing can quickly put collaborative efforts back on track.

China went up front at the PrepComm in castigating the US. Stung by the three NATO missiles that struck China’s embassy in Belgrade, Ambassador Sha Zukang led off his opening speech with a condemnation of NATO’s bombing campaign. “The Chinese Government and people express their utmost indignation and severe condemnation of the barbarian act and lodge the strongest protest. US-led NATO should bear all responsibilities arising therefrom.” Sha then accused the US, through trying to build absolute security on the insecurity of others, of undermining international peace and security and impairing efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He singled out the proposed US missile defence system as an unacceptable US effort to achieve strategic superiority in the 21st century. “It will disrupt global and regional strategic balances and stability, and possibly trigger off a new round of arms races.” He foresaw the collapse of existing international regimes on disarmament if the US continues its present bullying methods, forcing other countries to resort to every possible means to protect themselves. “If that happens, the bombardment by the US-led NATO is the only thing to blame and it is US and NATO which will provoke the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Calling for the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, he promoted proposals already put forward, including the time-bound nuclear disarmament program advanced by the NAM, the work of the New Agenda Coalition, and the Canberra Commission Report.

The US speech, given by Norman A. Wulf, reiterated the United States’ strong commitment to the NPT and in “continuing to meet its obligations under all aspects of the Treaty.” He criticized the nuclear testing by India and Pakistan as “a grave disservice to our collective efforts because it occurred in the context of an historic achievement of a CTBT and a continuing deep reduction in the number of nuclear weapons worldwide.” He called for a “balanced” review process. “We must approach our work with a healthy dose of realism and avoid the assumption that the NPT process can achieve what has not been achievable elsewhere.”

The US tabled two lengthy Fact Sheets detailing steps the US has taken in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The information package showed that the US has brought its deployed strategic nuclear weapons down from 12,000 in 1989 to about 8,000 today, and that 80 per cent of the tactical warhead stockpile has been eliminated. “The US, through the vigorous pursuit and conclusion of strategic and theater nuclear arms control and reduction agreements with the former Soviet Union, and by canceling new procurement and development programs, has helped to end the Superpower nuclear arms race. This Article VI obligation has been achieved.” Mr. Wulf attempted to marginalize the New Agenda Coalition by stating: “There has been a lot of focus this past year on trying to identify a new agenda for the disarmament process. I would suggest that we have an existing agenda that remains to be completed.”

NGO participation

The NGO community immediately issued a rebuttal to US claims that it is advancing nuclear disarmament. The US Fact Sheets had not mentioned Presidential Decision Directive 60, in which the US will continue to rely on nuclear arms as a cornerstone of its national security for the “indefinite future.” In addition, recent planning documents of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplate nuclear retaliation against the use of chemical and biological arms, an action that would violate negative security assurances.

The NGO statement said the 8,000 figure was misleading because it counted only operational weapons. By counting those in reserve, the total exceeds 10,000 warheads. The Stockpile Stewardship Program, encompassing sub-critical testing at weapons laboratories at Los Alamos and Livermore, violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the CTBT; and the US plans to invest $45- billion over the next decade for nuclear weapons research, development, testing, and production. Stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium are maintained at excessive levels. “While the US may have completely eliminated more than a dozen different types of nuclear warheads, during the same period it has initiated programs to develop several new warheads, or modifications of existing warheads.” These include: the B-61/11, a new earth-penetrating warhead, a new warhead to be deployed on the Trident I and II missile, a refurbishment for the W87, currently used on MX missiles, and improvements for the B83.

Thirteen NGO papers were verbally presented to the PrepComm, covering many aspects of the NPT. Forums and literature were in abundance. At one forum, the new book Security and Survival: The Case for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, whose principal authors are Merav Datan and Alyn Ware, was presented. This thorough examination of the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention, already a UN document, was distributed to delegates.

At the forum, Rebecca Johnson, who provided excellent daily reporting (with Nicola Butler) of the PrepComm on behalf of the Acronym Institute, made an interesting observation. A paradigm shift of thinking from the impossibility to the practicality of nuclear weapons abolition is needed. When the paradigm shift occurs, we will be surprised how fast nuclear abolition will take hold. She likened the work of NGOs today to loosening the earth around a big rock at the top of a mountain; after enough digging, the rock will start to roll down the mountain – unstoppable.

NAM and NAC

The Non-Aligned Movement’s paper called once again for commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on “a phased program of nuclear disarmament and for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons with a specified framework of time, including a Nuclear Weapons Convention….” The NAM also called for negotiations for a legal instrument assuring non-nuclear States against the threat or use of nuclear weapons (negative security assurances) to be annexed as a protocol to the NPT. In fulfillment of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, the NAM stressed the urgency of Israel’s acceding to the NPT without delay and recommended a subsidiary body at the 2000 Review to examine this question.

Following adoption of its Resolution 53/77Y at the 1998 UNGA, the New Agenda Coalition submitted a paper, which showed growth of support for the NAC. Though Slovenia, a NATO aspirant, had dropped off the original membership of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden, the group was backed by 37 more countries that co-sponsored the paper: Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Malaysia, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The NAC paper expressed “profound concern” at the lack of evidence that the NWS are living up to their commitments to Article VI. “On the contrary, the continued possession of nuclear weapons has been re-rationalized. Nuclear doctrines have been reaffirmed…. The indefinite extension of the NPT does not sanction the indefinite retention of nuclear weapons. That must be absolutely clear. …It is imperative to secure a clear and unequivocal commitment to the speedy pursuit of the total elimination of these weapons.”

The NAC called for the pursuit of the START process, the “seamless integration” into the process by the other NWS, de-alerting, reduction of reliance on tactical nuclear weapons, and legally binding Negative Security Assurances.

Canada, building on its new policy statement on nuclear weapons, said that all members of the international community have “a binding obligation” to pursue nuclear disarmament under Article VI, even though for the foreseeable future the primary responsibility for the negotiation of nuclear reductions rests with the US and Russia, with the engagement of the other three NWS “in the near future.” Canada proposed a new set of Principles and Objectives, to be adopted at the 2000 Review, which would press for acceleration of the START process, de-alerting, entry-into-force of the CTBT, a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, and discussion of nuclear disarmament issues at the Conference on Disarmament.

It was left to the Chairman to distill the 27 working papers and other documents submitted by delegations into a coherent presentation of ideas to strengthen the NPT. His final version, amounting to 61 paragraphs, was considered a progressive document, since it embodied an ad hoc committee at the Conference on Disarmament with a negotiating mandate to address nuclear disarmament, and a call to Israel to accede to the NPT and to place all its nuclear facilities under the full-scope IAEA safeguards “without further delay and without conditions.” These two subjects – comprehensive negotiations for nuclear disarmament and Israeli compliance with the NPT – are the thorniest issues the 2000 Review will face. Therefore, the NAM, led by South Africa, pressed for subsidiary bodies to be attached to the regular main committees in 2000 for the purpose of giving detailed attention to nuclear disarmament and the Israeli situation. The United States vigorously objected – as it had in 1998 to the same proposal. For a few moments the PrepComm teetered on the point of subsidiary bodies, a surrogate issue representing the basic split between the NWS and the leading non-Nuclear Weapons States. Then, because neither side wanted the PrepComm to fail outright, compromise language was crafted in which it was noted that some delegations proposed subsidiary bodies be established, and some delegations wanted to defer the decision, and thus the question would be resolved at the 2000 Review. A sigh of relief went around the room. And when the formal decision was taken to send the Chairman’s Paper forward, with the specific notation that it was not an agreed text, delegates applauded.

Egypt immediately struck a realistic note, stating the PrepComm had not been a success and that no substantive recommendations had been sent to the 2000 Review. It hoped for better results on nuclear disarmament and the Middle East problem in 2000.

Conclusion

The NPT stalemate, crucial as it is to the hopes for a viable non-proliferation regime in the 21st century, is itself part of a larger world struggle today. Nuclear weapons, like the Kosovo war, are about the rule of law. How will international law be imposed in the years ahead: by the militarily powerful determining what the law will be, or by a collective world effort reposing the seat of law in the United Nations system?

Already, only a decade after the end of the Cold War, the hopes for a cooperative global security system have been dashed on the rocks of power. The trust engendered during the early post-Cold War years is now shattered. New arms races are underway.

It would be the height of folly to sweep under the rug this unpleasant turn of events. It would be equal folly to think that the rest of the world is powerless against the NWS. Gains are being made, however small compared to the immensity of the nuclear weapons problem. Reductions have occurred. Good documentation, even if not agreed, has been prepared for the 2000 Review. The New Agenda Coalition is developing strength. NATO has committed itself to review its nuclear weapons policy.

There is an interplay in these NPT-NAC-NATO developments. Singly, they may not amount to much; taken together and built upon by a new fusion of strength by like-minded governments and the advanced wave of civil society, they can create enormous world pressure that the NWS will not be able to ignore.

The world is staring into an abyss of nuclear weapons proliferation. The danger of the use of nuclear weapons is growing. The recognition of this should galvanize intelligent and committed people – in both governments and civil society – to action.

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