Rebuilding Confidence in the NPT: Resolving the NATO-NPT contradiction

Tasneem Jamal

Ernie Regehr

Working Paper 05-4

That the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is under severe strain is not in doubt. The Treaty’s three basic provisions – disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear energy – are challenged by a NATO strategic concept that defends the usefulness of nuclear weapons for defence.

One group of states with a particular responsibility to restore the vision and intent of the NPT is the Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) within NATO. These states occupy a contradictory position. As members of the NPT, they pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons and also to eschew the acquisition of nuclear weapons. As members of NATO, they pledge to continue to rely indefinitely on nuclear weapons for their own security. That double standard is not sustainable, morally or politically, and the preeminent danger is that this double standard will be resolved by the broader acquisition of nuclear weapons rather than through their universal elimination.

The central premise of this report is that NATO’s NNWS could make a major contribution to restoring international confidence in the Treaty by taking overt measures to acknowledge, mitigate, and ultimately end their contradictory status. This report is also premised on the responsibility of the World Council of Churches, whose member churches are prominent within many NATO states, to draw attention to the NATO/NPT contradiction and to encourage action to resolve it in order to strengthen the Treaty as the core instrument for the pursuit of a nuclear weapon-free world.

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