The indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 represents the strong will of the majority of signatory states to work on creating a non-proliferation regime that makes the cost of non-compliance high enough to deterpotential violators. Since then, the NPT has been the most adhered to arms control arrangement up until recently. Signatories recently met at the 2015 NPT Review Conference (RevCon) to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, but could not come to an agreement. The question ofwhy the 2015 RevCon could not produce a workable concrete document for the adherence to nuclear non-proliferation regime will be taken into account in this op-ed.
Reasons for disagreement over the final document Andrey Baklitsky narrates the reasons for the NPT Rev Con’s failure to produce any final document in his article titled “The 2015 NPT Review Conference and the Future of the Nonproliferation Regime.” (1) Concluding the NPT RevCon without an agreement is nothing unusual. Since 1970 –when the treaty entered into force – the parties could not reach a multilateral consensus at four of the last nine RevCons: 1980, 1990, 2005, and 2015. Indeed, this is a poor record for a treaty that is considered to be a universal treaty. The conclusion of 2015 NPT RevCon is assessed to be disappointing because it could not wrap-up into a final document especially in the field of non-proliferation. On the other hand, even though the implementation is still debatable, the 2000 and 2010 review conferences are considered to be successful as they agreed on two concrete documents: 13 “practical steps” and the 64-point action plan RevCon in 2000 and 2010 NPT respectively.
(2) Since 1985, the outcome of NPT review conferences has not been changed much. The world order changed from the bipolar world and also a few countries got nuclearized by conducting their nuclear weapon tests, i.e., Pakistan, India and North Korea but the focus of attention of the NPT RevCon remained on the Article VI of the treaty related to disarmament. On the other hand the blazing issue of the creation of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone free (NWFZ) in the Middle East debated a lot in the 2015 NPT review Conference remined a subject of concern back from 1974.
(3) It is evaluated in the NPT RevCon that both countries, Russia and the US still criticize each other over the suspected disobedience with the international agreements despite of implementing few arms control agreements still, e.g., the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. There is another positive sign that Moscow and Washington also continue to work together in the P5 process.
Talking about the disarmament initiative, the contemporary situation of Russia and the US initiatives was assessed. The point of concern is Russia’s apprehensions on the reduction of nuclear warheads from their countries to 1000 warheads apiece. Since it is the strategic stability in between both countries, a precondition to reduce or cut down the number ofnuclear warheads, Russia apprehends that the US is violating or undermining it by developing prompt global-strike systems, expanding its ballistic missile defence and opposing the draft treaty banning weapons in outer space. So, for initiating the disarmament talks again whether bilateral or multilateral, one needs to deal with it through new inter-governmental dynamics or by use of a creative diplomacy; this would positively an add on from the non-proliferation perspective too.
Lack of consensus at the NPT review conference is hardly new, but the willingness to cooperate or reconcile differences and find consensus is fading. As a result, states that cannot find satisfaction from this forum are beginning to look towards other alternatives to fulfill their disarmament and non-proliferation demands. There have been suggestions to shift non-proliferation discussions that make decisions by majority instead of consensus, such as the United Nation General Assembly or another ad hoc body. Leaving the outcome aside as if whether such a move results in the desired change or not, it would definitely weaken the NPT review process and consequently the nonproliferation regime itself.
Despite any short-comings of the 2015 review conference, no other nuclear disarmament arrangement has made substantial progress in restraining the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Progress over the next five years and at the next NPT RevCon will be crucial for the permanence of this vital piece of international law.
— The writer works for Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.
NPT Role in Non-Proliferation | Beenish Altaf