24 May 2005, No. 17

Bargaining for agreement
Rhianna Tyson

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By the end of the day on Monday, every Main Committee (MC) and subsidiary body had circulated some form of a draft text to be submitted for possible inclusion into this Review Conference’s Final Document.

Judging from the leaks and rumors that filter out from these tightly closed-door debates, the struggle for agreement on these drafts has only barely begun. Some have proposed language that will surely elicit an allergic reaction from the United States. In turn, the US is proposing to eliminate references to principles and objectives that the vast majority of States refuse to abandon. Still others propose watered-down text that lack the strength to correct the problems they were intended to address. How these bargains will play out in a Final Document is yet to be determined.

In the debate over the report from subsidiary body I, the Non-Aligned reportedly insisted on inclusion of language over a time-bound framework for disarmament, a position that they have consistently held for years. The US had a much longer list of complaints against Chairman Caughley’s text, and reportedly insisted on deleting several phrases, including many that were already agreed upon in the past, such as: further progress to reduce nuclear arsenals; restricting the deployment of nuclear weapons and their operational status; reducing the role of nuclear weapons in national security doctrines; foregoing any research and development on new types of nuclear weapons; undertaking new or further development of verification capabilities; and more. The US also rejected any reference to the “unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals,” a vow that they, well, already unequivocally undertook in 2000.

By completely gutting the 2000 Final Document and voiding many of its paramount objectives, the US is, in effect, proposing to hollow out and weaken the international disarmament and nonproliferation regime as a whole.

Chairman Sudjadnan’s draft report from MC I included some laudable elements at which the US and its NATO allies surely scoff, such as barely veiled language that would prohibit nuclear sharing under any military arrangements. While the expulsion of US nuclear weapons from Europe is not too far in the future- if the recent Belgian Senate resolution is any indication- such language is far from likely to be included in this Review Conference’s Final Document.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) proposed a paper in MC III, which would affirm the cessation of transport of nuclear materials as the ultimate desired goal of these States. CARICOM also proposed initiating consultations of a comprehensive international regime that will provide for the full protection and safety of these States, which lay in the route paths of these deadly nuclear cargoes.

Egypt circulated a non-paper on Article IX to be included in the report on MC III, which would reaffirm that non-parties may only accede to the Treaty as Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS). Egypt’s paper calls on India, Israel and Pakistan- by name- to accept safeguards and accede to the Treaty as NNWS, a universalization strategy that is not unanimously accepted. It also requests the President of the Conference to “convey formally” these views and then report back to States parties on the responses from the hold-out States.

Some issues that many hoped the Review Conference would take action on are watered-down in the dissensus. The draft report of MC II will simply note that “some States parties” support making the IAEA Additional Protocol a condition of supply, rather than affirming it as such, as many hoped the Conference would. Other issues that were to have been debated substantively in this Committee, such as reforming the Review Process, optimizing NGO participation and increasing reporting, are left as discussions to be taken up in the next Preparatory Committee meeting in 2007.

A draft text from subsidiary body III on withdrawal is also a bit weaker than many had hoped. This text encourages supplier States to “consider” inserting dismantle and return clauses (to be enacted in the case of withdrawal) in future nuclear technology transfers.

How the Final Document will incorporate these draft texts remains to be seen. Whether or not there will even be a Final Document is also up for debate. At this point, it is critical that the majority of States define their irreducible minimum- the principles and objectives that they recognize as imperative for this Conference to affirm. For if no agreement on a Final Document can be reached, and this Conference adjourns on Friday without a consensus text, the 1995 and 2000 agreements will remain the binding interpretations for subsequent assessment of the NPT. And that just might be the best bargain of them all.

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