10 May 2007, No. 9

Power politics or cooperative security?
Jennifer Nordstrom | Reaching Critical Will

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The second day of substance built on the original non-proliferation for disarmament bargain of the Treaty, balancing the goals of the nuclear weapon states and the non-nuclear weapon states. In the morning session, governments focused on nuclear disarmament and security assurances (Specific Issues), and in the afternoon, they discussed non-proliferation and nuclear weapon free zones (Cluster 2). In reviewing this bargain, some states simply sought to maximize national interests, trying to gain as much as possible while giving as little as possible. However, many states sought to enhance global security, recognizing that we need full implementation of and compliance with all the obligations in this Treaty.

Despite disagreement and a continued need to negotiate, it was a remarkably constructive and engaged day of discussion. There was even an opportunity for interactive dialogue during the morning session, which several governments used to react to and build on other governments' ideas—a valuable thing in a forum designed to build consensus currently operating under such time constraints.

The nuclear disarmament discussions hit hard on the 1995 and 2000 agreements again, which contain practical steps for implementing nuclear disarmament. Many governments called for better reporting on nuclear disarmament implementation. Canada, New Zealand, and Mexico supported Brazil's proposal that the Secretariat compile a chart of nuclear disarmament measures taken, based on statements delivered by the nuclear weapon states at the PrepCom. New Zealand suggested creating a similar report to assess progress against the benchmarks from 1995 and 2000. Non-nuclear weapon states also posed questions to the nuclear weapon states, and asked them to reflect and respond.

Non-nuclear weapon states called for assurances from the weapon states that nuclear weapons would not be used, or threatened to be used, against them. Since the inception of the Treaty, non-nuclear weapon states have sought these “negative security assurances” (NSAs), but the nuclear weapon states have been loathe to give them. The Non-Aligned Movement made its regular call for “universal, unconditional, legally-binding” NSAs, and nuclear weapon states again insisted that the assurances they have given in the past are sufficient. Many states discussed how security assurances could become part of the NPT package. States should determine the form of NSAs and their relationship to the Treaty in this review cycle. South Africa reminded states that the New Agenda Coalition submitted a working paper exploring these ideas to the 2003 PrepCom. Italy’s working paper suggests states do a survey of which states have security assurances now (via nuclear weapon free zone treaties) and which states could be eligible for such assurances.

In the afternoon session on non-proliferation, there was broad support for universalizing the comprehensive safeguards regime. A number of states supported using the 1997 Model Additional Protocol with a safeguards agreement as the “new verification standard”. Australia, Austria, New Zealand, and Norway said the Additional Protocol should be a condition for supply of nuclear exports. The Non Aligned Movement opposed any additional legal requirements, restrictions, or burdens on non-nuclear weapon states, while the United States argued at length about the primacy of the Treaty’s “core” non-proliferation obligations and compliance with them.

Compliance with the Treaty is of course of the utmost importance, despite its inherent difficulties. Assessing compliance by consensus is rather difficult when the states being assessed are part of the consensus process. Independent technical verification is thus crucial to ensuring collective security, and avoiding discrimination. In this regard, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, the Non Aligned Movement and Cuba identified the International Atomic Energy Agency as the authority in assessing compliance with the NPT’s non-proliferation obligations.

However, there is no equivalent independent technical authority for assessing compliance with disarmament obligations. States parties continue to assert the 13 practical steps as the benchmarks for assessing compliance with disarmament, but they are doing so with the very states whose compliance they are assessing. Who assesses the compliance of the nuclear weapon states? What are the consequences of non-compliance? Assessments of non-compliance with non-proliferation obligations have serious consequences, implicitly recognized by New Zealand’s statement that it had a “strong preference” that the conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme be resolved peacefully. In such a world, independent, technical verification of agreed standards of compliance with all the obligations of the Treaty is necessary. By doing this, the Treaty works an instrument of collective security, and not a theatre for power politics.

Appropriately, Dr. Hans Blix, Chair of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, spoke about cooperative security in between the morning and afternoon sessions. He explained that after the failure of the Iraq war to resolve weapons of mass destruction issues that did not exist, the international community needs to return to a framework of cooperation to deal with these issues. We agree. Playing security as a zero-sum game means we all lose. States need to act with enlightened self-interest—working for collective security is in the interest of humanity, a club to which we all belong.


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