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29 April 2013, Vol. 11, No. 6

About inconvenient facts
Ray Acheson | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF


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“Treaty violations are not to be tolerated as inconvenient facts,” declared the US delegation on Friday. “We should recognize them for what they are: challenges to the integrity of an international regime that has served us so well over many decades, and deal with them accordingly.”

The US delegation was referring to alleged violations of NPT safeguards obligations. Yet as the Brazilian delegation noted, “43 years after the entry into force of the Treaty, no non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT has developed a nuclear weapon,” while the “other main purpose of the Treaty”—disarmament—is “still elusive”. Likewise, the Swiss delegation emphasized that while progress has been made in implementing non-proliferation measures, the same cannot be said for disarmament.

The failure of the nuclear weapon states (NWS) to comply with their disarmament obligations is widely recognized as the key challenge to the NPT’s credibility. Most NPT states parties believe that the NWS have the primary responsibility to ensure the legitimacy of the Treaty by fulfilling their commitments. While some NWS, such as France, argue that proliferation slows down disarmament, the New Agenda Coalition and others have argued for years that proliferation is driven by the lack of disarmament.

The Austriang delegation argued that non-proliferation efforts “would be significantly aided” if the main proponents of non-proliferation “would not rely on nuclear weapons as the ‘ultimate guarantors of security’ for themselves.” Despite some reports of the efforts they have made to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines, the NWS, and their nuclear allies and “protectorates”, all claim that nuclear weapons are necessary for deterrence and that they will keep them until they are eliminated—a catch-22 of epic proportions.

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In its cluster one statement, the US delegation said that the “fundamental role” of US nuclear weapons is deterring attacks on the United States and its allies. Yet in a Tweet the day before, the delegation claimed that nuclear terrorism is the “greatest nuclear threat today” and then acknowledged that traditional deterrence “does not apply” to terrorism.

Even from this perspective of state-centric security, nuclear weapons are increasingly irrelevant to contemporary threats. Yet the NWS are intent to retain these weapons for the indefinite future, investing billions in their modernization and maintenance.

These two perspectives of the value and role of nuclear weapons is pushing an ever greater wedge between those who posses, rely on, and use these weapons and those who do not have them, do not want them, and want the world to be rid of them.

As the US delegation believes that treaty violations should be seen as challenges to the integrity of the NPT and dealt with accordingly, the question for non-nuclear weapon states is how to deal with non-compliance of disarmament obligations.

Should NNWS sanction the NWS and their nuclear-reliant allies, and then establish a framework for negotiations as the NWS have done with DPRK and Iran? Should they disinvest from corporations involved in the manufacture and maintenance of nuclear weapons and delivery systems and make it a crime for their citizens to deal with these companies? Should they take the initiative to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons through a treaty banning these weapons of terror?

The demand for disarmament is clear. It’s time to get serious about undertaking actions to realize this demand.

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