International Security Studies

Events

The NPT Regime and the Necessity for Universality

March 30, 2004 // 11:00pm

Speakers: Avner Cohen, Senior Research Scholar, Center for International and Security Studies, University of Maryland-College Park and
Thomas Graham, Jr., Special Counsel, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

This meeting, jointly sponsored by the Division of International Studies and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was another in the Nonproliferation Forum series.

Graham and Cohen stated that Libya's decision to terminate its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs presents a major opportunity to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). At the same time, the startling revelations about the covert transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to Iran and North Korea have highlighted "the danger of a free agent nuclear state." This latter development has also underscored the importance of addressing the challenge posed by the three nuclear-weapon states outside the NPT regime: India, Pakistan, and Israel.

The speakers observed that President John F. Kennedy's nightmare vision of a world of twenty or more nuclear powers has thankfully not come to pass. Nonetheless, the long-term status of the NPT regime faces three key challenges. First, the five nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT (the United States, Russia (the sole nuclear successor state to the Soviet Union), Britain, France, and China), have not made adequate progress to achieve the long-term nuclear reduction and disarmament stipulated in Article VI of the Treaty. Second, treaty compliance remains a major problem as some states within the treaty regime, notably North Korea and Iran, have used the Article IV provision allowing the transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes (such as energy generation) to develop a clandestine nuclear-weapon program. And third, with three nuclear-weapon states outside the NPT, universality continues to be an elusive goal. Neither the amendment of the NPT to permit these countries to join the Treaty as nuclear-weapon states nor a strategy of "rollback" to induce or compel them to give up their nuclear weapons are politically feasible.

In the absence of any better alternative, Cohen and Graham offered a proposal to address the challenge of universality. "A freestanding separate agreement or protocol," they argue, "could permit India, Pakistan, and Israel to retain their programs, but inhibit further development." The protocol could contain provisions either in the NPT or associated with it, such as compliance with the international nuclear export control system, a cessation of nuclear testing, and the phased elimination of fissile material production. The protocol would offer the three nuclear-weapon states the political bargain of "recognition for accountability; (some) legitimacy for (some) constraints."

During the discussion period, questions were raised about the reaction of other governments to this proposal – specifically whether other NPT-signatory states would oppose the creation of a new category of nuclear-weapon states associated to the Treaty, as well as the anticipated negative reaction of Arab governments to an overt Israeli nuclear program.

Robert S. Litwak, Director, Division of International Studies

Experts & Staff

  • Robert S. Litwak // Vice President for Scholars and Academic Relations and Director, International Security Studies
  • Tonya Boyce // Program Assistant, International Security Studies

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