ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION
Beginning today and through May 22, diplomats from the members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), along with hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, will gather at the United Nations in New York to discuss how one of the world’s most vital international security instruments can be strengthened to address both long-standing and emerging nuclear challenges.
Over the past 45 years, the NPT has established an indispensable, yet imperfect set of interlocking nonproliferation and disarmament obligations and standards. Reinforced by nuclear export controls and the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards system, the NPT makes it far more difficult for non-nuclear-weapon states to acquire or build nuclear weapons and to do so without being detected. Equally important, NPT Article VI commits the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China–the five nuclear-weapons states that are party to the treaty–to end the arms race, stop nuclear testing, and achieve nuclear disarmament.
Rather than the dozens of nuclear-armed states that were forecast before the NPT entered into force in 1970, only four additional countries (India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea all of which have not signed the NPT) have nuclear weapons today, and the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons has grown stronger.
The 2015 NPT Review Conference provides an important opportunity for the treaty’s members to adopt a balanced, forward-looking action plan to improve nuclear safeguards, guard against treaty withdrawal, accelerate progress on disarmament, and address regional nuclear proliferation challenges.
However, the 2015 conference will likely reveal tensions regarding the implementation of some of 65 key commitments in the action plan agreed to at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
There is widespread frustration with the slow pace of achieving the nuclear disarmament goals of Article VI of the NPT and the lack of agreement among NPT parties on how best to advance nuclear disarmament. Though the United States and Russia are implementing the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) accord, they have not started talks on further nuclear reductions. Russia’s annexation of Ukraine will likely be criticized by some states as a violation of security commitments made in 1994 when Kiev joined the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon state.
At the same time, most nuclear-weapon states–inside and outside the NPT–are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. This is leading some non-nuclear-weapon states to call for the negotiation of a nuclear weapons ban even without the participation of the nuclear-weapon states; while others are pushing for a renewed dedication to key disarmament commitments made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
In 2010, states parties decided to convene a conference on a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, but key states, including Egypt (an NPT state party) and Israel (not an NPT state party), have failed to meet directly to agree on an agenda and to schedule the conference. The issue could lead to some of the most heated rhetoric at the 2015 NPT Review Conference.
In contrast, the April 2 framework agreement between six world powers and Iran on a comprehensive agreement on its nuclear program will likely be praised as a positive development that can, if finalized and implemented, strengthen the NPT and prevent the emergence of another nuclear-armed state in the region.
Resources and Fact Sheets
“The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty At-A-Glance,” Arms Control Association Fact Sheet.
“Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance,” Arms Control Association Fact Sheet.
“WMD-Free Middle East Proposal at a Glance,” Arms Control Association Fact Sheet.
“The IAEA Additional Protocol,” Fact Sheet outlining efforts to strengthen nuclear safeguards.
“Ukraine, Nuclear Weapons, and Security Assurances at a Glance,” Arms Control Association Fact Sheet.
“New START: Still Doing the Job,” analysis by Greg Thielmann, ArmsControlNow, the blog of the Arms Control Association.
“The Lausanne Framework and a Final Nuclear Deal with Iran,” Arms Control Association Issue Brief, April 14, 2015.
“Slow Progress on Middle East Zone Decried,” by Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Today, April 2015.
“Nuclear-Weapon States Discuss NPT Issues,” by Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Today, March 2015.
“Nuclear Impact Meeting Is Largest Yet,” by Kingston Reif, Arms Control Today, January/February 2015.
Analysis and Interviews
“Finding a Way Out of the NPT Nuclear Disarmament Stalemate,” by Lewis Dunn, Arms Control Today, April 2015.
“Previewing the NPT Review: An Interview With U.S. Special Representative Adam Scheinman,” Arms Control Today, April 2015.
“Russia and the Big Chill,” commentary by Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Today, April 2015.
“Securing Irreversible IAEA Safeguards to Close the Next NPT Loophole,” by Pierre Goldschmidt, Arms Control Today, March 2015.
“Nuclear Weapons Modernization: A Threat to the NPT?” by Hans M. Kristensen, Arms Control Today, May 2014.
“Rough Seas Ahead: Issue for the 2015 NPT Review Conference,” by Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, Arms Control Today, April 2014.
“How Divergent Views on Nuclear Disarmament Threaten the NPT, ” by Amb. Alexander Kmentt, Arms Control Today, December 2013.
Official Conference Documentation and Speeches
UN Office for Disarmament Affairs 2015 NPT Review Conference Web site, includes documents from 2010 NPT Review Conference.
Reaching Critical Will 2015 NPT Review Conference Web page, includes official statements delivered at the Review Conference.