ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: The 'Greatest Con Game'

Forty years have passed since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed. Some self-defeating clauses in the treaty have only militated against the aim of global disarmament and it is clear that the NPT as a treaty that was proposed by the major powers has turned out to be a con game. The discriminatory treaty has neither resulted in substantial disarmament nor has it helped to curb nuclear proliferation, either horizontal (which it was supposed to) or vertical (which was given short shrift in the original treaty).

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COMMENTARYEconomic & Political Weekly EPW august 9, 200845‘The Non-Proliferation Treaty: Challenging Times’ by Rebecca Johnson (ACRONYM Re-port No 13, February 2000) and in the arti-cle titled ‘The Evolution of NPT Review Conference Final Documents 1975-2000’ by Carlton Stoiber (The Nonproliferation Review, Fall/Winter 2003). In the opinion of Rebecca Johnson, who is the founding director of The Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, London,UK: The non-nuclear countries are sending ever stronger signals that without nuclear disar-mament the non-proliferation norm will be-come discredited. They cite the stagnation of the strategic arms reduction (START) process, NATO’s reaffirmation in April 1999 of the role of nuclear forces in the alliance’s Strategic Concept, Russia’s ‘Concept of National Secu-rity’, declared in January 2000, and the stra-tegic implications if the United States pushes ahead with ballistic missile defences, includ-ing the risk of a resurgent arms race, possibly extending to outer space (para 14, Summary).Expressing a similar opinion, Carlton Stoiber, an expert on international law based in WashingtonDC, and who had served in theUS Department of State and Nuclear Regulatory Commission for nearly 30 years, commented on the developments in the RevCons as follows:The most difficult and complicated negotia-tions over final documents at past RevCons have involved the nuclear arms race and dis-armament provisions of Article VI (p 130). A constant theme in the Article VI debate has been dissatisfaction on the part of a majority of NNWS [non-nuclear weapon states] parties that theNWS [nuclear weapon states] have not made greater and more rapid progress toward reducing and eventually eliminating their nuclear weapon arsenals (p 140).An equally important concern of the NNWSs was the issue of security assurances. As Stoiber has again noted: The issue of security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT has been a central issue at NPT RevCons since 1975. The issue was actively debated during negotiations of the treaty itself. In fact, without the adoption of Security Council Resolution 255 in 1968, extending so-called positive security assurances to the NNWSs it is unlikely that the treaty would have been approved (p 143). While the Security Council Resolution 255 of 1968 – the so-called “positive” security assurance – was one of the most abject resolutions ever to be passed by theUN Se-curity Council, the point to be noted here is that the issue of security assurances to the NNWSs has remained a perpetual source of controversy in the RevCons. To ostensibly rectify the shortcomings of the UNSC Resolution 255 of 1968, the UNSC passed yet another resolution on April 11, 1995 (Resolution 984 of 1995). However, on April 11, 1995 itself the G-21 nations, representing the non-aligned nations in theUN, wrote a protest letter addressed to the deputy secretary-general of the UN Conference on Disarmament against the said resolution. The letter stated that:this resolution does not take into account any of the formal objections made in the past by non-nuclear weapon states on the restrictive, restrained, uncertain, conditional and discriminatory character of the guaran-tees already provided.Therefore, it is for the nuclear weapon states to provide security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in an internationally and legally-binding form.8The inherent flaws in theUNSC Resolu-tion No 984 of 1995 were, thus, quickly exposed by the G-21 nations. In a detailed article titled ‘The Legal Status ofUS Negative Security Assurances to Non-Nuclear Weapon States’,9 George Bunn, who had served as general counsel of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) from 1961 to 1969, and who was one of the negotiators of the NPT, laid bare the US position on the issue. Divulging the US stand, he wrote:During theUN General Assembly debates on disarmament in the fall of 1966, 46 non-aligned countries introduced a draft resolu-tion that invited the nuclear weapon states “to give an assurance that they will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states” [Fn 36].ACDA [US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency] sought authority from President Johnson for theUS representative to the United Nations to vote for the resolution…. The joint chiefs of staff opposed ACDA’s draft:… the chiefs’ “opposition was based on the reason that such a nonuse assurance could provide an impetus toward total prohibition of nuclear weapons…” [Fns 37, 38]. The joint chiefs of staff had as early as 1966 correctly identified the crux of the issue: “a nonuse assurance could provide an impetus toward total prohibition of nuclear weapons”. This is precisely the reason why a negative security assurance, i e, a pledge by the nuclear weapon states not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states, has to be an inte-gral part of any nuclear arms control or disarmament treaty. A negative security assurance is the very first step that would provide the necessary impetus for moving towards the goal of nuclear disarmament. ‘Greatest Con Game’The intrigue behind the NPT was also ex-posed through a chance discovery. While exploring aspects of non-compliance of the obligations under the existing arms control treaties, Zia Mian of Princeton University has uncovered that: Bill Epstein, a veteran United Nations official in the area of arms control and disarmament, records that one of the American negotiators conceded privately that the NPT was “one of the greatest con games of modern times”.10 The AlternativeIt is high time that the global peace move-ment collectively begins to focus attention on the urgency of achieving the goals set out in the McCloy-Zorin accord and Rajiv Gandhi’s Action Plan for a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order. Every effort should be made by such a reinvigor-ated peace movement to influence the UN member-states to ensure that the nextUN special session on disarmament (SSOD-IV) is held at the latest by the year 2010. It is a very encouraging sign that on June 9, 2008 on the 20th anniversary of the proc-lamation of the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan, prime minister Manmohan Singh has reaffirmed the government of India’s commitment to the plan.11 Notes 1 2 3 4 Kennedy.htm 5 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [BAS], November-December 1997, p 67. 6 BAS, July-August 2006, p 66. 7 BAS, November-December 1999, pp 26-35. 8 CD/1312 dated April 11, 1995 at 9 The Non-proliferation Review, Spring-Summer 1997, pp 3-5.10 Fn 98 at

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