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HOME > TOPICS > The Nonproliferation Regime      
The Nonproliferation Regime

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) represents three basic bargains. The first is encapsulated in Articles One and Two of the treaty. They prohibit states with nuclear weapons from transferring them or the means to make them to states that lack nuclear weapons, and ban nonweapons states from acquiring them. The second NPT bargain is set forth in Articles Three, Four, and Six. These articles stipulate that the nuclear weapons states will negotiate in good faith to disarm and will share the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy with nonweapons states. In exchange, the nonweapons states pledge not to acquire nuclear weapons and to allow international inspections of their civilian nuclear facilities and materials to verify whether non-nuclear weapons states are in compliance with the treaty and are not diverting peaceful nuclear activities or materials to make nuclear weapons.

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Jun 03, 2020 Trouble ahead: Other countries can build military reactors free of safeguards
Earlier this year, the Defense Department kicked off a design competition for micro nuclear reactors that can be deployed with U.S. military forces overseas. Such reactors on U.S. military bases would not be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections because America is recognized to be a nuclear weapons state under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). What's worrisome, is that in principle, countries lacking nuclear weapons could build military reactors free of inspections as well. As Victor Gilinsky and I wrote in the attached Bulletin of Atomic Scientists piece, "Small military nuclear reactors: In need of global safeguards," the NPT does not prohibit non-weapon states from all military applications of nuclear energy--only those that involve nuclear explosives. IAEA safeguards agreements with these states actually include a provision that notes this possibility and excludes these activities from safeguards. To its credit, the IAEA views what is "peaceful" nuclear activity as broadly as possible in order to cover as many activities with safeguards as possible. But as former Brazilian ambassador Sergio Duarte who serves as president of the 2005 NPT Review Conference and chairman of the IAEA Board of Governors, recently noted, "There is no definition of 'peaceful uses' in any multilateral treaty on nonproliferation." Both South Korea and Iran have announced a desire to develop naval reactors that would entail building ground-based prototypes. If the U.S. promotes small reactors as a killer app, it's conceivable it will be giving other countries that lack nuclear weapons ideas. This is a prescription for mischief. The 2020 NPT Review Conference has been delayed until next year. Before it meets, it would be smart to clarify that non-weapons states' military reactors, naval or otherwise, need to be safeguarded no matter what.    
Op-Eds & Blogs
Apr 21, 2020 Nuclear Test Ban: Don't Test, Don't Ratify, Don't Unsign
Late last week, the State Department caused a stir raising suspicions that the Chinese have been violating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). There were two immediate responses: Some wanted to unsign the treaty, which would clear the way to resume nuclear testing, others pushed back and doubled down on their earlier calls to ratify the treaty. As I make clear in the following analysis I wrote yesterday for The National Interest, neither camp's advice should be heeded. "The United States can't fully verify small nuclear test violations and should not ratify the treaty until it can, but for the same reason," I wrote, "it shouldn't unsign the treaty until it has clear proofs that it can publicly share." As for resuming nuclear testing, it would only further slow our nuclear modernization program and increase its already sky-high costs. On this last point, I share the insights of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's top nuclear weapons designers. "There is something here to irk everyone," I conclude. "Resuming nuclear testing is for chumps; unsigning or ratifying the treaty is for the flamboyant. For now, steering clear of all three is America's best course."
Op-Eds & Blogs
Apr 11, 2020 Iran Says It Does Not Want a Bomb: We Should Listen
While the world focuses its attention on battling the Coronavirus, Iran has made several provocative moves, including a threat to pull out of the NPT and build-up of low-enriched uranium. Many analysts have interpreted these actions as the opening moves in a sprint toward the bomb. Others interpret Iran as a state desperate for sanctions relief.  Which view is correct? This desperate. As John Spacapan argues in the attached The National Interest piece, "Why America Should Believe Iran When It Says It Doesn't Want Nuclear Weapons", Iran learned a lesson from the Arab Spring, and particularly the case of Libya, that contradicts the conventional wisdom on why enemies of the United States pursue, or don't pursue nuclear arms proliferation. In particular, the last decade has taught Tehran that dictators in the Middle East are far more likely to be killed or overthrown by their own people than by the United States. This suggests that when Iranian officials say they do not want to get a bomb, maybe we should listen. 
Op-Eds & Blogs
Mar 27, 2020 Nuclear Proliferation Treaty Troubles Remain Unaddressed Amid a Global Pandemic
Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina announced that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, scheduled to begin April 27, would be postponed, perhaps until next year. The question now is what should be done with the extra time.   In "Nuclear Proliferation Troubles Remain Unaddressed Amid a Global Pandemic," published by The National Interest, Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski make five recomendations. These include backing off the promotion of nuclear power, which 50 years ago seemed an economic imperitive, but is no longer. They also reccoment doing more to deter withdrawals from the treaty and making default enforcement of NPT and International Atomic Energy Agency violations more likely. Finally, they reccomend considering states outside of the treaty -- Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea -- to be members in noncompliance that could come into more compliance by incrementally reducing their own nuclear weapons-related holdings.    All of this may seem ambitious. But now we have more time to review the bidding. Surely, if we want to skirt the next slow moving (nuclear) Pearl Harbor, we should use it. 
Op-Eds & Blogs
Mar 09, 2020 The NPT turns 50: Will it get to 60?
As Washington opens its talks with the Russians over nuclear arms control and increases pressure on Iran and North Korea to get them to negotiate, there’s one nuclear diplomatic effort that’s going all but unnoticed— the tenth review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Slated for late April, the NPT Review Conference at the United Nations in New York will celebrate the treaty’s 50th anniversary. The question is how much longer might this treaty last. As Henry Sokolski argues in the attached version of a piece to be published in the March issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the jury is out. Several countries — Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia — have recently threatened to withdraw from the treaty. The means to go nuclear are increasingly available and our security reliance, and that of our adversaries, on nuclear weapons and their early use is again drifting upward. Should we worry? The short answer is yes. If we care about deterring nuclear war, we have to care about limiting the fundamental uncertainties that come with increased numbers of nuclear and near-nuclear armed states. What can be done? Plenty. As Henry Sokolski argues in the essay below, we need to work with Russia and others to make NPT withdrawals far less likely. We also need to stop pushing the most dangerous and uneconomical forms of civilian nuclear energy and modernize our military in ways that deemphasize the military value of nuclear arms. The good news is we still have time.    
Feb 21, 2020 Forthcoming: The NPT turns 50: Will it get to 60?
As Washington opens its talks with the Russians over nuclear arms control and increases pressure on Iran and North Korea to get them to negotiate, there’s one nuclear diplomatic effort that’s going all but unnoticed— the tenth review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Slated for late April, the NPT Review Conference at the United Nations in New York will celebrate the treaty’s 50th anniversary. The question is how much longer might this treaty last. As I argue in the attached version of a piece to be published in the March issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the jury is out. Several countries — Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia — have recently threatened to withdraw from the treaty. The means to go nuclear are increasingly available and our security reliance, and that of our adversaries, on nuclear weapons and their early use is again drifting upward. Should we worry? The short answer is yes. If we care about deterring nuclear war, we have to care about limiting the fundamental uncertainties that come with increased numbers of nuclear and near-nuclear armed states. What can be done? Plenty. As I argue in the essay below, we need to work with Russia and others to make NPT withdrawals far less likely. We also need to stop pushing the most dangerous and uneconomical forms of civilian nuclear energy and modernize our military in ways that deemphasize the military value of nuclear arms. The good news is we still have time.
Articles
Feb 03, 2020 North Korea's Nuclear Program: The Early Days, 1984-2002
Now that the President’s nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang are on the back burner, it’s worth reviewing how well Washington has generally faired in gauging the North Korean nuclear threat. Attached is such an excellent start covering the period from 1984 through 2002 by Torrey Froscher, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) nuclear analyst and NPEC advisory board member. Showcased in the CIA’s latest issue of Studies in Intelligence, “North Korea’s Nuclear Program: The Early Days, 1984-2002,” details how U.S. intelligence analysts and policy makers initially underestimated the North Korean nuclear threat and then placed far too much faith in North Korea’s commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. To avoid such excesses in the future, Mr. Froscher recommends that intelligence analysts and policy makers spend, “less time reporting current developments” and devote “more effort to thinking through possible future developments, how they might materialize, and what factors would affect their likelihood.” Developing such alternative nuclear futures was one of the key recommendations of NPEC’s Speaking Truth to Nonproliferation Project, which was spotlighted in a Studies in Intelligence cover story that was published in March of 2019. Mr. Froscher was an active participant in this project and has lectured at several universities as part of NPEC’s academic policy practitioner outreach program. His Studies in Intelligence article was developed from the NPEC lectures he gave over the last two years. His analysis is spot-on as the United States and like-minded nations work to prevent other nations from withdrawing from or violating the NPT.
Articles
Jan 17, 2020 The Little-Known Loophole in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
Iran threatened to pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) if Germany, France, and the UK refer Tehran to the United Nations (UN) Security Council for violating the Iran nuclear deal.  This announcement came on the heels of Turkish President Recep Erdogan's complaint September 24th to the UN General Assembly that the NPT's recognition of five nuclear weapons states was illegitimate. There should be no nucelar armed states, he argues, or all states, including Turkey, should be free to acquire them. Meanwhile, Mohammed Bin Salman has promised to get nuclear weapons if Iran did. All of this spells trouble.  As Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski explain in The National Interest, several days before Iran's foreign minister made his latest Iranian threat, the NPT allows states to withdraw from the treaty all to easily. Certainly, NPT member states did little or nothing when North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003. Only three years later, after Pyongyang exploded a nuclear weapon did the UN impose serious sanctions. This is a worry. Will the NPT, which turns 50 this year, suffer another withdrawal? If so, will it make it to 60? Late in 2018, Christopher Ford, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, said more needed to be done to deter further NPT withdrawals. We agreed and argue that this should be priority number one in the upcoming April five-year review of the NPT. 
Op-Eds & Blogs
Dec 05, 2019 Interview with Patrick Malone on NPT
Henry Sokolski and Patrick Malone discuss Turkey, the NPT, and nuclear deterrence.
Interviews; Audio & Video
Nov 14, 2019 Taking Erdogan's critique of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty seriously
One topic President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not discuss in November but should have was the future of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). As Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski write in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist piece, “Taking Erdogan’s critique of the Non-Proliferation Treaty seriously,” (see below) Erdogan objected to the NPT regime at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, September 24th. Referencing the treaties recognition of only five nuclear weapon states, Erdogan stretched out to the fingers of his right hand, and to wide applause, “the world is bigger than five.” Earlier in September, Erdogan complained, "Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads… this, I cannot accept.” His UN pronouncement makes clear that his objection to the NPT, however, is much broader than any restriction it might place just on Turkey. What Erdogan wants is a world either with no nuclear arms state or no restrictions on nuclear weapons whatsoever. Erdogan’s challenge is brassy but he has a point: either the NPT gets stronger or it goes away. Victor and Henry make the case for strengthening the NPT and suggest, at a minimum, what it might require. The alternative is to let the treaty continue to decline as leaders like Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman publicly threaten to withdraw.  
Op-Eds & Blogs
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The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), is a 501 (c)3 nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization
founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
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