The permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) met to discuss non-proliferation matters last week. The meeting was held as “the first follow-up meeting of the 2010 NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] Review Conference with the 5 nuclear powers recognized by the NPT.”
Shockingly, the conference reaffirmed the importance of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Here’s the U.S. State Department’s press release on the meeting.
One interesting note, Burk notes Iran’s isolation within the conference. Iran was the final party to agreed to the final declaration, holding up progress for hours. On this score, the U.S. showed itself more in sync with the international community than Iran.
Did the Obama administration snub Israel during a nonproliferation summit earlier this summer? The NYTimes wants you to think so, and—in so doing—offers a master-class in cherry picking facts.
The NYTimes reports on the costs of America negotiating a successful Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference earlier this summer. Its focus? The continuing strains plaguing the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The article suggests this concession has further chilled relations between the United States and Israel. But in implicitly shaping this clause of the NPT document as a U.S. concession, the article makes three critical omissions.
First, the document “recalls the reaffirmation by the 2000 Review Conference of the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty,” not what I would describing as ‘urging’ Israel to join the treaty. (2010 Final Document)
But, more importantly, this reference to Israel is not novel. Indeed, similar language appears in the conference’s 2000 declaration. (2000 Final Document Article VII, Paragraph 3)
Admittedly, this request was not repeated in 2005. But the tumultuous 2005 conference ended without any final declaration.
So Obama’s ‘concession’ merely recognized the status-quo. Shouldn’t the NYTimes explore why 1) Israel expected such a shift and 2) the benefits-and-drawbacks of the status-quo?
But the NYTimes, latter on in the piece, suggests that it isn’t the reference itself, but rather the singling out of Israel—and not Iran’s nuclear program:
The United States, recognizing that the document would upset the Israelis, sought to distance itself even as it signed it.
In a statement released after the conference ended, the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, said, “The United States deplores the decision to single out Israel in the Middle East section of the NPT document.” He said it was “equally deplorable” that the document did not single out Iran for its nuclear ambitions. Any conference on a nuclear-free Middle East, General Jones said, could only come after Israel and its neighbors had made peace.
The United States, American officials said, faced a hard choice: refusing to compromise with the Arab states on Israel would have sunk the entire review conference. Given the emphasis Mr. Obama has placed on nonproliferation, the United States could not accept such an outcome.
But the report omits another two critical facts: 1) Iran has not breached its obligations under the NPT (Iran claims to be pursuing a peaceful nuclear program) and 2) the final document doesn’t single out Israel—it also calls on India, Pakistan and North Korea to join the NPT. (Paragraphs 108, 109 and 115)
Now was it smart policy for Obama to permit the NPT declaration to mention Israel directly? I would argue it was his only choice: if the NPT failed to reach a final declaration in back-to-back meetings, the treaty system would face a legitimacy crisis.
Why does the NPT matter? It represents the legal basis for 189 countries—including Iran—not to proliferate nuclear weapons.
There are arguments for junking the NPT all-together, a subject the NYTimes article fails to mention. Instead, the NYTimes settles for swallow reporting and simplistic analysis.
Jeremy Kahn, a former managing editor for TNR, offers a snappy piece (cautiously) defending the U.S. India nuclear. The article boiled down: don’t blame India for the regime falling apart; rather, blame the regime itself (and the Bush administration).
But his logic-chain derails a few times.
First, he concedes the Bush administration “gutted” the NPT regime.
While a critic of the deal myself, this claim strikes me as glaringly swallow—for either gleeful supporters or staunch defenders of the NPT to parrot. India (and Pakistan, Israel, North Korea) have to be brought into the nuclear system. And none of these countries will give up their weapons, or get a reform to the NPT that would gain them entry.
But the biggest weakness remains its failure to promote non-proliferation within the terms of the US-India deal. The US could–and should–have negotiated more stringent nuclear disclosure and inspection requirements. By blatantly tying the N-deal to a sloppily thought out strategic aim (countering Chinese influence), the US caused more problems—and alienated key allies.
And India—at least in the near term—lost a chance to become a true leader on nonproliferation and disarmament.
The US-India nuclear deal did not, and has not, made the NPT irrelevant. And the US-India nuclear deal hasn’t made it easier for Iran to get the bomb.
Iran, like most countries, will get the bomb it if decides to do so. What the nuclear deal did was to lower the diplomatic pain it would feel.
But the real problem remains the P-5 members treating proliferation concerns secondary to other strategic interests. Hence the real flaw with the NPT.
Kahn is right to defend India from being lumped in with other proliferators. But, in doing so, he misses out on the costs of such an approach when it comes to nonproliferation.
In so doing, Kahn fails to imagine a world where India’s neighbors have nukes on hair-trigger alert. Then how has either India or global non-proliferation been strengthened?
So who is to blame? Nonproliferation remains a collective nuclear responsibility.
And, even with its flaws, the NPT has worked to prevent a nuclear attack for over 50 years.
James Carroll offers a skillfully concise piece reviewing the opportunities and pit-falls facing the Obama administration’s goals on nuclear non-proliferation. Carroll argues that certain critical events in the coming months may set-off a new nuclear arms race.
While perhaps employing too dire a tone, Carroll’s editorial does make clear that the months may make or break Obama’s ambitious nonproliferation and counter-proliferation goals.
From Carroll’s editorial (with slight formatting changes and editing) in Monday’s Boston Globe:
The US-Russia Treaty
Negotiators in Geneva are late in reaching agreement on a nuclear arms treaty to replace START, which expired last December. Obama is threading a needle, having to meet Russian requirements (for example, on missile defense) while anticipating Republican objections in the US Senate (for example, on missile defense). Warning: Bill Clinton was humiliated when the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999. Republicans’ recalcitrance on health care is peanuts compared to the damage their rejection of a new START treaty would do.
The Nuclear Posture Review
…the Congress-mandated report on how the administration defines nuclear needs today. This, too, is overdue, probably because the White House has been pushing back against the Pentagon on numerous issues. Are nukes for deterrence only? Will the United States renounce first use? Having stopped the Bush-era program to build a new nuclear weapon, will Obama allow further research and development? What nations will be named as potential nuclear threats? Warning: The 1994 Nuclear Posture Review was Clinton’s Pentagon Waterloo. It affirmed the Cold War status quo, killing serious arms reduction until now.
Although usually considered apart, the broader US defense posture has turned into a key motivator for other nations to go nuclear. The current Pentagon budget ($5 trillion for 2010-2017) is so far beyond any other country, and the conventional military capacity it buys is so dominant, as to reinforce the nuclear option abroad as the sole protection against potential US attack. This is new.
April’s Nuclear Summit in Washington DC
… but both nuclear haves and have-nots will be taking positions based on the US-Russia Treaty (and its prospects for ratification) and the Nuclear Posture Review. Warning: if China sees US missile defense as potentially aimed its way, a new nuclear arms race is on.
Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference
In May, the signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty will hold their eighth regular review session in New York. Since the nations that agreed to forego nuclear weapons did so on the condition that the nuclear nations work steadily toward abolition, the key question will be whether Obama has in fact begun to deliver on his declared intention. If not, get ready for the cascade.
Setting the stage for next May’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference, the Obama administration has circulated a UN resolution on nonproliferation. The draft resolution reaffirms the core tenants of the NPT, itself a marked departure from the last administration. The proposal thus reflects the administration’s desire to approach nuclear proliferation–especially in regard to North Korea and Iran–from a multinational perspective and recommit all nuclear-weapons states states to nuclear disarmament.
Symbolic and practical purposes lay within the proposals jargon. Symbolically it shows the United States acknowledging the interests of non-nuclear states and seeking their input in dealing with the thorny issue of nuclear proliferation. Practically the proposal ups the ante of the 2010 treaty conference and reflects the Obama administration’s push to enshrine a ‘norm’ against proliferation that applies to nuclear and non-nuclear states alike. This stands in contrast to the Bush administration that signaled its privilege for counter-proliferation–keeping weapons from ‘bad’ regimes–over the general goal of eliminating these weapons all-together, nonproliferation.
Strategic considerations related related to Iran’s nuclear activities rest behind the US proposal. Two sections in particular stand out (and can be read below). First, the proposal calls on NPT nuclear weapon states–America, Russia, Britain, France and China–to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament.” The Obama administration seems intent on ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to eventual disarmament, a key clause of the NPT. No doubt it hopes that such action would reinvigorate American credibility on nonproliferation, which then could be parlayed into isolating Iran.
The proposal also seeks to make the right of NPT members to develop civilian nuclear programs contingent on meeting their other NPT obligations–another clear message to Iran. By seeking to limit the scope of the NPT’s nuclear benefit clause, the United States seeks to stop countries from hiding illicit nuclear weapons production (read: Iran and North Korea) behind this NPT nuclear benefits clause.
Washington nonproliferation experts describe the draft U.S. resolution as important, including in signaling the Obama administration’s return to some international non-proliferation commitments that the Bush administration had walked back from. In particular, they note the proposal’s endorsing that world nuclear powers pledge to not attack non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons, as well as a passage that would make a nation’s “right” to pursue peaceful nuclear energy contingent upon being in compliance with other obligations spelled out in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“What Obama is doing here, is, as he said in Prague, recommitting the United States to action on disarmament,” the Arms Control Association’s executive director Daryl Kimball said Monday. “He is reiterating U.S. and P-5 support for some things that the Bush administration walked back from.” Among them: the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT), which bans the testing of nuclear weapons (and which the U.S. has signed but the Senate not ratified), and what are called “negative security assurances” – guarantees by nuclear weapons states not to attack non-nuclear weapons states with nukes, Kimball said.
“This resolution is a solid piece of work, the best one could expect from the UN resolution process,” said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Plougshares Fund, which advocates nonproliferation goals. “It’s significant in several aspects,” he added, naming in particular the draft’s reaffirming a pledge that nuclear states would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states – a U.S. position up until the Bush administration, he said. “This could be very important later on,” Cirincione said, in making the case that the sole purpose of having nuclear weapons is to deter other states from using them.
Summary: Obama has made it clear he sees the “sound” Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as critical to stemming nuclear weapons proliferation. So what will Obama’s bold nuclear moves-warming up to Russia on a new START treaty, calling for eventual nuclear weapons abolition, and bringing focus back to the NPT-yield? It’s too soon to tell. But the nomination Susan Burk as Special Representative reflects the high aims Obama has for the 2010 meeting. Below is a review of Burk’s testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and discussion of NPT 2010 meeting’s significance to Obamaland foreign policy.
Two key-if little noted-nominees for diplomatic roles in the Obama White House testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Ivo Daalder has been tapped for U.S. Representative on the NATO Council, and Sarah Burk has been nominated for U.S. Representative to the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.
Burk, if confirmed, will play a major role in the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Held every five years, these meetings bring together the 188 treaty members to discuss nonproliferation and disarmament issues. With Iran inching closer towards nuclear weapons capability and North Korea reneging on its pledge to disarm, this meeting may be the last chance to exert multinational pressure on these rogue states.
NPT meetings have had a erratic track record. In 1995, with Susan Burk heading up Clinton’s delegation, the NPT treaty was renewed permanently. But the 2000 conference was marked more by what was avoided (fears of collapse in the wake of 1998 nuclear tests of Pakistan and India), and 2005’s has been considered “a near total fiasco.”[ii]
Iran, as a member of the NPT, holds a unique test for the treaty regime. While Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have developed nuclear weapons since the treaty’s ratification, none were members of the NPT (North Korea left the organization before developing its limited nuclear weapons capability). Iran crossing the nuclear line would represent the treaty’s largest failure-and call into question its grand bargain of nonproliferation in return for peaceful nuclear technology sharing and eventual nuclear weapons disarmament.
Susan Burk’s opening statement offers a concise review of the Obama administration nonproliferation policy aims and the challenges it faces as it heads into the 2010 NPT Review Conference. The administration has an ambitious agenda, calling for: