General and Complete Disarmament: Not Just for Nuclear Weapons States Anymore

By Jonas, David S. | Georgetown Journal of International Law, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

General and Complete Disarmament: Not Just for Nuclear Weapons States Anymore


Jonas, David S., Georgetown Journal of International Law


TABLE OF CONTENTS

  I. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE EARLY MODERN USAGE OF THE
     CONCEPT OF GCD AND THE BIRTH OF THE NPT
 II. INTERPRETATION OF THE NPT ARTICLE VI GCD OBLIGATION
     A. Interpreted in Light of the VCLT General Rule on
        Interpretation, NPT Article VI Obligates All State Parties to
        Pursue Negotiations in Good Faith on a Treaty on
        Comprehensive Disarmament
        1. The Ordinary Meaning of GCD is Comprehensive
           Disarmament of All Military Weapons
        2. The Context and Object and Purpose of the NPT
           Support the Comprehensive Disarmament
           Construction
            i. Context and Object and Purpose in the NPT
               Preamble
           ii. The NPT Review Conferences as Expressions
               of Subsequent State Practice
     B. The Preparatory Works of the NPT Confirm the Meaning of
        Article VI Suggested by the VCLT's General Rule
III. ARTICLE VI CALLS UPON STATES PARTIES TO PURSUE
     MEANINGFUL NEGOTIATIONS
 IV. ALL STATES PARTY TO THE NPT ARE OBLIGATED TO
     CONCURRENTLY PURSUE NEGOTIATIONS IN GOOD FAITH ON
     EFFECTIVE MEASURES RELATING TO NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT AND
     ON A TREATY ON GCD
  V. NPT PARTIES HAVE EMLED TO MEET THE GCD OBLIGATION
     A. Multilateral Efforts Towards GCD Have Not Gone Far
        Enough to Constitute "Negotiations in Good Faith".
     B. Current Conventional Disarmament Treaties Probably do
        not Constitute Negotiations on GCD
     C. Global Military Spending has Increased Over the Last
        Decade
 VI. CONCLUSION

Cause out on the edge of darkness There rides a peace train Oh peace train take this country Come take me home again (1)

Mr. Stevens composed his well-known ballad in the era of the late sixties and early seventies--the time of the peace movement--with accompanying high hopes and noble intentions. One enduring product of that time was the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). (2) While Mr. Stevens, to the author's knowledge, did not participate in the NPT negotiations, he might have penned his ditty with NPT goals in mind. His distinctive composition may well have continued on to explore the concept of NPT general and complete disarmament (GCD) if only pop music were not limited to several minutes and a few stanzas.

The NPT, the most enduring and successful arms control treaty in history, incorporated the allure of nuclear disarmament and GCD. (3) Yet, the call of the NPT for GCD (4) looks nearly unattainable today given the challenges posed by Iran, North Korea, and Syria, (5) not to mention various and sundry other conflicts spanning the globe. But is nuclear disarmament a pipe dream, and is GCD therefore even more of a fantasy?

When GCD appears in Article VI of the NPT, it is facially and contextually ambiguous. (6) Drawing upon this ambiguity, Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) in particular do not take the GCD obligation seriously, and at the same time they believe that they have license to berate the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) regarding the obligations of those states to nuclear disarmament. Yet the NWS, most notably the United States and Russia, have already fulfilled a major part of their NPT obligations by not only stopping but in fact reversing the nuclear arms race. They receive little credit for that accomplishment while NPT progress is harder and harder to attain. If GCD were taken as seriously as the commitments to end the nuclear arms race and to work towards nuclear disarmament, it would bring the NPT dialog back into balance. Ultimately, GCD should be considered part of the "Grand Bargain" of the NPT, where the NWS work towards nuclear disarmament and share peaceful nuclear technology with the NNWS, while the NNWS foreswear nuclear weapons.

It is more than a little inconsistent to continually cry foul to the NWS while apparently ignoring NNWS' own obligations to the same treaty. This article will analyze the meaning of GCD and will also illustrate the fallacy of the generally held assumption that this provision is only applicable to the NWS and that it pertains strictly to nuclear disarmament. …

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General and Complete Disarmament: Not Just for Nuclear Weapons States Anymore
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