Nuclear Proliferation and International Order: Challenges to the Non-Proliferation Treaty

Nuclear Proliferation and International Order: Challenges to the Non-Proliferation Treaty

Nuclear Proliferation and International Order: Challenges to the Non-Proliferation Treaty

Nuclear Proliferation and International Order: Challenges to the Non-Proliferation Treaty


This book examines the state of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the issues it faces in the early 21st century.

Despite the fact that most countries in the world have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) there is growing concern that the NPT is in serious trouble and may not be able to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons. If so, international stability will be undermined, with potentially disastrous consequences, and the vision of a nuclear weapon-free world will become utterly unrealistic. More specifically, the NPT is exposed to four main challenges, explored in this book: challenges from outside, as three countries that have not signed the Treaty - Israel, India and Pakistan - are known to possess nuclear weapons; challenges from within, as some countries that have signed on to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapons states have nevertheless developed or are suspected to be trying to develop nuclear weapons (North Korea and Iran being cases in point); challenges from belowin the shape of terrorists and other non-state actors who may want to acquire radioactive materials or even nuclear weapons; and, finally, challenges from abovedue to the perceived failure of the five legal nuclear weapons states to keep their part of the 'double bargain' made by the parties of the NPT and take serious steps towards nuclear disarmament.

This book will be of much interest to students of nuclear proliferation, international security, war and conflict studies and IR in general.


Olav Njølstad

Since the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, nuclear weapons have created an unparalleled problem of order within the international state system. The nuclear revolution changed the correlation of forces in military affairs and international politics. By 1964, altogether five countries had crossed the nuclear threshold – in chronological order, the US, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China. At that stage, negotiations started with the aim of stopping the further spread of nuclear weapons. The result was the Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed in 1968 and entering into force in 1970. With the NPT came a nuclear order, backed by international law, which divided the world into three groups of states: The first group were the five states known to have tested and to possess nuclear weapons by the time the treaty was opened for signature, and who signed onto it as nuclear weapon states. Next was the group of states that signed onto the NPT in the capacity of non-nuclear weapon states, thereby voluntarily committing themselves to forgo nuclear weapons. The third group consisted of those states that, for whatever reason, decided not to sign onto the NPT at all (or, as North Korea did in 2004, at some point decided to withdraw its original signature).

In terms of membership, the NPT looks very much like a success story. While only 62 states were ready to join the Treaty when it was opened for signature in 1968, there are today only four states that are not acceding to it: Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Moreover, over the years a number of other nonproliferation successes have been scored. The safeguard system has been steadily improved. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been negotiated and signed by many governments. South Africa, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have acceded to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapon states after having given up their nuclear arsenals, whereas the secret nuclear weapon programs of countries like Iraq and libya have been stopped. Indeed, by 1995 the record looked so promising that the NPT parties agreed that the Treaty would continue in force “indefinitely.”

Still, today there is increasing concern that the non-proliferation regime may be in for serious trouble and eventually prove unable to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons. More specifically, many experts fear that the regime – a delicate structure of legal obligations, political norms and practical control mechan-

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