The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: The Next 40 Years

By Pomper, Miles A.; Støre, Jonas Gahr et al. | Arms Control Today, June 2008 | Go to article overview

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: The Next 40 Years


Pomper, Miles A., Støre, Jonas Gahr, Subrahmanyam, K., Pickering, Thomas R., Dhanapala, Jayantha, Arms Control Today


Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre

K. Subrahmanyam

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering

Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) turns 40 on July 1, and the international community will have much to celebrate. Most importantly, the number of nuclear-armed states can still be tallied on the fingers of both hands.

But if the treaty is to age gracefully, states-parties cannot simply take pride in its past accomplishments. Like others in middle age, it will need to be more carefully maintained and monitored to ensure that it keeps pace with changes over time. This is true now more than ever as the treaty is challenged by a host of potential ills, from the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea to the nuclear-weapon states' failure to fully meet their disarmament commitments.

To offer prescriptions for treating these dangers to the treaty's health, Arms Control Today asked four highly experienced leaders on nuclear and nonproliferation issues to suggest how the NPT could post 40 more successful years. Their answers follow. -Miles A. Pomper

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre

Envisioning a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

On the 40th anniversary of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), there is a resurgence of interest in achieving the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. It is welcome. To be sure, the vision is not new. My government, along with many others, has been a stalwart advocate of the elimination of nuclear weapons for decades. Indeed, all parties to the NPT have committed to this objective.

Government policies in favor of a world free of nuclear weapons fall along a wide spectrum of commitment. Nonetheless, they share a fundamentally aspirational quality. Few if any government policies advocating elimination have fully reconciled themselves with countervailing realities, such as reliance on a nuclear umbrella or the difficult and complex challenges of transparency and verification in a world with only handf uls of nuclear weapons.

Thanks in no small measure to the courage and commitment of former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), former secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and former secretary of Defense William Perry, the prospects for reconciling aspiration with reality could be getting brighter.1 In the political space they have created, we might move beyond the false debate between the demand for overnight elimination and the demand that nuclear abolition must be "contemporaneous with the abolition of all evil in the world."2 There is a growing consensus that global security could be enhanced, not threatened, by the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons.

Earlier this year, I had the honor of hosting an international conference on nuclear disarmament with Senator Nunn and secretary Shultz. Among the world's leading experts on nuclear issues, there was a remarkable consensus on the advisability of moving toward elimination. Participants also insisted that a prerequisite for major progress is personal engagement by national leaders of all states, nuclear and non-nuclear alike; their leadership is imperative for engaging key stakeholders and building public support. They also agreed that taking disarmament seriously requires that we begin now in taking concrete steps in that direction.

One of the most important steps is anticipating future ones. When we envision a world with scores of weapons, rather than hundreds, we will have had to resolve some of the most difficult dilemmas surrounding deterrence and verification. Effective answers to these questions will demand a consistent pattern of confidence and cooperation, among nuclearweapon states and between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states, far more developed than that of today.

There are at least five challenges that we can and should begin addressing now.

The first concerns regional conflicts in which states with nuclear weapons still consider them vital to regional stability. …

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