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Please note that the new Acronym Institute blog is located at: www.acronym.org.uk/blog

Please go there for all Acronym Institute blog posts form now on, including from the 2012 NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in Vienna. 

Acronym Institute Executive Director Dr Rebecca Johnson will be blogging from the PrepCom regularly, offering news on developments over the course of the fortnight and an analysis of the key issues.  Sign up to the RSS feed for Acronym Institute publications to be alerted when we submit a post.  You can also read Acronym analysis relevant to the NPT here.

NPT one week after consensus adoption of agreed document

by Rebecca Johnson

After a frustrating morning of delays, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference finally got underway in the General Assembly Hall at 3.30 pm Friday. Ten minutes later everyone was applauding the brisk adoption of a final document (designated L.2) containing 64 specific actions and important agreements to work for a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

In the end no-one tried to amend it and no-one blocked consensus.  In proposing this text – which had been circulated the day before – the Conference President, Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, made a distinction between the section titled “Conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions”, which was fully agreed, and the preceding “Review of the operation of the Treaty”. This review section would be characterised in a footnote as the President’s summary and reflection to the best of his knowledge of what transpired and the balance of views as expressed in the review debates.

After the anxious waiting, when the fate of the conference – whether it would be hailed a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ – hung in the balance, the diplomats seemed momentarily stunned when the President brought the gavel down on the decision to adopt the Final Document. Then tumultuous applause as delegates and civil society realised that it was Done…  that we would not be there till midnight wrangling or salami slicing over language, asterisks, status of documents or decisions in order to avoid deadlock and defeat.  After four weeks (and some four years of preparations),  the NPT Review Conference had managed to adopt a final document that was neither a complete rollback nor just a lowest common denominator fig leaf proclaimed a success for domestic and diplomatic PR purposes, as many had feared.  But it was no dramatic leap towards a world free of nuclear weapons either.  Presentation and politics trumped real, progressive commitments. When the applause fades and the dust settles, we will need to evaluate if these weeks of sound and fury can be made to signify something that can be used to enhance regional and global security.

Action plans: reaffirming past commitments but no new powers to implement

The section on conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions contains the negotiated agreements, with framing principles and objectives and 64 specific actions. It comprises four sections: Nuclear Disarmament;  Nuclear Non-Proliferation; Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy; and The Middle East, particularly implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East.  By contrast, the review part follows the treaty’s structure in terms of its articles, in which “The Conference” calls on, reaffirms, welcomes, underscores, recognises or notes various facts, developments or proposals…  (the verb denoting the degree of commitment or warmth). Instead of seeking a single consensus view of everything, in this section some paragraphs describe divergent views and differences of perceptions and positions among states parties.

Once the outcome document was adopted and applauded, a host of delegation leaders gave speeches, including Egypt on behalf of the NAM, Lebanon on behalf of the League of Arab States, Spain on behalf of the European Union, the United States, France, China, Russia, Netherlands, Algeria, Japan, United Kingdom, Cuba, Austria, Iran, Australia, Argentina, Libya, South Africa, Chile, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia, Viet Nam on behalf of ASEAN, Norway, Brazil, South Korea, Venezuela, Sudan, Tanzania.  Almost all of these paid tribute to Ambassador Cabactulan and his team and highlighted particular aspects of the final document that they had just agreed to.  In addition to the three Committee Chairs – Ambassadors Boniface Chidyausiku (Zimbabwe), Volodyrmyr Yelchenko (Ukraine) and Takeshi Nakane (Japan),  tributes were paid to the chairs who piloted through the subsidiary bodies and action plans, notably Alison Kelly (Ireland, who was credited with enabling the opposing sides to find agreement on the Middle East), Alexander Marschik (Austria, who developed the disarmament action plan), and José Luis Cancela (whose attempts to bring different sides together on treaty withdrawal and reform are reflected in the review part of the outcome document) and Steffen Kongstad (Norway, who stepped in to facilitate the final rounds of negotiations on the forward-looking actions which took place in the last week among some 16-20 key delegations under the President’s auspices).

There was also great appreciation and warm applause (led by Cabactulan) for Tom Markram, the NPT Secretary-General (UN Office for Disarmament Affairs) who supported Cabactulan and provided quiet, effective, behind the scenes leadership with his Secretariat team.  Several, including Egypt and the NAM (as spoken), Chile and Norway, as well as the President, also acknowledged the work of civil society in providing ideas, strategies and other input for the review conference and beyond.  The following summary relies on notes taken by Rebecca Johnson and Carol Naughton, as very few of the statements were made available (apologies for any errors).

Initial assessments in closing remarks

On behalf of the NAM, Egypt’s Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz – a leading player during the 2010 Review Conference – characterised the outcome document as “an important step forward” that “reaffirmed in our plans of action the critical importance of achieving the universality of the Treaty and putting into action an effective process to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East”. In noting that progress had been achieved in adopting an action plan to push forward efforts to establish a zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, Egypt promised the NAM’s constructive engagement with “all concerned parties”, while emphasising: “The road ahead is not easy, but it’s the only way forward.”

Mentioning the debates and negotiations on a “wealth of elements”, including a multilateral nuclear weapons convention, he noted that due to time constraints it had not been possible to achieve everything the non-nuclear-weapon countries had aimed for, but that they had accepted difficult compromises “to take advantage of signs of a re-emerging international good will” and do everything in their power to make the review conference a success.  Having shown “maximum flexibility” to accept compromises for the sake of a positive outcome in 2010, he argued that the NAM states parties would vigorously pursue the following priorities in the run-up to the 2015 NPT Review Conference: universalisation and global realisation of the NPT’s objectives, prompt commencement on a Nuclear Weapons Convention as the route to realizing the total elimination of nuclear weapons and a nuclear weapons free world by 2025, unconditional security assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons, reaffirmation of the “inalienable right” on NPT non-nuclear-weapon states to pursue their “national choices” regarding the peaceful uses of nuclear energy “including their right for nuclear fuel cycle, without undue restrictions”, reaffirmation that voluntary arrangements and confidence building measures should not be turned into legal obligations” ( a reference to the debates around the IAEA additional protocol, export controls, multinational fuel banks and similar proposals). Lebanon followed on, endorsing Egypt’s statement and highlighting that agreement on Action Plan IV on the Middle East – in which regard he particularly paid tribute to Alison Kelly for facilitating – was central to making it possible for consensus to be achieved on the final document, points that were to be echoed by Algeria and others later. Though Libya was not happy at the lack of real forward movement on nuclear disarmament and that Israel’s nuclear programme had got off lightly, it welcomed the commitments to a progressive process on the Middle East.

After Spain, on behalf of the European Union had pledged to begin work immediately to take forward the actions plans, including on the Middle East, Ellen Tauscher, US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, took the floor. The NPT Final Document, she said, “advances President Obama’s vision. It reflects our collective commitment to uphold and strengthen this cornerstone of the international nonproliferation regime. It also demonstrates our unified resolve to strengthen the Treaty’s three pillars – disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy – with the inclusion of recommendations for follow-on actions.”

Arguing that “This forward-looking and balanced action plan establishes benchmarks for future progress and concrete actions,” Tauscher noted that “It commits parties to work to achieve the President’s vision to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons and recognizes the steps the United States and others have taken to advance this disarmament agenda. It recognizes the achievement of the US-Russia New START agreement and reflects our shared interest in achieving deeper reductions of all types of nuclear weapons and reducing their role in the international system. It encourages the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the urgent need to get on with long-delayed talks on a fissile material cut-off treaty. It affirms that the Additional Protocol and comprehensive IAEA safeguards agreements represent the enhanced standard for verification of the NPT and essential for the IAEA to carry out its international safeguards responsibilities. It emphasizes that peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be made available to all Parties in conformity with the NPT’s nonproliferation provisions, and recognizes the importance of multilateral mechanisms for assurance of nuclear supply and related fuel cycle services.”  Referring to the text on Article X (withdrawal) in the review part of the final document, Tauscher was pleased that this highlighted “the view of most in this hall that Parties are to be held responsible for violations of the NPT committed prior to withdrawal, and that consultations and actions by nuclear suppliers are needed to discourage abuse of the Treaty’s withdrawal provision.”

Tauscher made reference to the “agreement to hold a regional conference in 2012 to discuss issues relevant to a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems” and said that the United States has “long-supported such a zone, but we recognize that essential precursors must be in place for its achievement. The Parties should know that we take seriously our commitments with respect to this regional conference, and we will work with the countries in the region to create conditions for a successful conference. We note, however, that our ability to do so has been seriously jeopardized because the final document singles out Israel in the Middle East section, a fact that the United States deeply regrets.”  Before concluding, Tauscher specifically criticised North Korea’s “defiance of international law” and Iran. Recalling “that Iran is the only country in this hall that has been found by the IAEA Board of Governors to be currently in noncompliance with its nuclear safeguards obligations”, Tauscher argued that “Iran has done nothing to enhance the international community’s confidence in it by its performance in this Review Conference.”

France, Russia, China and the United Kingdom all welcomed the adoption of the Final Document and gave warm thanks to all who had made agreement possible. France’s Ambassador Eric Danon was glad the document had not been reopened, even though they themselves would have liked to have gone further on Iran and DPRK, making reference to action in the UN Security Council. Ambassador Anatoli Antonov was particularly pleased that Russia’s proposals had helped carry forward the 1995 Middle East resolution for the first time in 15 years. China’s representative called the document a substantial result that strengthened the authority of the Treaty, and highlighted the items they particularly supported including the complete and thorough destruction and elimination of nuclear weapons, a nuclear weapons convention, unconditional security assurances. Skirting round their own refusal to join the other declared weapon states in a moratorium on the production of fissile materials for weapons, China called for early negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament as the only effective approach, and encouraged ratification of the CTBT (presumably by itself as well as by others) and its “early” entry into force.  UK Ambassador John Duncan spoke of the decade of stalemate and long road to reaching a decision on ways forward, including on the Middle East. He underlined the increased confidence in international security and importance of the unprecedented agreement on action plans across all three pillars. Hoping to take forward the spirit of openness, cooperation and partnership of the last four weeks, he said the outcome should be viewed as an opportunity not a threat and that it was time not just to look forward but to move forward.

In amongst the tributes variously paid by all the speakers to the President, Secretariat and/or various Chairs or facilitators, NAM speakers particularly associated themselves with Egypt’s statement, highlighting the need for further progress on nuclear disarmament and the Middle East.  Cuba and Venezuela both noted that the distance between rhetoric and good intentions and actual commitments on concrete steps had been considerable.  Cuba called the action plan on disarmament “limited and insufficient” in five key areas: no timetable on nuclear disarmament, no commitment to begin negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, no clear commitment to stop the  qualitative and quantitative developments of nuclear weapons, no call for withdrawal of nuclear weapons to home territories (i.e. out of Europe), and no legally binding negative security assurances.

Aware that Iran had reversed its intention to block adoption of the final document following politically-charged domestic arguments and eleventh hour appeals from allies and civil society, including ministerial phone calls during Thursday night and Friday morning, some expected defensive brimstone when Ambassador Ali Soltanieh was called.  What they got was a dignified and substantive statement that expressed gratitude to the Conference president, chairs and secretary-general, endorsed Egypt’s statement on behalf of the NAM and then gave Iran’s views on the dangers of nuclear weapons and what the final document lacked. Noting the dangers attached to the existence of nuclear weapons and the catastrophic consequences of their possible use, Soltanieh argued for an end to the notion that nuclear weapons confer political clout and capability to shape and influence world events: “Holding on and modernizing nuclear arsenals should be condemned rather than condoned or tolerated. Any increase in nuclear capability, in particular qualitative improvement under the pretext of “reliability” should equal a reduction in political credibility.” He then identified nine ways in which the proposals of the non-nuclear weapon states had been watered down. In several cases, majority calls for commitments from the weapon states – for example, to halt modernisation and qualitative development, reduce operational status, diminish the role of nuclear weapons in doctrines and policies, and withdraw and eliminate nuclear weapons from the territories of non-nuclear countries – had been portrayed merely as “legitimate interests”, aspirations or “questions” for discussion.  Iran particularly criticised France and the United States for blocking any possible agreement to further limit or prohibit the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and objected that there was no commitment on the “most important request” of non-nuclear-weapon states, including the NAM, namely “a legal framework with specified timeline for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, including a Nuclear Weapons Convention by 2025” had “after more than 40 years living under the shadow of nuclear weapons” been watered down to acknowledging that “a majority of States parties believe” an agreed legal framework should include specified timelines.  Iran was concerned that the final document had not said enough to criticise Israel or the other states remaining outside the NPT and any NPT members that engage in supplying them with nuclear materials or technologies.

In view of such shortcomings, why, then, did Iran decide to join consensus and not block the outcome?  Sharing the views of many NPT parties that notwithstanding its limitations the document can still serve “as a viable benchmark to progress towards our common goal of nuclear disarmament”, Iran “joined consensus to show our respect for the views of the others and our political and good will”, especially viewing the proposals and commitments to vigorously pursue nuclear abolition as “a real source of pride and inspiration in our future endeavours”.  Of course, this was to put a brave face on the fact that Iran had been sidelined and isolated, involved in the President’s “Friends of the Chair” consultations while also being denied a platform for claiming discrimination. The successful combination of engaging and defanging — which also meant ensuring that there was a vested interest by others in getting a positive outcome — carries important lessons for the future.

Chile’s Ambassador Alfredo Labbé reflected the view of many when he expressed particular pleasure at seeing the UN Secretary-General’s five point plan reflected in the outcome and paid fulsome tribute to the work of civil society. Argentina referred to many of the proposals from NPT parties having “fallen by the wayside” and called for further actions between now and 2015, including by the Conference on Disarmament. Canada regarded the outcome as containing “seeds of hope” and pointedly backed the “whole document”, underscoring the importance of reforming the NPT’s review process. Austria’s Alexander Marschik expressed his appreciation to all who had contributed and emphasised that though the difficult negotiations meant that the disarmament action plan did not contain everything he had hoped for, it was a substantive plan that should be used as a benchmark to measure progress and build steps forward. He also reiterated that despite joining consensus on the final document, this was to be understood in light of Austria’s national policies, and Austria “had no interest in nuclear power”.

Following a statement from South Africa that fully endorsed the NAM positions, Tanzania said that nuclear weapons should be consigned to the “dustbin of history” and that the experience of South Africa should be used in demonstrating how to get rid of nuclear weapons. The Netherlands raised concerns about a lack of balance in the section on the Middle East. Japan particularly mentioned that some 2,000 members of Japanese civil society, including a hundred Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) had come to the NPT to call for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Though saying that the Conference was “overall a great success”, Japan acknowledged that “the outcome, though it was close to the maximum achievable this time, is certainly not satisfactory”.  Mexico talked of the outcome being “imperfect” but said that the consensus would help to build bridges between the different positions. While such an outcome “would not take us to heaven, it could keep us separate from the hell of nuclear war”.

The UN Secretary-General’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, read a brief statement from Ban Ki-moon congratulating the Conference on reaching consensus and urging all concerned to do more to implement these agreements, making particular reference to his five-point disarmament plan.  Rushing to close before 6.00 pm, President Cabactulan thanked everyone who had helped bring about this outcome, paying particular tribute to NPT Secretary-General Tom Markram and the Secretariat. Commending the delegates for having worked hard for success, he hoped that the Conference outcome had moved us closer to freeing the world of nuclear weapons.

Initial assessments

The major news story – the issue that dominated the meeting and, once agreed, carried the conference to its positive outcome – was the decision to hold a regional conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, with commitments to both a preparatory process and follow-on steps.  As adopted, the disarmament action plan failed to reflect the substantive and hard fought debates that had characterised the NPT conference, especially on nuclear disarmament, safeguards and strengthening the review and institutional powers of the NPT.

Specific proposals relating to devaluing nuclear weapons, nuclear doctrines and use, nuclear sharing, and eliminating tactical nuclear weapons were either watered down to the level of the agreements adopted in 2000 (which, as many states complained, had been reneged on or barely addressed for most of the past decade) or cut altogether. For the first time in an NPT context, a majority of states explicitly advocated comprehensive negotiations as well as incremental steps, citing the UN Secretary-General’s Five Point Plan and its reference to a nuclear weapons convention.  Yet these strong demands from the nuclear-free countries met with defensive rear-guard manipulations from the nuclear-weapon states.  The nuclear weapons states fought hard against these proposals in Main Committee I, Subsidiary Body I and then in special consultations among 16 – 20 key governments convened by the President to conclude negotiations on the action plans.  With the nuclear-weapon states intransigent and time running out, the only way to save many of these proposals was to make them appear aspirational, framed in terms of Obama’s Prague call for the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons (which had previously been endorsed in September 2009’s UN Security Council Resolution 1887) and the NPT 2000 “unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear weapons”.

Unlike in 2005, it was possible to include several strong paragraphs on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – not yet in force 14 years after being signed by the nuclear weapons states, and despite more than 150 having ratified it.  China’s opposition to joining the other four nuclear powers in a moratorium on the production of plutonium and enriched uranium for weapons purposes, combined with differences of view about the need to address existing stocks of fissile materials, the travails of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, and a weakening interest in a cut-off treaty as the next focus for multilateral negotiations, ensured that the exhortations in the four-paragraph action plan on a fissile materials treaty remained at a low common denominator.  Yet, despite the  document’s disappointments and weaknesses, the NPT outcome is likely to prove very significant – more so, perhaps, than most of the negotiators envisage.

In the immediate aftermath of the Conference, there was relief at successfully adopting a final document. As illustrated in the concluding statements, some focussed on the importance of the deal on the Middle East conference, and many were keen to portray the outcome as one that strengthens the nonproliferation regime.  The disappointments on disarmament, safeguards and reform were glossed over for the sake of a good show of unified commitment to the overall objectives of the non-proliferation regime, framed now in terms of pursuing security in a world free of nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration, in particular, worked hard for an outcome document.  Ambassador Susan Burk spend months on the road, participating in meetings from Manila to Rio, with plurilateral and bilateral consultations at most capitals in between.  Deputy Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher spent days shuttling between the UN and her hotel across the road during the Conference, and even Vice President Biden played a role, speaking directly with Egypt’s President Mubarak and inviting the ambassadors of key Arab States to lunch in Washington DC in hope of gaining their support for the US position on the Middle East conference and process (without a negotiating mandate).  Goodwill towards President Barack Obama for his efforts in challenging nuclear dependency in the behemoth of the US nuclear establishment played an important role in the decisions by many governments to make difficult compromises to enable the final document to be adopted.  It was judged by many that an out-and-out failure would play into the hands of those seeking to get or keep nuclear weapons, and that it was necessary for Obama to show that the world supported his nonproliferation and disarmament objectives in order for him to get ratification for the New START Treaty and the CTBT.  The general view was that if the Conference had collapsed in ignominy, that would have made any further initiatives or progress by President Obama extremely difficult. For this reason more than any other, governments rallied round and accepted the wholesale watering down of many proposals.  Already governments are spinning their assessments towards presenting this outcome as an important reaffirmation of and boost for the nonproliferation regime.

Cracks in the regime

Looking more closely, however, the outcome reveals a deeply fractured, crumbling regime, unable to deal with its own compliance and implementation shortcomings, strengthen itself institutionally or adopt commitments to devalue nuclear weapons and make the IAEA additional protocol a verification standard or a condition to be met before countries can be supplied with nuclear materials or technology.  At every NPT PrepCom and Conference since 1994, the same complaints, basic concerns and demands have been raised, without much getting done.

So it was in 2010. Disarmament was not the only issue where images of agreement were considered more important than the substance. The adopted text was also unable to go much beyond reaffirmations, exhortations and language agreed in 1995 or 2000 on universality, strengthened safeguards, the additional protocol, export controls, nuclear safety and security.  After almost a decade of debates on disincentives to make withdrawal from the treaty more difficult and to increase the NPT regime’s tools for accountability, compliance and implementation, nothing on these appear in the section on conclusions and recommendations, though brief summaries are reflected in the review part of the final document.

Apart from the intense negotiations over establishing a process to take forwards implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, one of the most hard-fought issues in 2010 was that of multilateral negotiations on some kind of comprehensive nuclear weapons treaty as a way to operationalise and implement the shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.  The idea of a nuclear weapons convention has been on the fringes of disarmament debate for several decades, mostly advocated by civil society.  What has changed in 2010 is that, faced with intractable problems of nuclear insecurity, compliance, proliferation pressures, potential nuclear terrorism and a contested safeguards system that even with the Additional Protocol is weaker than the verification regime that international security really requires, more governments are beginning to view the concept of a nuclear weapons convention in a more positive light.  Cold war demands die hard, so there were still copious calls for legally binding security assurances and timelines or a timebound framework for disarmament. Like the ritualistic calls on India, Pakistan and Israel to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states, such calls miss the significance of how the strategic nuclear environment has changed since the cold war.  The massive jump in statements supporting some kind of comprehensive practical treaty-making objective signalled a shift from frustrated rhetoric to a search for practical solutions.

The multilateral machinery of the cold war, including the NPT and the 1978 UN Special Session on Disarmament are rusting from the inside. Though the outward signs of rust can be painted over for a while by UN Security Council resolutions like 1887 and 1540 and NPT conferences that can demonstrate collegial engagement, such as this one in 2010, the endemic weaknesses in the regime will soon be beyond repair. Year after year efforts are made to fix them resulting either in failure or in temporary band aids that come unstuck with the next downpour.  As illustrated in some of the interventions, governments are now gradually recognising what analysts have long warned: the contradictions at the core of the partial 1960s nonproliferation bargains will increasingly compromise efforts to deal with nuclear threats in the future, thereby undermining regional and international security.  The current regime is now beyond repair, and if nuclear security is to mean anything in the 21st century, efforts must be made to negotiate a new nuclear compact, based on the non-discriminatory objective of enhanced mutual security and the prohibition and abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Though the reference to a nuclear weapons convention in the disarmament action plan (1 B iii) is only a faint echo of the various calls for negotiations on a comprehensive framework or treaty for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, it serves two important purposes: it brings the concept of comprehensive multilateral negotiations on nuclear weapons into mainstream discourse and it removes the oft-heard excuse that governments cannot engage in discussions about such negotiations because they would undermine the NPT.  The additional mentions in the review part of the document (notably paragraphs 82 and 83) reinforce this recognition and make clear that it is no longer premature to pursue such a goal, although they contain none of the concrete suggestions put forward during the Conference.

There is a parallel here in the relationship between the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) and the 1996 CTBT. The PTBT was deemed the maximum achievable in 1963, but it only partially banned nuclear testing, allowing the more advanced nuclear  weapon states to continue testing underground. China and France regarded it as discriminatory and never signed.  Yet both countries (with varying degrees of reluctance) entered into the CTBT negotiations, which established a zero yield and fully verified test ban.  China and France both signed the treaty when it was opened on 24 September, and, despite some of China’s position statements during the negotiations (and its twice-a-year tests while negotiations were continuing), China joined the other nuclear-weapon states in adhering to a complete moratorium pending entry into force. China, like the United States, has yet to ratify, but the test ban regime has continued to be established and embedded nonetheless, creating a context in which resuming nuclear testing becomes untenable, even for die-hard CTBT opponents.

Now that dust whipped up by all the sound and fury from the NPT Review Conference is settling, it has become clearer than ever that a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention is now needed – not only to implement the disarmament obligations of Article VI, but to establish much more effective and non-discriminatory mechanisms for non-proliferation verification and nuclear security.  Current-day media and analysts are still focussing mostly on the politics of the Middle East deal agreed by NPT parties, and the additional pressure on Israel that this is likely to bring, as well as the dramas concerning the United States and Iran.  When historians look back at the 2010 Review Conference, however, they are more likely to recognise that the 2010 Review Conference embodied a more fundamental shift, illustrated as much by the inability of NPT parties to agree stronger language on the Additional Protocol as by the inability of the nuclear weapon states to keep the references to a nuclear weapons convention out of the final document, though in other respects they managed to limit the disarmament action plan to reaffirmations of principles and commitments made in 2000.

In other words, the process and outcome of the NPT Review Conference have made two things very clear:  reaffirmations of commitments made ten or fifteen years ago are not enough, especially as these undertakings were not honoured and implemented. As the outcome document underlines, getting rid of nuclear threats requires not only concrete disarmament steps but the establishment of  ‘the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons’. The action plan on nuclear disarmament as well as the inability of the NPT machinery to deal with noncompliance and to strengthen its own safeguards agreements, as illustrated in what was left out of the final document, make it now clear to everyone the need to initiate a process leading to negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention that will do away with the NPT distinction between nuclear haves and have-nots and comprehensively ban nuclear weapons for all.

NPT Day 25: SUCCESSFUL adoption of Conclusions, recommendations and action plans

by Rebecca Johnson

3.40.   The NPT Plenary finally gets underway in the GA at 3.30 pm and by 3.40 the President, Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines had gavelled down acceptance of the most substantive, forward-looking part of its draft final document (see p 17 onwards, which contains the action plans on nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and nuclear energy as well as the Middle East) and took note of the review part as the President’s reflection to the best of his knowledge of what transpired as the contents of the review, which is issued as a separate document under the Chairs auspices and recorded in a footnote to the final document.  Lots of applause in the room, huge sense of relief, and now lots of speeches.

The forward looking action plans contain many  commitments to pursue nuclear disarmament actions, with the nuclear weapons convention as a way forwards, as proposed by the UN Secretary General. Egypt speaking on behalf of NAM now — very positive. Egypt has played its hand brilliantly through this conference and deserves to feel very proud of how its leadership (headed by Amb Maged AbdelAziz) has contributed to this outcome.  Similarly, the Obama administration, with NPT chief Amb Susan Burk has worked tirelessly for this success, making many difficult compromises in difficult situations which should not be underestimated.

Many governments and civil society have played very important roles in making this possible.

Egypt on behalf of NAM, Lebanon on behalf of Arab League, Spain on behalf of EU have all congratulated Cabactulan and are now saying how important this outcome is.  Egypt particularly underscored the agreement on the Middle East and on nuclear disarmament, including the nuclear weapons convention and paid tribute to role of civil society.  US now speaking. I will write more when i have more time, but as only Egypt issued a written text I need to take notes of the speeches.  But wanted to get the news out.

3.30 pm Friday, NPT Conference Plenary finally gets underway

3.05 pm Friday The NPT Review Conference gathered but was not able to convene its plenary at 11.00 am Friday, and I am now sitting at the back of the General Assembly hall waiting for the 3.00 pm plenary to get started. This will be the very last chance for the NPT to adopt a document reflecting the outcome of what has been a very substantive and generally collegial review conference.

When we arrived this morning, it was to confirmation that all sides were prepared to accept the commitments to make progress on implementing the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, including the conference in 2012 and a facilitator to carry forward the process and follow-on steps in fulfillment of these commitments.  UN media had reported that Iran had told a press conference on Thursday that it intended to block adoption of the outcome, but overnight it had been made clear to Iran that the Non-Aligned and Arab States and also nuclear disarmament civil society considered that this final outcome document was worth getting, and that no-one else would obstruct and no-one would support if Iran blocked.  With only one Iranian delegate in the room, everyone was rumour-mongering that new instructions were being sought. So the plenary was postponed to this afternoon.  The worry now is not to run out of time.

NPT Day 24: Future Hope or Failure?

Posted by Rebecca Johnson

After a day of to-ing and fro-ing among small knots of senior diplomats between meetings rooms in the UN and diplomatic missions, the President of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, held a brief plenary at 5.30 pm Thursday to distribute the draft final document (NPT/Conf.2010/L.2) and three procedural documents. Describing this draft as a “carefully balanced document”, he requested delegations to read it carefully, refer it to their capitals and return for a plenary at 11.00 a.m. on Friday to adopt it.

With this, the conference enters its final day. The die has been cast, the compromises forged, and states parties now have to decide if they want to move forward on the basis of these substantive (but limited) agreements and recommendations. If they cling to outdated positions, seek further amendments or block the document’s adoption, they must take responsibility for choosing failure over hope.  After four weeks (and much repetition), the parties’ positions, objectives, desires and fears are well known and nothing would be gained by pushing them forward again tomorrow.  All things considered and after a careful reading of the text, it is our view that adopting this document will constitute a small but significant step towards strengthening global security and laying the groundwork for a transformative, comprehensive approach to build a world free of nuclear weapons.

Content and life

As Cabactulan told the Conference, this draft is based on work in all three Committees, the three subcommittees and additional consultations where the representatives of the interested states “worked together to give content and life to this document”.  Acknowledging that “it may not fully satisfy many”, he said the document “could still be the answer to our prayers” – it was the “very best that can be offered given the complexities of the issues” and the positions of states parties.  He also warned that “trying to change this carefully balanced document could put our work in danger.”

Cabactulan thanked the Conference participants and all his colleagues, paying particular tribute to the chairs of the committees and to Jennifer MacMillan (New Zealand, given responsibility this week to work out a solution on safeguards, the additional protocol and export controls), as well as the three chairs of the subsidiary bodies, whom he had asked to stay on and get agreement on the most difficult issues: Alison Kelly (Ireland, on the Middle East and other regional issues), Alexander Marschik (Austria, nuclear disarmament action plan) and José Luis Cancela (institutional issues including Articles IX and X on universality and withdrawal).

While much of the final document has gone through painstaking negotiations and several drafts and iterations in committees and then in closed plenary on Tuesday and Wednesday, parts have also been the subject of focussed negotiations among a group of some 16-20 ‘Friends of the President’.  In these intense sessions, key parties from all groups and regions worked together to resolve the commitments and recommendations on the most controversial issues that were still mired in difficulties when the committees finished their formal work.  As with the subsidiary bodies, the sensitive nature of these negotiations required cooking time with the lid on.  To facilitate achievement of the best possible outcome, the key civil society observers therefore chose to support the President in not revealing what we knew of the ins and outs, proceedings and frustrations of these talks until the draft text could be issued.

In that same spirit, this penultimate NPT blog will not parse or discuss the draft final document – you can read and decide for yourselves. Similarly, we have decided to refrain at this stage from speculating on different states’ likely responses to the document or the strategies that may come into play on Friday as the Conference faces the final hurdle of adopting the fruits of its four weeks of intense labours.  As the endgame plays out, however, check Acronym’s blogsite for short updates during the day.  When the 2010 Review Conference is over, we will publish analyses that look at what needs to be done to build a better regime to prevent proliferation, reduce nuclear threats and dangers and underpin the necessary “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.

NPT Day 23: Amid confusion, UNSG calls for success

Day 23: Amid confusion, UN Secretary-General encourages successful outcome

by Rebecca with snippets from Carol and Meena

No-one quite knows what is happening at the NPT Review Conference, but there are many excellent theories, growing depression and only two days to go.

At the beginning of the conference we had identified four kinds of possible outcome: i) consensus adoption of a substantive, forward-looking outcome document with effective objectives, commitments and mechanisms for achieving further progress; ii) successful adoption of an outcome document with lowest common denominator substance; iii) adoption of a minimalist document that records only the basic facts of the conference; and iv) collapse and failure, with recriminations and reverberations.  Which will it be?  The optimism of the earlier weeks has faded considerably, but the general atmospherics remain collegial, even though meetings are now going on till nearly midnight.

In an unprecedented step, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent an open letter to the NPT President, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, with a “personal message of support for a successful outcome”.  Calling for “progress towards fulfilling the goals and objectives of the Treaty with the highest possible levels of accountability and transparency”, the Secretary-General wrote, “Now is the time for delegations to be pragmatic and coalesce around solutions that will advance the interest of the whiole community of nations”.  Encouraging the NPT parties to “step up their work with flexibility and in a cooperative spirit,”  he warned that “too much [is[ at stake to repeat the failure of 2005”,  and reminded them: “The world is watching”.

The main part of the day was taken up with continuing closed debate going through the president’s 29-page draft final declaration article by article, paragraph by paragraph.  Diplomats complained that they were just going through the motions, with familiar positions, objections and suggested amendments being reiterated on all sides, without any sense of how decisions would be taken. Various diplomats have been appointed or reappointed to resolve certain of the outstanding issues, as small and not so small groups of diplomats met in other closed rooms in the hope of ironing out the remaining obstacles to obtain agreement on key issues.  For example, the President has asked Alison Kelly to keep working with the relevant people on resolving the remaining problems on the Middle East resolution; China, Japan and South Korea went into a huddle to work out what all would accept as appropriate language on North Korea; New Zealand, Ireland and Uruguay to coordinate negotiations to find a solution on safeguards, the Additional Protocol and export controls; José Luis Cancela reappointed to pursue agreement on articles IX and X (accession/universality and withdrawal); and others too sensitive to mention.

Two days left, and there seem to be various parallel processes and eleven (?) facilitators on language, but no discernible Strategy.  Questions abound. Where is this going?  What is meant by rumours of “the supermajority option”? What did Ellen Tauscher say to upset the Egyptians so mightily?  Or are they posturing? Are Iran’s lengthy interventions objecting to various parts of the text and asserting the need for even stronger disarmament commitments part of a nefarious and filibustering Trap that will soon be Sprung? Or is Iran going to surprise everyone and not obstruct or block the outcome?  Who needs a “success” most, the United States or Egypt?  Who might be happier with a failure? Who are the Egyptian ambassador’s special dinner guests? And who is nicking the chair Carol and I keep retrieving so we can sit and pretend to work in between all the gossip going on outside Room 4?

Vignettes from a closed room

A gaggle of  NGOs and press hovered at the doors to find out what was happening by converging like gnats on any emerging delegates. Some batted us away, some beckoned to a gnat with winks and nods to extract herself from out of the swarm to receive tidbits of news or gossip.  Below are some snippets, of many. Since we were not in the rooms to see or hear these things for ourselves we cannot be held responsible for the truth or otherwise of what is imparted.

There was a flurry of excitement mid-morning when two diplomats were thrown out of the conference room.  These were senior representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Arab States, but apparently not allowed to listen in any more.  They were Not Happy.  Soon after, the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference President (a former UN Under Secretary-General no less) was also unceremoniously barred (not evicted, as his comment below explains), joining our humble ranks Outside the Room for a while.  As more diplomats slid in or out of the room they paused to exchange a word or ten, mostly telling the loitering NGOs that we weren’t missing much. Apparently it was terrifically boring with long-winded speeches from the NAM, Iran, and the P-5 going over old ground and submitting more-of-the-same amendments.  The evicted Red Cross representative and I enjoyed an inspiring conversation about how to use international humanitarian law in achieving a nuclear weapons convention. Time well spent I thought!

One apparently new objection was raised when the action plan for nuclear disarmament came under scrutiny. The UK reportedly challenged language on the relevance of international humanitarian law to nuclear weapons and wanted deletion of para A (v): “The Conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, and reaffirms the need for all States to comply with international humanitarian law at all times.”  France agreed. Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, Mexico and others disagreed and tried to find out the reason for the British objections.  The UK then backtracked to say they were not advocating its deletion, but flagging up that care needed to be taken with this para as international humanitarian law did not necessarily apply at all times. Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand, Mexico and those others that no-one seemed able to name all insisted that international humanitarian law applies to nuclear weapons and that the paragraph should remain. Outside the room, someone suggested that “under all circumstances” might be better phrasiing, while keeping the essential point, which we all agreed should stay in.

Russia, the United States and UK took the floor one after another and all proposed the same changes to the same paras in the Action Plan for Nuclear Disarmament. France appears to want even more deletions, but would not block.  The one remaining mention of a timeline appears still to be anathema. Though almost all earlier references to timelines and timebound framework have disappeared from the text under consideration, Russia declared in exasperation that they had been saying for three weeks that this was a red line and they cannot accept any such mention. The US speaks for four in underscoring that “legally binding” should not be associated with security assurances.

More nations have ratified the CTBT — Central African Republic and Trinidad and Tobago.  Which should really be 3 more, but  only counts as 2.  A mass of tourists visiting the UN clapped excitedly and flashed their cameras as these new ratifications were presented in front of a wonderful exhibition on “Putting an end to nuclear explosions” in the Visitors Entrance of the main UN building. So that make 182 signatories and 153 ratifications for the test ban treaty. And still not allowed to enter into force. Other treaties with far fewer parties entered into force years ago. Doesn’t seem fair, really. I blame the Brits (no, really, I do).

Additional protocol language may be resolved by going back to 2,000. The NAM made an effort to clarify that nuclear disarmament was not dependent on general and complete disarmament and to separate the two.  Iran said they had no instructions on the Institutional section. There were still a lot of problems around the section on Article X (withdrawal).  Iran won’t accept more than the first sentence. Clarification needed by others, especially regarding the distinction between the exercise of the withdrawal right by states that are compliant and those being investigated for noncompliance. South Africa was being very constructive. Half the delegations that spoke do not want a treaty support unit as they would prefer to work with IAEA and ODA. Half thought it would be a great idea but didn’t want to pay for it. Austria made a suggestion on voluntary contributions.

“Why don’t you criticise China?… you give them too easy a ride” demanded an aggrieved P-5 member.  Having twice now referred critically to China’s problem over any reference to a moratorium on fissile material production (China is understood to have stopped production but refuses to join the other four nuclear weapon states in declaring a moratorium… why?)  I asked what else I should criticise China for. The P-5 diplomat looked nonplussed and then said China wanted praise for its unverifiable declaratory policies like no first use and unconditional security assurances.  But he didn’t think they’d block if they didn’t get praised for this. So what’s the problem? The Chinese diplomats keep referring to such Chinese policies….   (Referring multiple times to the same position appears to be an occupational hazard. This is certainly a timewasting problem that all too many of the diplomats should plead guilty to, including my informer, but hardly a hanging matter.)  So I accosted a passing Chinese delegate and asked: why do the other P-5 consider you a major problem in these negotiations?  He thought for a while and then conceded that they might find China’s frequent reiteration of policies like no first use annoying because they were under pressure from the NAM to do something similar. And China didn’t like the paragraph about ceasing the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons “but neither do the others… we’re all modernising”. Shame on you, China! Shame on all you modernising nuclear-armed states!  (I do more vigorous criticism on a good day, but this isn’t a very good day for the NPT.)

Article-by-article discussions on the President’s draft ended around 6 pm, and as we exiles flowed into the room (pausing to pester the wan prisoners that flooded out) it was announced that the North Lawn would be kept open till midnight so that various meetings (four groups?) could continue.  Alexander Marschik was suddenly tasked with going through the disarmament action plan… again…  I had to phone and cancel my dinner with Ambassador Park (thank you for your understanding).  No definite agreements to report, but groups scheduled to resume at 9.00 am tomorrow.  A plenary is planned for Thursday afternoon, and and a new text is expected before 6.00 pm.  That could be the litmus test and deadline for determining whether a final document is feasible or not.  A growing number of delegates milling around the North Lawn were disgruntled about the process and communication, but some still appeared purposeful and confident.

65 more British bombs to ban

Meanwhile, new UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Foreign Office) Alistair Burt (veteran of John Major’s conservative government) dropped into the NPT just after Coalition Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that in the interests of transparency and confidence-building he’d fess up to the fact that instead of 160 nuclear warheads like we were led to believe*, Britain actually has some 225 of these things but no more (although the use of the future tense could be meant as a signal of something or other… or maybe a late night grammatical error…. I understand those)

Burt couldn’t deliver a speech because going through article by article of a long President’s draft declaration in a very tightly closed room doesn’t lend itself to set speeches, but he held a press conference to explain the significance of the transparency and confidence-building gesture that led the new British government to  announce that just when you thought we only had to get rid of 160 Trident warheads, the UK has 65 more nuclear bombs than we thought. So are we bigger than China now?

Hague also announced a review of declaratory policy on the circumstances in which Britain would contemplate using some or all of these nuclear weapons. This is unlikely to result in recognition that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons are contrary to international humanitarian law. The review might conceivably recommend that the UK bring its declaratory policy and security assurances into line with the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review. That would be good. Because we like to harmonise such things with the United States (it’s the Special Relationship thing).  Especially since our nuclear weapons (like America’s) are assigned to NATO, and it helps if NATO is not confused about whose doctrine they are following when they contemplate using nuclear weapons.

When George W. Bush changed US policy on nuclear use, so did Tony Blair. But we’ve been out of step with Obama’s new declaratory policy since April, so definitely time for a review.  I wonder if this was related in any way to why the UK delegation took the floor to demand removal of a paragraph saying that all states should comply with international humanitarian law at all times?

I always worried about that ceiling of 160.  Not the kind of thing I want over my head.  Now our minimum deterrent consists of 225.  Yay for us.  Will these be enough to deter…. er…. someone bad… with bad intentions…  and bad capabilities?   (*Not that the previous government lied, we hasten to explain, for in their successive announcements from 1998 to 2009 they had used carefully chosen language to specify “up to” 200, and then 160 “operationally-available warheads”.)  Now there are 65 more that aren’t – we gather – operationally available. But it doesn’t sound as if they’re awaiting dismantlement either. What are they for?  What are any of them for?

Let’s not be too churlish….  transparency is a good thing, and we are immensely relieved to hear that unbeknownst to us, we’ve actually been about a third more protected with nuclear insurance and deterrence thingummies than we previously thought.  Though 65 not-operationally-available nuclear devices might not count as effective for deterrence if they aren’t taken out on exercise regularly like the other really fit 160 that are available to be transported around the world’s oceans and to bump occasionally into France’s (up to 300) nuclear weapons.  I suppose that also means there are now 65 more nuclear bombs that Britain has to reaffirm it will unequivocally undertake to eliminate. Will that make a difference?

Day 22: NPT President’s consolidated draft declaration

Day 22: NPT President’s consolidated draft declaration

Posted by Rebecca Johnson

If you went to the UN Mission of the Philippines on Fifth Avenue at midnight on Monday you could pick up the first draft of a potential final document from the President of the NPT Review Conference, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan.  The rest of us got this 29 page draft at 9.00 a.m. and found a compilation of the drafts delivered by the three committees and subsidiary bodies at six o’clock on Monday. This has been consolidated in accordance with the NPT’s articles, followed by a section on “Conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions”, which contains three “action plans”: on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and “peaceful uses of nuclear energy”.

For most of the rest of Tuesday, delegations went through the motions of painstakingly debating the draft in a closed session (once the main conference room was vacated by the NAM, which needed a lengthy set of negotiations of its own to coordinate the positions of over 110 non-aligned countries).  The real political negotiations underlying the textual distinctions, of course, were taking place in smaller rooms dotted around the UN North Lawn, involving the main protagonists on the fundamental issues that could still derail the conference outcome.

Though it is looking increasingly likely that a deal will be struck on a conference and process to take forward the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and that compromises will be brokered between the opposing positions on the IAEA additional protocol, export controls, multinational fuel cycle arrangements and assurances of nuclear supply, the positions over nuclear disarmament are still far apart.

The majority of non-nuclear-countries from all regions want to see an action plan with objectives and practical steps that reflect the commitments made by President Obama and many others when they promised to work towards creating the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.  Some of the nuclear-weapon states, however, are reluctant to make commitments beyond what they agreed in 2000 (but largely failed to fulfill). The United States, though cautious about what could be delivered, came to the Review Conference with the hope of obtaining a constructive outcome that would lay further groundwork towards fulfilling President Obama’s objectives, to build on the New START Treaty, the April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit and other related initiatives.

Russia had some “red lines” they did not want to cross, including avoiding mention of non-strategic nuclear weapons. They were also reluctant to agree on the need to consider the idea of a future nuclear weapons convention, but the US-Russian partnership appeared to be sufficiently strong following the START agreement that it appeared possible to find language that would reconcile its concerns with the needs of the non-nuclear-weapon states to have agreement on tangible objectives and progress beyond reaffirming the 2000 undertakings.   China appeared to have more problems within the P-5 than in the negotiations with the non-nuclear countries, which led P-5 countries to portray China as a bigger obstacle to agreement than its positions indicated. China broke ranks with the P-5 on a number of issues where its familiar positions came closer to the non-nuclear countries, such as security assurances, no first use and a nuclear weapons convention, but it was out on a limb with its opposition to a moratorium on producing plutonium or highly-enriched uranium for weapons purposes pending conclusion of a fissile materials (cut-off) treaty.  This was shaping up as a tough sticking point but was not thought to be outcome-breaking.

Though France was vigorous in arguing its corner during the Conference, there was likewise little suggestion that it would block consensus if things didn’t go its way.  Never easy, these factors at least suggested that the dynamic within the P-5 was manageable, thereby providing room to manoeuvre when seeking agreement with the non-aligned states.  The UK wading in at this late date with harder-line positions that lower the common denominator has noticeably shifted the balance towards the naysayers among the P-5, with worrying implications for the prospects and effectiveness of a final declaration.

What this new dynamic reminds me of most is the counterproductive behaviour and role of the UK during the 1994-96 CTBT negotiations, when John Major was Prime Minister and Britain opposed the nuclear test ban, despite the fact that President Bill Clinton and the US administration wanted to be “out front pulling” to secure the CTBT in a timely manner.  In the first 18 months, Britain and France formed a lowest common denominator partnership to obstruct and delay the more positive US-Russian approach, while China hid its real difficulties behind long-standing rhetoric (no first use, unconditional security assurances and the right to conduct peaceful nuclear explosions).  We must never forget that under the guise of being helpful, Britain used its diplomatic skills to encumber the CTBT with the unnecessarily stringent Article XIV entry-into-force provision that has been the test ban treaty’s Achilles’ heel ever since – a monument to the UK’s shortsighted manipulation of dysfunctional dynamics among the P-5.  That was then and this is now, and there is no necessary reason why this frustrating history should be repeated… is there?

Another factor in the CTBT endgame was that the NAM failed to coalesce effectively around a collective strategy that would best promote their real security interests. In the card game vingt-et-un, the trick is in knowing when to hold fast with what’s in your hand and when to ask for something more.  If you ask for a new card at the wrong time there is a high risk that you will wreck the hand you have and go bust.  So it is with negotiations.  The disarmament action plan is undoubtedly not as strong or effective as might have been hoped for, but trying to introduce new language and amendments at this stage is more likely to result in losing what’s there than in gaining more. As the P-5 continue to push back to 2000, progressive non-nuclear countries need to hold fast and insist on keeping the action plan intact.

There is still a better than even’s chance that the NPT Review Conference can end with the successful adoption of a substantial final declaration along the lines now put forward by the President. Such a success would demonstrate collective international resolve to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons, prevent further horizontal and vertical proliferation, and tackle the myriad challenges of nuclear dangers and insecurity. It would provide a stepping stone that could be used to climb further.  All the elements are there now. Leadership and political will are required to make them stick before we run out of time.

NPT Day 21: Push Back by nuclear addicts

Day 21 : Push Back by nuclear addicts

Posted by Rebecca Johnson

Oh dear oh dear oh dear! Today in Main Committee I we were treated to what looked like a semi-coordinated Push Back by the P-5 Nuclear Weapons Addicts.  One by one they took the floor to complain about a number of places where the nuclear weapons possessors were, to quote Russia, being “put under pressure”.  At least these objections are now out in the open.  Monday’s work in the committees has been all about positioning… reiterating familiar proposals and getting hardline positions back into play in advance of the Committee drafts being sent to the President who must now pull what he can together into a consolidated text or other outcome product(s).

It comes as no surprise at this stage that nothing but the formal procedural parts have been adopted. That isn’t as bad as it may sound, as there are considerable areas of convergence in the substantive sections, as well as a number of very important areas of pivotal contention.  Though each committee has some difficult areas of disagreement, those in MCII and MCIII will be familiar from our previous reports, and little on these positions has changed.  Now we must wait to hear what the Conference President Libran Cabactulan intends to suggest to take us through the endgame.

It also appears that Britain now has instructions, and – sadly – they are to get rid of anything resembling focused, comprehensive, practical or progressive action towards building a world free of nuclear weapons, i.e. mention of a nuclear weapons convention, nuclear doctrine etc.  Keep the vision language to fool the plebs, but god forbid there should be support for taking negotiated steps to get there.  The UK even got upset about a paragraph that gave brownie points to their own initiative with Norway and VERTIC, wanting it underlined that this should not be characterised as research on nuclear disarmament verification but only on “nuclear warhead dismantlement”.  Looks like we won’t hear much about Britain becoming a disarmament laboratory under the Conservative-led Coalition government.

France took the floor first, and proposed a long series of amendments which can be summarised as i) you should be lauding us for absolutely everything we’ve done since the cold war ended; and ii) do not ask us to do anything else.  So all the places in the current draft where the incremental steps from some or all of the P-5 were “noted”, they should be “welcomed”.  That is of course good psychology and does no harm…

More perniciously, however, they wanted to change or delete text relating to practically all the action steps, particularly in relation to devaluing nuclear weapons in doctrines and operations, and wants the UN Secretary General’s 5-point disarmament proposals to be noted in the review section and not the forward-looking action plan – i.e. noting it as a past initiative (presumably on grounds that he presented the idea in October 2008) but not as something to guide action for the future, which was actually how Ban Ki-Moon had intended when he made the initiative.

The UK then spoke up and seemed to have turned into tweedledum to France’s tweedledee, reinforcing most of the same demands.  The United States then made many similar points, particularly underscoring objections to calls for legally binding security assurances against the use or threat of nuclear weapons.  The US made two significant additions. The first was a bit bizarre, since the US wanted the very first paragraph amended to sound more positive about nuclear energy, i.e. to change language that refers to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons “without hampering the peaceful uses of nuclear energy” to say something along the lines of “while facilitating the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in accordance with article IV”.  Perhaps this was a sop to Iran and the other NAM states that have been lining up at the 2010 Review Conference to object to anything that might impede their “inalienable right” to nuclear energy, but it seemed oddly out of context in MC1, which is meant to deal with disarmament issues.

In its second additional point, the US objected to the proposal in Action 16 of Subsidiary Body I (on practical disarmament, which the chair kept reminding delegations was not meant to be discussed at this time, but in a fine show of rebellion various states continued to give their positions on this as well as on the MC1 issues.  Action 16, as you probably are dying to know, suggests closure of the test sites, and currently reads: “all states that have not yet done so are encouraged to initiate a process towards the closing and dismantling, as soon as feasible and in an irreversible and verifiable manner, of any remaining sites for nuclear test explosions and their associated infrastructure.”

This was proposed during the CTBT negotiations in 1994-1996 on grounds that it would be an irreversible way to demonstrate full compliance with and commitment to the CTBT.  A bridge too far for the nuclear weapon states at that time, the non-nuclear countries let the proposal be taken out of the rolling text during the endgame for the sake of achieving a timely CTBT. France’s President Sarkózy recently revived the call, which the non-nuclear countries took up with alacrity.  Russia, taking the floor a bit later, strongly endorsed the US position that Action 16 should be deleted.  France and, to my knowledge China and Britain, said nothing, though Britain used the Nevada Test Site under US auspices for many years and is understood still to conduct some joint experiments and activities with the US there.  The US and Russia use their former nuclear test sites in Nevada and Novaya Zemlya for a variety of nuclear warhead experiments, including sub-critical tests.  China may do the same (anyone out there have any knowledge about Lop Nor?). France, as we know, has completely closed and dismantled its Pacific Test Site facilities at Moruroa and Fangataufa.

Another issue that France, Russia and the US pushed back on (due to an interruption – a hazard of the job that is often welcome but occasionally distracting – I cannot be certain from my notes if UK as well) was Action 5 which wanted a commitment from the NWS “to cease the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and to end the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons”.  Since most of these governments are busy modernizing and improving their nuclear weapons it is hardly surprising that they should not want to make this commitment. But if Article VI is supposed to be a real obligation in the NPT and if all the flowery phrases about wanting to create security in a world free of nuclear weapons are meant to be more than rhetorical flourish and a diplomatic smokescreen, then it would appear obvious that continuing modernisation and perpetual decisions to renew and refine nuclear weapons systems are not compatible with compliance in good faith with Article VI, and that ceasing such development is compatible – indeed a necessary component of – the irreversible and practical process towards eliminating the nuclear arsenals that everyone – NWS included – avow (in 2000 and now, again, at this 2010 Review Conference).  So, opposition to Action 5 clearly demonstrates that these NWS want to carry on with business as usual.

Rather strangely, in opposing Action 5, some of them evoked language in the preamble of the CTBT, seeming to argue that this language should be used instead.  The language they seem to prefer derives from the following preambular para in the CTBT:  “Recognizing that the cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions and all other nuclear explosions, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, constitutes an effective measure of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all its aspects…”

Citing this instead of the Action 5 text is inappropriate and suggests either ignorance of how this paragraph came about and its purpose and role in the Treaty (please read my book on the CTBT “Unfinished Business”!) or, perhaps, represents a disingenuous attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of those that in the political and security environment of 2010 (very different from 1996) want the nuclear weapons to stop doing end-runs around Article VI by modernizing, upgrading, updating and qualitatively enhancing their arsenals, even as the P-5 expect praise and adoration for having reduced the numerical size somewhat (though none below the hundreds).

China took a very different tack. China endorsed the references in Section A para 6 to calling on the NWS to “refrain from nuclear weapon sharing”, whether with other NWS (US-UK under their Mutual Defence Agreement, dating back to 1958 but most recently reconfirmed in 2004), with non-nuclear weapons states (ref to NATO policy) and with “states not party to the Treaty for military purposes”, which Russia asked for clarification on.   Unlike the other NWS, China supported the NNWS in arguing that the text should undertake not to be the first to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances or against anyone whatsoever, and should provide unconditional security assurances to all NNWS. China also wanted to see its own proposal for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of all nuclear weapons and said that it supported inclusion of commitments in the review conference outcome documents to negotiating a comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons.

Faced with this surge and pushback by the NWS on most if not all the progressive disarmament proposals in the MC1 and SB1 drafts, Egypt reiterated and explained the importance of retaining these important proposals for the Non-Aligned Movement, and received considerable support from a number of individual delegations.  Time was running out, and the Chair, Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku, wanted to adopt the procedural parts of MC1’s report before lunch.  However, there were still several speakers on the list and Egypt insisted that its statement on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition of seven cross-regional nuclear-free countries should be in the record in order to count in the notes that the Chair would send from the Committee with his report.  This appeared particularly important in the circumstances, since there was no agreement on the substantive elements and the P-5 Push Back would need to be vigorously resisted.  So the Chair allowed these statements to be heard, and all but one of them (the exception being Spain on behalf of the European Union) strongly registered their oppositon to the NWS’ attempts to delete, amend or water down the disarmament commitments in the current drafts.

So the NWS’ Push Back is Public. They must not be allowed to roll the text backwards. Ten years have passed since 2000, the political and security environment has changed and a space has opened up within which genuine and practical progress – incremental steps with a comprehensive purpose – can be made. What is still missing is serious commitment and political will to address the effects, consequences, reasons and drivers of their own decades of nuclear addiction.  They need help, but they also need the NNWS to demonstrate a firmness of resolve not to give in to their whining and wheedling, obfuscation and delaying tactics. If we don’t start to wean them off these deadly and attractive security drugs now, when they say they want to give them up, then when is it going to happen?

The NNWS have seen many long-term proposals once again sidelined. They liked the first drafts and they would probably be willing for the sake of a successful Review Conference to accept the compromises in the current drafts, despite the positions being a lot weaker than they wanted.  Are the P-5 willing to move the same distance and drop these maximalist demands they reiterated today in order that through compromise the review conference has a chance to build a sucessful outcome?

NPT enters final week: High Stakes, Disarmament and Middle East

by Rebecca Johnson, with input from Daryl Kimball on US-Iran sanctions

23 May  2010

The second phase of the NPT Review Conference has come to an end. None of the reports has been adopted by consensus as there are still a handful of outstanding areas of disagreement and certain delegations are holding onto their national positions for as long as they possibly can.  The current drafts from the Main Committees represent forward movement from 2000 on most but not all issues, and the evidence of significant convergence demonstrates that the review conference has a real chance of being able to adopt a constructively useful (if not fabulously forward-looking) outcome.  How much is enough? The next week will decide.

Below I discuss the most recent draft on nuclear disarmament in more detail and conclude that though much of what the non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society have nationally and collectively advocated has been watered down, the current draft is a sufficient step forward from 2000 to be worthy of our active support.  In view of the critical importance of Action 6 to this assessment, those seeking a successful outcome should beware of exerting further pressure as that could upset the careful balance of the current draft and may jeopardise agreement on and support for the Conference outcome as a whole.

The Chair of Subsidiary Body 2 on regional issues including the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, Alison Kelly (Ireland), circulated her first draft report at midday on Friday, after two weeks of intense consultations and a pile of detailed demands in the statements and working papers of many of the countries in the region, as well as the League of Arab States and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), headed by Egypt.  As discussed below, this has been warmly welcomed by the relevant interlocutors, though with caution embedded in phrases such as “good basis” but “not quite there”.

The conference is still awaiting a draft from Subsidiary Body 3 on institutional issues and withdrawal from the treaty. Last week it was reported that smaller sub-group negotiations were held with the hope of overcoming some serious differences of view over whether and how to respond to notifications of withdrawal and strengthen the NPT’s governance powers and the implementation capabilities and accountability mechanisms to enable states parties to fulfill their obligations more effectively.

Finally, Daryl Kimball of the Washington-based Arms Control Association has provided more insight into why the UN Security Council was asked last Tuesday to consider a sanctions resolution on Iran so soon after the Brazilian-Turkish nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. In particular, he notes that far from being a hostile reaction to that initiative, which was adopted a day earlier, on May 17, the timing of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement is attributable to the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to forestall US Congressional attempts to impose unilateral US sanctions on Iran in accordance with two versions of legislation that have passed the House and Senate respectively. The US administration is concerned that unilateral sanctions would complicate diplomatic strategies to engage Iran over suspending its uranium enrichment programme until it has been able to satisfy all outstanding questions regarding its nuclear programme and compliance with IAEA safeguards requirements.

Crunch time

At a plenary convened after 5.00 pm Friday, the Conference president, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan (Philippines) reminded the crowded room of the “limited time, enormity of task, and collective desire to have a successful conference” and called on the delegations to “continue to demonstrate the goodwill, flexibility and constructive spirit that has characterised the review conference”.  Underlining that “the stakes are high”, he urged them to use the weekend for consulting with capitals, with the understanding that private talks will also take place among some of the principal adversaries on the remaining issues.  He issued a draft work programme for the final day, explaining that the Committees would have an extra day – Monday – for final negotiations, following which he would take whatever they gave him and bring his proposals to a plenary on Tuesday.

Before he could bring the gavel down, Iran asks for the floor to propose slowing the process down. Starting with assurances of Iran’s intention to “cooperate with the President to obtain the common objective of the conference”, Iran complains that “setting an artificial deadline for the end of Committees’ work would not be helpful” and argues that the Committees should be given at least two more days.  Nigeria immediately wades in to agree with Iran and suggest that Tuesday should be allocated for Committee work, which would set Cabactulan’s timetable back a crucial 24 hours.

Algeria and Chile speak in support of the president, then Cuba… and suddenly there are a dozen name plates up. Cabactulan suspends the meeting, which breaks into little knots of people talking about the challenge to the President.

From a completely unofficial tally, the majority appeared to consider that the key issues are known and that once instructions are obtained and a few more private meetings between critical protagonists are undertaken over the weekend, what cannot be agreed by the end of Monday is unlikely to get agreed with another day in committee.  There is general recognition that Cabactulan will need to have a strategy to pull together what he receives from the committees and resolve what they hope will be only a small number of disagreements, and most want to give that endgame phase of the conference negotiations time to get worked out.  Ten minutes later, Cabactulan called the meeting to order and reaffirmed his request for the committees to deliver him their maximum possible products by 6.00 pm Monday.  Apologising for dismissing the lengthening speakers’ list, he promised that he and his team would work to the max to draw these together and make proposals which could either be picked up at midnight from the Philippines’ UN Mission or from the Conference on Tuesday morning.  He asked if there were any objections and tapped the gavel down. It all happened so quickly: there was a moment of stunned silence and then chuckles could be heard from all sides of the room.

The combination of decisiveness and humour appeared to have worked.  As the diplomats exited, they seemed relieved. Iran’s argument was mostly dismissed as a delaying tactic, and though the President still retained the option of prolonging committee work if by the end of Monday he assessed that a little more time in one or more of the committees would deliver a consensus outcome, the prevailing view was that Cabactulan was right to set Monday as the deadline and to move towards the endgame, which is likely to have a number of hurdles.

Ambassador Cabactulan is not the only one to realise that this is crunch time, with just a week to go.  States and civil society need to assess: Are the reports good enough to go the extra mile and cooperate to bring about a successful review conference?  Does the current language contain enough in terms of commitments, intentions and coded understandings to make this more than a paper exercise?  The various efforts by chairs to capture the best possible agreements have resulted in drafts going backwards and forwards seeking the optimum zone of potential convergence.  What a relief that they have not become bogged down in the deadly processes of yesteryear, negotiating square-bracketed text and punctuation embedded in excruciatingly long rolling texts in which the distinctions between political positions get lost in turf battles!

It is now that decisions on the remaining key issues must be made, and delegations have to judge whether holding out on certain issues is likely to bring better or weaker results.  What would be the consequences if this – generally constructive and collegial – review conference were to fail at the final hurdle?  In 2005 the failure of the review conference was practically fore-ordained by the parlous political environment, but 2010 would have no such excuse.  We are entering the endgame, and the stakes are indeed high.

Nuclear disarmament

Focusing on the May 21 draft of the MC1 report on nuclear disarmament report, is this a rollback or a forward movement from 2000?  The proposals from the nuclear-free governments were aimed at moving the disarmament process up a significant notch. Unlike in 2000, they also had to take into account the lack of serious progress on most if not all the 2000 agreements and steps until the pressure came on again in the last 12 months before this 2010 Review Conference.  From 14 to 21 May, there have been three drafts, swinging back and forth like a pendulum to find the optimum zone of agreement. Every time a draft comes out, several states – notably the NAM and some if not all the P-5 nuclear-weapons states – put forward many amendments, which the Chairs have to sift and try to balance off.

Much of what the non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society have nationally and collectively advocated has been watered down or even omitted. Yet looking at the overall picture, I think the current draft is a sufficient step forward from 2000 to be worthy of our support. Action 6 is critical to this assessment.  If it is weakened further due to pressure from the nuclear-weapon states, that could jeopardise agreement on and support for the Conference outcome as a whole.

The consolidated MC1 draft (with SB1 action plan incorporated) that was issued on 21 May demonstrates a number of ways in which opposition from some if not all the nuclear weapon states has weakened the disarmament commitment.  Gone are the specific mentions in the first draft to ballistic missiles equipped with conventional warheads (concerns voiced by China and Russia over the US ‘Prompt Global Strike’ plan) and that the interrelationship between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms (missile defence) will become more important as strategic nuclear weapons are reduced, and nuclear disarmament in a time-bound framework, as advocated by the NAM.  Even so, there is much in the Action Plan to encourage further actions, including strong language on the CTBT, encouragement with regard to START and further undertakings to reduce and eliminate all types of nuclear weapons, the need to further diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in security concepts, doctrines and policies, to address nuclear weapons on the territories of non-nuclear countries and to discuss declaratory policies, reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems and reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorised use (code for de-alerting) and enhance transparency.

As far as the P-5 are concerned, the following appear to be the major sticking points:  China doesn’t like the current language in Action 18 which calls on all nuclear weapon states to “uphold or consider declaring a moratorium” pending conclusion of a fissile materials treaty.  Of the P-5, only China has failed to declare a moratorium on producing fissile materials for weapons purposes, although it is widely believed to have actually stopped such production some years ago.  Russia is determined to keep explicit reference to non-strategic nuclear weapons out but would accept general language relating to the need to reduce and eliminate all types of nuclear weapons, as in the current MC1 draft.  The United States doesn’t want language committing to negotiate legally binding security assurances, but is believed to be willing to accept something that notes calls by non-nuclear-weapon states for legally binding negative security assurances. Though France has indicated directly that it would be willing to accept the current text as is, it is reported by other P-5 as wanting a few further amendments, so we await clarification. Britain has signaled that it considers the current MC1 text to be acceptable (or very close).

Amid reports that Britain, China and Russia will accept the language in the current draft that relates to the UN Secretary General’s five point disarmament plan and references a nuclear weapons convention, there are conflicting reports on the positions of the United States and France. The NAM and others are determined to keep this language in as they have seen their more specific proposals for a timebound framework on disarmament taken out at the insistence of the nuclear-weapon states.  A senior P-5 representative indicated that all P-5 would now be willing to accept the compromise language on this as long as there are no commitments to a specific timetable for accomplishing disarmament, but we have not been able to obtain confirmation on this.

At this stage the nuclear powers have a choice.  If they keep trying to whittle away at what is already a compromise text in which the nuclear-free countries are being expected to accept much less than they originally put forward in their national and group statements and working papers, they risk losing the goodwill of the Conference, which they will need in this final week to get a consensus outcome. The non-nuclear weapon states, for their part, will probably have to acknowledge that this is by no means all that they hoped for, but if adopted it could provide a stepping stone to achieve more progress on nuclear disarmament by 2015.

Regional Issues

The Chair of Subsidiary Body 2 on regional issues including the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, Alison Kelly (Ireland) circulated her first draft report at midday today (Friday) after two weeks of intense consultations and a pile of detailed demands in the statements and working papers of many of the countries in the region, as well as the League of Arab States.  Coincidentally, the paper came out at the same time as a lunchtime meeting hosted by Greenpeace Israel and attended by ambassadors and other senior diplomats from NPT parties from the Middle East region, which discussed how to engage Israel to see a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction as in its security interests and take cooperative regional and international steps towards this goal.

Kelly’s draft report is carefully crafted to provide substantive commitments to move forwards on three relevant areas: the Middle East, South Asia and North Korea.  Though all are important, the most political energy here was expended on the Middle East, particularly in view of the detailed, practical proposals Egypt and the Arab States put on the table during the preparatory process for this review conference, notably for a regional Conference and a special coordinator to facilitate practical progress, which were reflected in all three versions of the 2009 PrepCom Chair’s draft report (though none of these was actually adopted). These have had to be parlayed with the close US political alliance with Israel, which is widely believed to have some 60-180 nuclear weapons, and its concerns that Iran’s nuclear programme is intended to provide future weapons capabilities or options.

Middle East

This draft recognises the critical importance of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, notes the P-5 statement’s commitment to its full implementation, and regrets there has been so little progress. The following practical steps are endorsed: an “initial conference” in 2012 convened by the UN Secretary-General and involving all states in the Middle East, and a Special Coordinator with a mandate to facilitate implementation of the 1995 Resolution, conduct consultations and undertake preparations for the Conference and, importantly, “follow-on steps”, with reports to be provided to NPT states parties at the 2012, 2013 and 2014 PrepComs.  The draft seeks a middle way between the Arab states’ desire for a negotiating conference and the US view that this would be premature, by describing the purpose of the Conference as “leading to the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region…”  In addition to recognising the importance of the draft proposed “complementary steps” such as an EU-hosted event and background documentation regarding verification.  It also emphasises the importance of “parallel progress, in substance and timing” relating to achieving total and complete elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from the region.

The draft seeks a constructive way out of the problems raised by naming Iran and Israel, but whether its formula will be accepted by all sides remains to be seen. Briefly, the US has argued that Iran’s noncompliance should be recorded, while Iran has been vigorous in complaining that this would be inappropriate. Iran and the Arab States have similarly insisted that Israel should be castigated by name, which the US is generally reluctant to allow.  The draft proposes employing language from the 2000 Review Conference to reaffirm “the importance of Israel’s accession” to the NPT and placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.  A further paragraph underscores the necessity of strict adherence and compliance with the Treaty by all states parties, who are enjoined to “refrain from undertaking any measures that preclude the achievement” of the objectives of the 1995 Resolution.

The initial response to Kelly’s draft was positive. In guarded responses, both sides have characterised it as a good, balanced effort, but have indicated that they intend to keep pushing to get their own demands met. While no-one is expecting them to agree this compromise with five days to go, the truth is that everyone else seems to consider this a positive compromise with incremental and practical ways to make progress. After cooking behind closed doors, an achievable deal is now out in the open.  It will be interesting to see what counter proposals emerge on Monday.  If either side pushes too hard or for too much longer, they risk losing the lot.

North Korea

With the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) not present at the Review Conference following its decision to withdraw from the NPT in 2003, the three paras condemn the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea in 2006 and 2009 and give “firm support” to the Six Party Talks, involving China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States as well as the DPRK, and to resolve nuclear problems “through diplomatic means”.  North Korea is urged to fulfill its commitments, including completely and verifiably abandoning all its nuclear weapons “and existing nuclear programmes”, and to “return, at an early date,” to the NPT and IAEA safeguards – carefully worded to avoid taking a position on the legality of North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT and IAEA safeguards, a question over which there is much disagreement.

South Asia

The draft has one brief paragraph urging India and Pakistan to accede to the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states. There is no mention of the highly controversial nuclear deal that the Bush administration brokered with India and pushed through the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).  The draft simply urges both states to “strengthen their non-proliferation export control measures over technologies, material and equipment that can be used for the production of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems”.  Though a number of delegates have complained that the Indo-US deal weakened the NSG and undermined the NPT, public criticism at this Conference has been muted. While the deal with India is now regarded as a fait accompli, however, the warnings against extending similar arrangements to Israel or Pakistan have been unmistakeable.

Iran Sanctions

The timing of the tabling on Tuesday of a draft UN Security Council resolution intended to impose further sanctions on Iran regarding its nuclear activities seemed to take the NPT delegations by surprise, as reported in Acronym’s blog of May 18.  Even some P-5 delegates expressed consternation, though they acknowledged that their negotiators in Washington had agreed a draft text on Friday, which had been sent to capitals.  The haste with which in principle agreement on a draft was followed by the tabling of the resolution in the Security Council was worryingly viewed as Washington’s ‘answer’ to the fuel swap deal involving low-enriched uranium (LEU) that Brazil and Turkey had brokered with Iran, which was signed by the three heads of states in Tehran a day earlier, on May 17.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s decision to announce the sanctions resolution when speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about ratification of the New START treaty also gave rise to misunderstandings.  According to Arms Control Association’s director Daryl Kimball, the announcement was not linked to START ratification, but to attempts by the Obama administration to forestall Congressional approval for legislation that would impose national, unilateral sanctions on Iran, which Clinton feared might be boosted by news of the fuel swap deal.

In late April 2010, a group of House and Senate members were appointed to resolve differences between legislation already approved by each chamber that would sanction foreign companies that provide gasoline to Iran.  28 May was the target date set by Congressional leaders to complete work on resolving differences in the House and Senate versions of the legislation, after which it would be sent to President Obama’s desk. The legislation has to date been approved by large, veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.

The basis of this Congressional initiative is a US law adopted in 1996 that imposes penalties on foreign firms that invest more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector. The House and Senate versions of the pending legislation are intended to expand those penalties to firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum or assist in expanding its refining capacity. The Senate bill includes a number of additional measures to target Iran’s financial sector and enhance export controls in countries at risk of diverting sensitive materials and technologies to Iran.  House and Senate members sent letters to Obama in April urging the administration to carry out sanctions under current US law.  Two nearly identical letters signed by 363 representatives and 81 senators urged the President  “to move rapidly to implement your existing authority on Iran and the legislation we send you, and to galvanize the international community” for immediate steps against Iran.

Although the US law targeting energy investment in Iran has been in effect since 1996, no firms have been sanctioned to date. Since the 1996 bill’s passage, US administrations have preferred to seek international cooperation to exert pressure on Iran. Obama Administration officials have made clear their preference for pursuing multilateral initiatives, including Security Council sanctions before applying unilateral measures. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy told a Senate panel on April 14. “There are steps that we can take unilaterally, and we have taken unilaterally.  But our judgment is that if we really want to impose pressure on Iran that actually affects their calculus, the only way to be effective is to do that multilaterally”. See http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2010_05/IranSanctions for more details.

In Kimball’s analysis, Clinton’s announcement on the sanctions resolution was a response to the US Congress at least as much if not more than a reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish initiative to arrange a fuel swap deal with Iran. News reports out of Washington yesterday suggest that Congressional action on the US sanctions legislation has already been delayed.  Current indications are that the Security Council will not be hurrying to agree on a sanctions resolution before the NPT ends, and that governments will be watching closely to see how the fuel swap deal is implemented.

NPT Day 18: Updates, downgrading HEU and non-strategic weapons

by Rebecca Johnson with contributions from Carol Naughton (on HEU), Meena Singelee (MC III) and Cole Harvey and Miles Pomper of the Monterey Institute (non-strategic nuclear weapons).

Update on Main Committee II

MC II is close to consensus on most issues, but as the Chair, Ambassador Volodyrmyr Yelchenko (Ukraine) noted in his interim report back to the plenary yesterday, there are a few issues where proposals on the table are mutually exclusive.  With the exception of the Middle East, where intensive negotiations are continuing, principally between the United States in pole position for the P-5 and Egypt on behalf of the Arab League, these appear to be how to characterise the Additional Protocol and export controls.

The key issues on the Additional Protocol to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) are whether it can be characterised as the safeguards standard or be treated as a condition of supply so that nuclear suppliers are constrained from selling nuclear materials or technology to any country that has not signed and ratified the Additional Protocol.  For example, Canada’s proposed language for treating the Additional Protocol as a verification or safeguards standard would say that the IAEA can only draw an annual safeguards conclusion that all nuclear material has remained in peaceful activities” when a state has both CSA and the Additional Protocol in force.  To avoid the rows over turning the safeguards considered reliable in the 1960s and ‘70s into a safeguards system for the 1990s, and again for the 2010s, and in acknowledgment of how technology change many also want a mechanism for regularly assessing, evaluating and improving the efficiency of IAEA safeguards. While many are in favour of one or all of these proposals, they are deeply opposed by some influential states, notably Egypt, Brazil and Iran, which have argued that the Additional Protocol is merely voluntary.  Main Committee II’s revised draft report, issued today (May 20),  notes that “the additional protocol, being voluntary in nature, once concluded, represents a legal obligation”. (para 15)

Export controls are the other main headache for the Chair. On the side of wanting recognition for the important role of “effective and transparent export controls” are members of the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, including the 37-member Zangger Group.  The Vienna Group of Ten (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden) argued for language that would underline that “nuclear export controls are a legitimate, necessary and desirable means” enabling states parties to implement their NPT obligations, and that “effective export controls are also central’ to cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy”.  This approach seeks positive references to UNSC Resolution 1540 (2004), UNSC Resolution 1887 and the Nuclear Security Summit.  On the other side is the NAM, many of whom regard export controls as an illegitimate and coercive imposition on non-nuclear-weapon states.  Efforts have been made to square these circles (or circle the squares?) in the Main Committee II’s revised draft report and in the final analysis it is likely that agreement will be reached on the basis of language agreed at previous NPT meetings which will provide enough fudge to be acceptable to both sides, while satisfying neither.

Minimising highly-enriched uranium (HEU)

Another issue whose time has come is that of halting the use of HEU and, where necessary, converting civilian nuclear programmes to use low-enriched uranium (LEU).  Courtesy of Carol Naughton, here’s a brief summary of how this issue has been raised in Committee II.

The Vienna Group of Ten argued the “non-proliferation and security benefits of the minimization of the use of high enriched uranium in civilian applications, including the conversion of civilian research reactors to low enriched uranium fuel” and welcomed efforts by the IAEA “to assist countries which, on a voluntary basis, have chosen to take steps to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium in civilian nuclear applications.”  Indeed, Australia made the point that they had already successfully converted to LEU-based technology and were involved in capacity building efforts on this in South East Asia and Pacific regions.

Norway, another G-10 member, held a symposium on converting HEU fuel to LEU in civilian research reactors and showed that it is do-able and already being implemented by some States as highlighted by Australia.  The United States made reference to UNSC Resolution 1887 (September 2009) and the April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in emphasising its support for the conversion to LEU  in civilian applications.  This position was also taken up by the European Union (EU), who argued for “the minimisation, wherever technically and economically feasible, of the use of HEU in peaceful nuclear activities, both with a view to preventing illicit trafficking and nuclear terrorism”.  A working paper from 7 NATO states – Belgium, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Turkey – also calls for “voluntary measures” to convert research reactors from HEU to LEU where technically and economically feasible.

Main Committee II’s draft report, issued on May 14, had two relevant paragraphs on this issue “The Conference notes with appreciation that many research reactors are discontinuing the use of highly enriched uranium fuel in favour of low enriched uranium fuel.” (para 26). And in the forward-looking action plan: “The conference calls upon all States parties to manage responsibly and minimize to the greatest extent that is technically and economically feasible the use of highly enriched uranium for civilian purposes, including by working to convert research reactors and radioisotope production processes to the use of low-enriched uranium.” (para 61). The Non-Aligned group of NPT states parties put in only minor amendments, and yet neither paragraph appears in the revised report, published today.

Update on Committee III (nuclear energy etc)

MCIII continued its deliberations on Thursday, and the following summary is based on notes from Meena Singelee.  Ambassador Takeshi Nakane of Japan, Chair of the Committee is hoping for a final draft by this Friday. Although there are less heated exchanges in MCIII than in the others, the differences in positions among some parties are still visible. The NAM continues to stress that the report should emphasise support for the transfer of nuclear materials for peaceful uses in a non-discriminatory manner and in conformity with the NPT. Egypt called for wording to include that every effort should be made to ensure that IAEA resources for technical cooperation should be sufficient, assured and predictable (SAP). States including Germany continue to call for language on the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, i.e. nuclear waste.

On the issue of multilateralisation of nuclear fuel cycle facilities, parties continue to emphasise the need to ensure that all undertakings will be voluntary and that access will be guaranteed, in line with the legal obligations under the NPT. Indonesia suggested that since the idea of a multinational fuel bank is still in early stages of discussion, and both technically and legally complex, it would not be in the interest of the Review Conference to delve deeper into the issue. Indonesia suggested that instead of including this in a final document, the Conference could consider making a political statement on the issue. Egypt and the NAM continue to emphasise language relating to transfer and conformity without discrimination among parties. The United States however, highlighted that any nuclear supplier would need to look at broader questions which it seemed to consider did not necessarily relate to the NPT, before deciding to export nuclear materials or equipment to an NPT party, mentioning the level of security, the level of enrichment or reprocessing, or overriding concerns about transfers to third parties.

A telling sign that consensus on some of the issues ought to be reachable is that the interactions among and between state parties have been courteous, engaged and productive. National statements are now few and far between, and all interactions, have been focused specifically to changes or amendments to language of the draft text.   Some states, including the UK, which intervened for the first time in MCIII on Wednesday, argued that language on the Middle East, whilst relevant,  would be best placed in an overview passage rather than in the MCIII section. Other areas such as withdrawal and institutional issues are still being dealt with by the Subsidiary Body 3.

Update on MCI

Intense and sensitive negotiations are continuing over a number of key issues on nuclear disarmament.  There appears already to be substantial agreement to updated language that essentially reaffirms and recommits to the progressive implementation of steps based on the Thirteen practical steps agreed ten years ago by the 2000 NPT Review Conference.  Among the significant issues still to be resolved is how to characterise the majority’s calls for commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons through a time-bound framework (the traditional NAM mantra) or some kind of comprehensive negotiating process aimed at achieving a nuclear weapons convention – or at the very least, commitment to the goal of realising the much-heralded world free of nuclear weapons through some form of multilaterally negotiated and verifiable process.

Non-strategic nuclear weapons

Another highly contentious issue is that of non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons.  In the revised draft of the report from Subsidiary Body 1, chaired by Ambassador Alexander Marschik, these are not specifically mentioned. Instead, the draft calls on “the nuclear-weapon States and all other States possessing nuclear weapons to reduce and eliminate all types of their nuclear weapons”  and also: “the nuclear-weapon States commit to undertake further efforts to verifiably reduce all types of nuclear weapons, deployed and undeployed, as well as their nuclear weapon-related materials, including through unilateral, bilateral, regional, and multilateral measures…”  Given how far apart the position of Russia is from that of many European countries on this issue, such code may be the best achievable under the circumstances.  Below, however, we consider the serious attention given to this issue during the conference.

Whatever they are called — and I still can’t work out whether there are political distinctions in the choice of terms to describe short-range nuclear weapons – non-strategic, sub-strategic, pre-strategic (is this a shot across the bows, as Malcolm Rifkind once tried to argue as a useful role for Trident?) tactical, theatre or battlefield weapons — the calls to reduce and eliminate this class of weapons have been more vocal than at any previous Review Conference.   The issue is approached from two angles: calls to withdraw such weapons from the territory of non-nuclear NPT parties (aimed at NATO, which operates a nuclear sharing policy in which US nuclear weapons are deployed in several European countries); and calls for unilateral and negotiated reductions of all such weapons, with possible solutions such as interim storage leading to their total elimination (aimed principally at Russia, which is estimated to possess some 2,000, and the United States, which has around 500).  China, France, Israel, India and Pakistan also have short to intermediate-range nuclear weapons systems which are viewed as having strategic purposes).

I am indebted to Cole Harvey for trawling through the various statements and working papers and providing notes on who said what during the general and MCI debates, noting especially that calls for increased attention to the issue of non-strategic nuclear weapons focused on the need for increased transparency and their inclusion into the broader US-Russian arms control framework.

Referring to the “existence of significant deployed and stockpiled non-strategic arsenals which are not covered by formal arms control agreements” the EU statement called for “reduction and final elimination of non-strategic nuclear weapons are integral parts of the nuclear disarmament process to which all States Parties are committed under Article VI of the NPT”.  Referring to the “existence of significant deployed and stockpiled non-strategic arsenals which are not covered by formal arms control agreements” the EU statement called for “reduction and final elimination of non-strategic nuclear weapons are integral parts of the nuclear disarmament process to which all States Parties are committed under Article VI of the NPT”.  The EU then called “on all States parties possessing such weapons to include them in their general arms control and disarmament processes, with a view to their verifiable and irreversible reduction and elimination, while agreeing to the importance of further transparency and confidence-building measures in order to advance this nuclear disarmament process.  We also encourage the United States and the Russian Federation to further develop the unilateral 1991/92 Presidential Initiatives and to include non-strategic nuclear weapons in the next round of bilateral nuclear arms reductions…”

Germany, on behalf of itself and nine other countries (Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden), took the EU position further, arguing for increased transparency and the inclusion of non-strategic nuclear weapons into the US-Russian and “broader arms control and disarmament  processes, to advance towards a nuclear-weapons-free world”.  In particular, this paper recommended that the review conference should (a) “commit themselves to include non-strategic nuclear weapons in their general arms control and disarmament processes, with a view to their transparent, verifiable and irreversible reduction and elimination”; (b) pending entry into force of legally binding reductions… bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures could be taken, such as “information exchange on existing deployed and stockpiled arsenals”; and (c) encourage the US and Russia to negotiate “increasingly lower ceilings for the numbers and the eventual elimination of both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons in their arsenals”, building on their unilateral 1991 and 1992 Presidential nuclear initiatives.

The Polish and Norwegian governments have also made this issue a priority: “These positive developments [in nuclear arms control] have already launched the debate on the future arms reduction treaty, which should set new ceilings not only on strategic weapons but also other types of nuclear weaponry, especially those designated as tactical or sub-strategic…. The goal of a world without nuclear weapons, which we all share, cannot be met without addressing that issue head on…  We [Poland and Norway] suggest a step-by-step approach, not limited by any deadlines and thus flexible and realistic.  This process embraces the accomplishment of three stages.  The first two aim at enhancing transparency and introducing confidence-building measures.  Today we should give them the highest priority.  The last stage proposes reduction and elimination of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in conjunction with general disarmament process.”

A few other states endorsed the prospect of non-strategic weapons’ inclusion in U.S.-Russian negotiations.  Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, stated that future negotiations “should deal both with strategic and non-strategic weapons, those deployed as well as those not deployed”.  In an oblique reference to NATO’s debates over nuclear sharing and the role of nuclear weapons in its Strategic Concept, Switzerland added that non-strategic weapons “no longer have a place in today’s Europe.  In this context, Switzerland welcomes the recent debate initiated by several European States.”  The Netherlands also called on the Review Conference to “commit ourselves to include non-strategic nuclear weapons in arms control and disarmament processes, with a view to their transparent, verifiable and irreversible reduction and elimination.”

The New Agenda Coalition, a group of influential ‘middle powers,’ (Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and Egypt), welcomed the conclusion of a new strategic arms control agreement between the United States and Russia, and urged the nuclear-weapon states to “engage in a process leading to further substantial reductions and eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons, deployed or non-deployed, strategic or non-strategic.”

From a different perspective, the NAM addressed US tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe under the auspices of NATO and called on the Review Conference to agree that the nuclear-weapon states “refrain from nuclear weapon sharing, with other states under any kind of security arrangements, including in the framework of military alliances.”

Russia took up the issue, calling for the “real, irreversible and verifiable” reduction and elimination of  “all kinds and types of nuclear weapons as well as non-nuclear systems with comparable tasks and characteristics”, citing both the final goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and the final goal of a step-by-step process to obtain complete disarmament. As it had done in previous statements, Russia homed in on NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements in Europe, arguing that the first, priority step needed to be the “repatriation” of all nuclear systems and termination of related “infrastructures”, with the weapons stored on the territory of their owners, pending elimination.

A row broke out in Subsidiary Body 1 when Germany quoted from this Russian statement and a US position that had called on “all states possessing NSNW to include them in negotiations” and suggested that since no state had spoken against the proposals in the German-led joint statement, these should be considered for inclusion in the disarmament report.  Several states, including Poland (which had been expected to co-sponsor the joint statement but didn’t), Finland, Ireland, Belgium and Sweden all spoke in support.

Russia, however, appeared furious with Germany, reiterating its position that any type of nuclear weapons reductions must be discussed in direct linkage to other kinds of weapons and that the priority was to return all types of nuclear weapons to national territories along with the elimination of their deployment infrastructure in other states.  Russia argued that the problem of non-strategic nuclear weapons must “first and foremost” be resolved within the context of NATO, an aspect of its position that it accused Germany of omitting to mention.

Others hastily stepped in to cool things down. Switzerland stressed the importance of this issue and offered its own proposed text, which was a bit different from Germany’s, saying that it would be willing to support Germany’s text as well.  When the United States argued that the NPT was not the appropriate forum for negotiating on tactical nuclear weapons, Iran riposted that the NPT was the appropriate forum for negotiating all kinds of nuclear weapons, while Indonesia agreed that such non-strategic nuclear weapons needed to be addressed and eliminated.

Meanwhile, outside the NPT Review Conference, the report from a group of former politicians, defence and business honchos from NATO countries, led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was published on May 17. Titled “NATO 2020: Assured Security; Dynamic Engagement”, this report was supposed to assist NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in drafting NATO’s new Strategic Concept,  which is under discussion with a view to being adopted by the Alliance at the Lisbon Summit, November 19-20, 2010.  However, critics have panned the report as a missed opportunity, still stuck in the cold war.

Additional Resources: Acronym Briefing (NPT 2010 and Beyond) on Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A dangerous anachronism, by General Sir Hugh Beach.

All eleven briefings in the NPT 2010 and Beyond series are available from the Acronym Institute website here.

See also the open letter signed by 12 NGOs attending the NPT Review Conference and a hanger on.

Day 16: Interim updates on Committees II and III

posted by Rebecca Johnson, with input from Meena Singelee

Main Committee II is close to consensus on most issues, but as the Chair, Ambassador Volodyrmyr Yelchenko (Ukraine) noted in his interim report back to the plenary yesterday, there are a few issues where proposals on the table are mutually exclusive.  With the exception of the Middle East, where intensive negotiations are continuing (principally between the United States/P-5 and Egypt/Arab League), these appear to be how to characterise the Additional Protocol and export controls.

Update on Committee III (nuclear energy etc)

With regard to MCIII, which is continuing its deliberations, I am indebted to the Acronym Institute’s junior associate Meena Singelee for her notes which inform the following summary.  Ambassador Takeshi Nakane of Japan, Chair of the Committee is hoping for a final draft by this Friday. Although there are less heated exchanges in MCIII than in the others, the differences in positions among some parties are still visible. The NAM continues to stress that the report should emphasise support for the transfer of nuclear materials for peaceful uses in a non-discriminatory manner and in conformity with the NPT. Egypt called for wording to include that every effort should be made to ensure that IAEA resources for technical cooperation should be sufficient, assured and predictable (SAP). States including Germany continue to call for language on the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, i.e. nuclear waste.

On the issue of multilateralisation of nuclear fuel cycle facilities, parties continue to emphasise the need to ensure that all undertakings will be voluntary and that access will be guaranteed, in line with the legal obligations under the NPT. Indonesia suggested that since the idea of a multinational fuel bank is still in early stages of discussion, and both technically and legally complex, it would not be in the interest of the Review Conference to delve deeper into the issue. Indonesia suggested that instead of including this in a final document, the Conference could consider making a political statement on the issue. Egypt and the NAM continue to emphasise language relating to transfer and conformity without discrimination among parties. The United States however, highlighted that any nuclear supplier would need to look at broader questions which it seemed to consider did not necessarily relate to the NPT, before deciding to export nuclear materials or equipment to an NPT party, mentioning the level of security, the level of enrichment or reprocessing, or overriding concerns about transfers to third parties.

A telling sign that consensus on some of the issues ought to be reachable is that the interactions among and between state parties have been courteous, engaged and productive. National statements have now few and far between, and all interactions, have been focused specifically to changes or amendments to language of the draft text.

Some states, including the UK, which intervened for the first time in MCIII on Wednesday, argued that language on the Middle East, whilst relevant,  would be best placed in an overview passage rather than in the MCIII section. Other areas such as withdrawal and institutional issues are still being dealt with by the Subsidiary Body 3.

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