At a Crossroads


Nuclear Abolition News | VOICES of the South on Globalization

The third preparatory committee (PrepCom) meeting for the 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) takes place at the UN in New York May 4-15 against a background of increasing calls for progress on nuclear disarmament and measures to strengthen the Treaty. The NPT was concluded in 1968 and entered into force on March 5, 1970. It is the founding document of multilateral non proliferation endeavours.

Knowledgeable sources say it will be a litmus test of the seriousness of nuclear weapons states to move towards a nuke free world. "We are at a cross roads. On the one hand the disarmament needs are pressing as the non proliferation challenges are urgent. On the other hand the opportunities and possibilities are perhaps greater than they have been for a decade," says Norway's Foreign Affairs Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Together with Germany, Norway raised the issue at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Strasbourg (France) and Kehl (Germany). The NATO declaration of April 4 emphasises that "arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation" will continue to make an important contribution to peace, security, and stability. NATO allies reaffirmed that the NPT remains important and that they will contribute constructively to achieving a successful outcome of the 2010 NPT review conference.

It remains to be seen how things will work out in practice.

Steffen Kongstad, director-general Security Policy in Norway's Foreign Ministry, said at a seminar April 15 in Oslo: "If we really want to move towards a nuclear weapons free world, we need to acknowledge how nuclear disarmament is dealt with today."

The main track today was the NPT process and the Review Conference next year. Kongstad, an eminent European disarmament expert said the process had "largely been relegated to the closed quarters of some bureaucrats and academics engaging in technical discussions and games. These games has turned into a self-sustained process which is not necessarily aimed at achieving real results, but rather to keep itself going. Forever, if possible."

Knowledgeable sources say that a lot of homework must be done within NATO if positive results are to be achieved in NPT.

Nearly two years ago, Norway and Germany took an initiative within NATO to raise disarmament on to the Alliance's agenda. This initiative was supported by both Iceland and Denmark.

"We have already achieved some results, such as more emphasis on disarmament in NATO summit declaration and that NATO will consider disarmament on a more regular basis," says Kongstad. "Yet, the real test is ahead of us. We will now be embarking on a revision of NATO's strategic concept. Our objective will be that the Alliance in a concrete manner takes steps to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence. … This will not be easy, but we will make a case that unless NATO demonstrates in concrete terms readiness to meet NPT's disarmament obligations, it will in the long run be hard to sustain the global non proliferation regime," says Kongstad.

He also pleads for forging "new kinds of partnerships. For instance, within the Mine Ban Convention there is no Western Group or NAM (Non-Aligned Movement). But civil society is included. The same partnership applies for the Convention on Cluster Munitions. "We must overcome the present sterile division lines within the NPT.

Through the Seven Nation Initiative that includes Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Romania, South Africa and the United Kingdom, Norway has sought to explore ways to develop international consensus on nuclear disarmament and non proliferation.

The importance of NPT was also underlined by Helmut Schmidt, Richard von Weizsäcker, Egon Bahr and Hans-Dietrich Genscher in an article for the International Herald Tribune on January 9 this year. Responding to Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn who issued an appeal for a world free of nuclear weapons in January 2007, they said they "unreservedly support" that appeal.

This applied in particular to the following proposals: - The vision of a world free of the nuclear threat, as developed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, must be rekindled.

- Negotiations aimed at drastically reducing the number of nuclear weapons must begin, initially between the United States and Russia, the countries with the largest number of warheads, in order to win over the other countries possessing such weapons.

- The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) must be greatly reinforced.

- America should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

- All short-range nuclear weapons must be destroyed.

From Germany's point of view they added: -The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) expires in December this year. Its extension is the most urgent item on the agenda for Washington and Moscow.

- It will be vital to the credibility of the 2010 NPT Review Conference that nuclear-weapon states finally keep their promise under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

- The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty must be restored.

Outer space may only be used for peaceful purposes.

– Ramesh Jaura