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Nuclear Club Needs to Confront Proliferation Issues


Until the United States and the internation al community resolve to strengthen the presumption against nuclear proliferation, the difficulties the Clinton administration has faced in stopping proliferation in Iraq and North Korea are likely to be repeated elsewhere.

The run-up to the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) extension conference provides the United States with an opportunity to assume its global responsibility to lead the world in a safer direction. The United States has made clear that it wants an indefinite, unconditional extension of the NPT. By developing a comprehensive agenda for the control of nuclear weapons in a post-Cold War setting it will have taken a major step toward this important objective.

Each of the following six arms control issues is important in its own; each issue is also intertwined with the treaty's extension, and will have to be dealt if the extension conference is to be a success.

Nuclear testing:

With the administration's decision on July 3 to extend the U.S. testing halt, the United States should now set as its objective the negotiation and signing by all the nuclear and near-nuclear states, and by most other governments as well, of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTB) by the end of 1994 or early 1995.

To have a fair chance of meeting this target, the United States should promptly obtain the views of other nuclear and near-nuclear governments and develop a negotiating strategy and procedure. The treaty text should be kept simple, with verification provisions relegated to a protocol and adopted separately from the treaty.

If this schedule proves impossible, the fall-back should be a commitment among the five nuclear powers to maintain the present testing halt through 1995 and to conclude negotiations on a treaty by 1996 -- the deadline suggested in the U.S. legislation. U.S. objectives at the extension conference will be more readily secured if the CTB negotiation is finished by 1995; but if a good faith effort has been made and the delays are not ours, then the great majority of NPT parties will cooperate at the conference.

Production of material for weapons:

Next to the test ban, a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons (a "cutoff") will be the most important new "reinforcement" that can be brought to the non-proliferation structure.

As with nuclear testing, the U.S. objective should be a global treaty, embracing all the nuclear and near-nuclear states and the majority of the international community. In principle, development of a treaty text could be achievable by late 1994. However, since difficulties may arise, including concerns about verification, civil uses of plutonium and the unknown position our negotiators will find in China, a cutoff effective at some date between 1995 and 2000 may be the most that can be achieved before the 1995 NPT conference.

Side understandings among key states that lock in whatever unilateral cutoffs can be then be effected would help build confidence that no state had resumed production of weapon material while negotiations went forward. It would also put the weight of the U.S. behind the successful conclusion of a treaty.

Constraints on use of nuclear weapons:

With the end of the Cold War, support in the United States for a "no first use" policy has grown to the point where one can envisage its adoption by the Clinton administration. If that cannot be achieved before 1995, priority should be given to a less controversial constraint: an assurance to non-nuclear parties the NPT (or an equivalent agreement) that the United States and the other four acknowledged nuclear powers would not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against them. An effective way to register this would be a U.N. Security Council resolution updating the "negative assurances" that were adopted separately in 1978 by the five nuclear powers.

Assurances against nuclear threats:

"Positive assurances" are promises to assist countries threatened with, and victims of, a nuclear attack. The three sponsors of the NPT (the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union) offered such assurances in a 1968 Security Resolution, and since neither France nor China criticized this procedure when they joined the NPT last year, it should not be difficult for the Security Council to adopt an improved text. Arrangements to supplement global assurances may, however, be required to meet the needs of Ukraine or other governments (( that perceive themselves as being especially threatened.

Further reductions in nuclear arsenals:

START I and II make a serious effort to deflate the bloated nuclear establishments of the Cold War, but more needs to be done before 1995 if the old attacks on "nuclear hegemony" are not to be resumed. Of course, the non-nuclear world must recognize that any achievement over the next two years will be promises for deeper reductions well after 1995. The United States and Russia already have backlogs of weapons removed from service and awaiting dismantlement.

The strategic objectives for pursuing further action are threefold:

(1) to accelerate the reduction schedule established by START II, and to follow on with another agreement cutting START II levels to the 1,000-1,500 warhead range (as with other non-proliferation problems, this will require a satisfactory resolution of the status of the nuclear weapons based in Ukraine and Kazakhstan);

(2) to draw Britain, France and China into reduction negotiations; and

(3) to minimize the danger of an accidental or unauthorized launch of a missile or a long-range bomber by reducing, or in some cases further reducing, the alert status of all deployed nuclear forces.

An additional objective should be to disclose and limit nuclear stockpiles, not just deployments. (START I and II deal only with the latter; the extensive dismantling that is under way is unilateral.)

Although little can be achieved before 1995, the United States should insist that the problem be addressed and it should lead the way by announcing its willingness to accept, step-by-step, a disclosure process which will eventually place all of its nuclear weapons and weapon material in internationally safeguarded facilities, provided the other nuclear powers do likewise.

There is a special urgency in the case of the former Soviet Union, where the large stockpile of excess weapon material could pose major security and proliferation problems.

Eventual elimination of nuclear weapons:

Although established as a goal more than forty years ago, governments simply have not given much thought to how or when nuclear weapons can be eliminated, or for that matter how to guard against efforts to "break out" from a nuclear-weapon-free world which has not forgotten how to make these bombs.

Authoritative, high-level discussion of this problem should help put a foundation of realism under the debate about elimination which will take place over the next two years. Rather than rejecting or ignoring such calls, the United States should lead discussions among the nuclear powers to renew the long-standing pledges of nuclear disarmament, while drawing the leading non-nuclears into a serious study of how to achieve the agreed objective.

The principle underlying the 1970 NPT holds that the spread of nuclear weapons will create regional and global instability and undermine the security of all nations. This proposition is no less true today.

HTC Pressure must be maintained directly on North Korea to drop its threat to leave the NPT and accept the inspections called for under the treaty. And Saddam Hussein must be made to understand that he cannot wriggle out from under the inspection regime the Security Council has imposed on him. But our efforts on both these hard cases can only be strengthened by continued U.S. leadership in the consolidation of the worldwide non-proliferation enterprise.

Gerard Smith is chairman and James Leonard is director of the Washington Council on Non-Proliferation. Mr. Smith is former director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and Mr. Leonard is former U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament. A longer version of this article was published by the Washington Council on Non-Proliferation.

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