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Statement from David Krieger

In exchange for the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1995 certain promises were made by the nuclear weapons states.  These included their promises of determined pursuit "of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goals of eliminating those weapons...."  These promises reflected the obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament already enshrined in Article VI of the NPT.  They also

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foreshadowed the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice, which stated on July 8, 1996:

  • "There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control."

    Unfortunately, the nuclear weapons states have ignored both their own promises and their obligations under international law.  The reasonable expectations of the proponents of a nuclear weapons free world have been frustrated, and those who yearn for a safer world have been disappointed by the lack of good faith on the part of the nuclear weapons states.  Rather than following a path of systematic and progressive efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament, the nuclear weapons states have engaged in the determined pursuit of efforts to impede nuclear disarmament.  This is their record:

  • Opposition to commencing multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament, including opposition to setting up an Ad Hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament;
  • Continued maintenance of nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert, despite the end of the Cold War;
  • Continued U.S. testing of nuclear weapons in "subcritical" tests, U.S. promises to assist other nuclear weapons states with subcritical testing, and indications that other nuclear weapons states plan to conduct subcritical tests;
  • Continued development by the U.S. of laboratory facilities for nuclear weapons testing, and U.S. expenditures of $30 billion per year on nuclear weapons programs, including $4.5 billion annually for so-called "stockpile stewardship";
  • Development and testing by the U.S. of nuclear weapons with new functions such as the B61-11 earth-penetrating warhead;
  • Development and testing by the U.S. of anti-satellite lasers (MIRACL);
  • Failure to make unequivocal no first use pledges, or enter into negotiations on a No First Use Agreement;
  • Russian retraction of its no first use promise, and its adoption of a lower standard similar to that of the Western nuclear weapons states;
  • Undermining of existing inadequate security assurances of non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states in U.S. Presidential Decision Directive 60;
  • U.S. revision of its nuclear warfare policy to include the threat of nuclear retaliation against chemical or biological attacks;
  • Failure to make any progress on a promised treaty controlling the production of weapons-grade fissile materials;
  • Failure to provide a complete and accurate accounting of all weapons-grade fissile materials in their possession;
  • Publicly emphasizing policies of detargeting, but failing to make clear that retargeting is automatic and immediate;
  • Continued reliance on policies of launch on warning;
  • Continued maintenance of nuclear pits, even after the dismantling of nuclear weapons;
  • Continued maintenance of nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy all of humanity;
  • Deferring for five years, until the end of 2007, the achievement of the START II goals for reductions in the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 3,500 on each side;
  • Failure to commence negotiations on START III to achieve further reductions in nuclear arsenals;
  • Failure of the United States to withdraw its nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, and failure of members of NATO to require this;
  • Determination by NATO, led by the U.S., to exclude use of nuclear weapons as a war crime or crime against humanity from the statute of the planned International Criminal Court; and
  • Failure to acknowledge and respond to the obligations set forth in the opinion of the International Court of Justice.

The people of the world, including those in the nuclear weapons states, are nearly unanimous in their support of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  Nearly all states are also in strong support of this goal.  It is the governments of the five declared nuclear weapons states that are systematically and progressively impeding efforts to achieve the elimination of their own arsenals.  By this behavior they continue to threaten the security of all peoples of the world and the sustainability of the biosphere of the Earth.

 The record of the nuclear weapons states on their promise for the determined pursuit of systematic and progressive efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament shows contempt for the other parties to the NPT and for the future of humanity.  The most important question before the 1998 NPT Prepcom is: How can the nuclear weapons states be persuaded to bring their actions for the elimination of nuclear weapons into line with their obligations?

We are in a race against time.  Continued failure by the nuclear weapons states to live up to their obligations under international law and to and abide by their promises is undermining the NPT and risks its ultimate disintegration.  It will result in missing what may be the most significant opportunity since the beginning of the Nuclear Age to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons.

    If we miss the current opportunity to achieve complete nuclear disarmament, promised in Article VI of the NPT and repledged at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, the consequences could be dire for the citizens of world in the twenty-first century.  So long as the nuclear weapons states continue to rely upon their nuclear arsenals for security, humanity will remain threatened by the future use -- by accident, miscalculation or design -- of these instruments of genocide.  To avoid this, before the next NPT PrepCom in 1999 the nuclear weapons states should be pressed to take five critical steps:

  1. Take their nuclear weapons off  alert status;
  2. Enter into an unequivocal no first use agreement;
  3. Provide a full public accounting of all nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons grade materials;
  4. Cease subcritical nuclear testing; and
  5. Begin multilateral negotiations on achieving a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons.  We strongly urge that a NPT intersessional Working Group be established to move this process forward.

    *David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.