Commentators on the NPT usually fall into two categories. One group,
the nationals of NWS and their allies, believe in arms control (as distinct from
disarmament) predicated on the retention of nuclear arms by the five NWS and the
strict prohibition of any proliferation of these weapons to other states. Their
commentaries are preoccupied with dangers to the NPT arising from breakouts from
the regime, with the current suspects being Iran, Syria, and North Korea (although
the latter has already announced its withdrawal from the NPT, has conducted two
nuclear tests, and is believed to have a small arsenal of nuclear weapons). A second
group comes from NNWS, largely from countries within the NAM. These commentators
believe in both arms control and disarmament, and they identify the lack
of progress by NWS in implementing Article VI as equally, if not more, important
in comparison to the core Articles I and II. They see the NPT as a transitional
stage toward a nuclear-weapons-free world.
The debate revolves around, on the one hand, a common identification of three pillars
that support the NPT—nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear
energy—and, on the other, a sharp disagreement over the comparative importance
of each pillar. That disagreement is routinely papered over with adroit diplomacy
and drafting skills at NPT review conferences, when a final document can be agreed
upon by consensus. But the discord invariably reappears as the next review conference
approaches. The mutual recrimination between the NWS and their allies and the NNWS
is largely mirrored in the academic community.
Steven Miller’s paper, however, is a refreshingly frank and realistic assessment
of the NPT, providing readers with a snapshot of the treaty’s current status
and containing practical suggestions for its improvement. He begins with the fundamental
recognition that the NPT regime, like all other treaty-based international legal
regimes, rests on the principle of consent among sovereign states. For a large number
of NAM countries, that sovereignty has only recently been regained after a dark
period of colonialism. The Westphalian system of the nation-state may seem to be
phasing itself out in more developed countries, with the rise in regional and global
constructs; although even these, such as the euro zone, appear to be under stress.
Ethno-nationalism and religion are also threatening to break up large states, encouraged—ironically—by
Western democracies in the name of human rights. Christian South Sudan is the 193rd
member of the UN, and the dramatic Arab Spring that has drawn selective intervention
from the UN Security Council has seen NATO action only in oil-rich Libya, while
ferment in Bahrain and Yemen continues. Thus, for the NAM, sovereignty and independence
are fundamental issues and any attempt to curtail them—such as by imposing
the Additional Protocol as a mandatory qualification for Article IV benefits or
by reinterpreting Article X—will be met with resistance. The original drafting
of the NPT, it should be remembered, is perceived by most NNWS as a hegemonic Cold
War exercise between the United States and the Soviet Union that made amendment
procedures virtually impossible.
Today, the NPT must be viewed in a global context in which the political and economic
power of the West, in general, and the United States, in particular, is in decline.
The center of gravity in global power is shifting gradually to the global South,
especially in light of the strong resurgence of the Chinese and Indian economies.
The problem of Security Council reform is similar to NPT reform. Another important
aspect of the global context is the demand for nuclear power, which is likely to
continue despite the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. The
pressures of climate change have led to demands for carbon-free energy, and despite
its costs and risks, nuclear power is an attractive option for many countries. We
also have to contend with aggressive nuclear power suppliers that offer appealing
terms for the reactors they sell. These suppliers now include countries outside
the developed West and Russia, such as the Republic of Korea. Thus, more NNWS will
want to exercise their Article IV rights to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
It is vital that there be a level playing field for countries and that safeguards
do not infringe on sovereignty. Perhaps the IAEA should follow the unique tripartite
structure of one of the oldest international organizations—the International
Labor Organization—which has governments, employer organizations, and trade
unions represented. This structure gives an equal voice to workers, employers, and
governments, ensuring that the views of the social partners are closely reflected
in labor standards and in shaping policies and programs. Governments, the nuclear
industry, and civil society could have a similarly structured organization within
the IAEA to ensure that Article IV benefits are made accessible in a wise and equitable
fashion. Any such organization would strengthen both the IAEA and the NPT.
Miller attempts to identify the colliding visions within the NPT, and he sets about
his task methodically. “It is almost as if there are two NPT regimes,”
he asserts. Following the conclusion of the NPT, other developments have exacerbated
the dichotomy between NWS and NNWS. There was Israel’s
undeclared crossing of the nuclear threshold, for example, and the
seemingly uncritical acceptance of this move by the Western nuclear powers. Israel
is an outlier state with a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying
possession of nuclear weapons. Some leaks have been hastily plugged, and whistle-blowers
like Mordechai Vanunu have been effectively silenced. The origins of the Israeli
nuclear program go back to the late 1950s; and by 1970, Israel was reported to have
crossed the nuclear threshold. France was believed to be the source of nuclear expertise
and material in the early stages of Israel’s program. By the 1980s, Israel
was understood to have a mature nuclear weapons program based around Dimona. The
other outlier favored by the United States and the West is India. Miller honestly
concludes that the impact of the U.S.India nuclear cooperation deal has “been
more damaging than anticipated.” Indeed, the United States has still to reap
any economic benefits from the deal. The third instance of NWS contradictions, or
double standards, is with respect to extended deterrence and the stationing of U.S.
nuclear weapons in Europe.
Miller’s analysis of the reform proposals shows wide differences between NWS
and NNWS on fissile material production; on the issue of not engaging in enrichment
or reprocessing; on export controls, especially the functioning of the extra-NPT
body, the Nuclear Suppliers Group; and the many other reforms proposed by both NWS
and NNWS. He argues that “competing conceptions of the NPT system are accompanied
by competing programs for reform of the regime.” Having so accurately described
the “serious collisions of interests and perceptions” in the NPT regime,
what are Miller’s own prescriptions?
Miller recommends two processes by which the deep divisions within the NPT can be
managed. The first is through the very political diversity of NPT states parties
and the fact that the NAM is a movement and not a rigid organization—which
permits ad hoc groups like the New Agenda Coalition to emerge and function as bridge-builders
in the successful adoption of a final document, as it did at the 2000 NPT Review
Conference with its thirteen “practical steps.” The other process Miller
identifies is the bonding over a common interest in preserving the norms of the
NPT regime. Miller believes that a focus on interests, not just rights, will enable
a more rational approach to emerge. Economic interests should be highlighted in
areas such as the construction of new nuclear power plants. Considering common interests
would also entail more consultation than imposition, more focus on voluntary measures
than mandatory ones. Miller is right in both of his recommendations, but my disappointment
is that he does not go beyond them.
There needs to be a better understanding of the wellsprings of NNWS and NAM approaches
to the NPT. In the 1960s, when a large number of Asian and African countries entered
the UN, the decision-making that took place in international forums evolved from
a voting-by-numbers game favored by the developed countries into a consensus model.
The majority favoring the developed countries became a “tyranny” when
the same rules favored the developing countries. And so consensus became the ideal
and has indeed been the practice in the NPT, with voting wielded only as a threat
(to say nothing of whether that voting would be by secret or open ballot). This
transition has helped create a better atmosphere for consultation, but it must be
a consultation among equals as sovereign countries. Against this backdrop, it is
indeed surprising that the NAM has had inadequate attention from Western scholars.
Western diplomats react with derisory incomprehension over the NAM and question
its post-Cold War rationale. The NAM riposte is to question NATO’s raison d’etre
now that the Cold War is over, as well as its functioning beyond the North Atlantic.
Filling the gap and complementing Miller’s thoughtful essay is the welcome
publication of a book by William Potter and Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova. Principles
vs. Pragmatism: The Nuclear Politics of the Non-Aligned Movement, which
Miller himself refers to in his essay, is based on scholarly research enriched by
direct personal experience at NPT conferences; it reveals a depth of understanding
rare in Western research on NAM in the context of nuclear disarmament and the NPT.
The book comes out of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the
Monterey Institute of International Studies, a well-known center of excellence that
has long fulfilled the task of bridging differences between NWS and NNWS with regard
to disarmament norms.
The book’s four parts explore the basis for the NAM; the movement’s
machinery; a set of case studies on specific issues; and the future of the movement,
especially in terms of Iran taking over the NAM chairmanship. The authors’
understanding of the subject, based on personal interviews with key NAM diplomats
and their observance of NAM diplomacy in NPT gatherings, is deep and commendable.
They see the differences of opinion and inconsistencies as part of the loose structure
of the NAM, noting that even more rigid organizations like the EU and NATO have
their own differences. Not all of the NAM is within the NPT. The authors distinguish
between NAM’s unequivocal support for nuclear disarmament and the lack of
emphasis on nuclear nonproliferation, while also considering the different attitudes
toward the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, among other issues. They also help
add context to the fears over Iran assuming the NAM chairmanship, citing historical
precedents such as the chairmanship by Cuba.
As I expressed at the conclusion of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the relief that
the NWS felt over the adoption of the final declaration’s conclusions and
recommendations and the lukewarm reaction from NAM states and pro-disarmament NGOs
signified that we had only bought the NPT another five years. The tensions endemic
in the central bargain of the NPT remain. Good-faith implementation of the 64-point
action plan as laid out in the final document will be crucial, as will progress
on the New START along with ratification of the CTBT by the United States. The future
course of the six-nation talks on North Korea, the resolution of the questions over
Iran’s nuclear program, and the outcomes of the 2012 Middle East nuclear conference
will also determine the future of the NPT. The treaty has survived another challenge,
but without further action by NWS and their allies—they alone have the power
of decisive action in achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world—the NPT will