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The Global Nuclear Future: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Grand Bargain—Its Historical Evolution, Present Challenges, and Future Opportunities

On May 5, 2015, the Carnegie Corporation of New York hosted the American Academy and its Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative for a side event during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The event was designed to offer a venue for academics, policy-makers, high-level dignitaries, and former chairs of past NPT processes to reflect on the opportunities for and challenges to the process of collective nuclear governance represented by the NPT face. After an introduction from Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian, Dr. Fanton shared examples of the work that the Academy has done since the 1960s in the area of global security.

On behalf of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, it is my great pleasure to welcome such a distinguished group to this discussion on “The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Grand Bargain: Its Historical Evolution, Present Challenges, and Future Opportunities.”

I also want to express my deepest gratitude to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, President Vartan Gregorian, and the Carnegie staff for hosting us today in this beautiful venue, and for the generous support they have provided to the Academy over the years.

I have known Vartan for years and continue to follow his work with admiration. Vartan and I have long made common cause, starting when he was President of the New York Public Library and I was President of the New School for Social Research, and continuing when we served as presidents of MacArthur and Carnegie. He has a laser instinct for the most important issues facing the world, the best people to address those issues, and how to connect thoughtful scholarship to public policy. In this endeavor he is supported by a very talented, driven, and professional team that includes Deana Arsenian, Stephen Del Rosso, and Carl Robichaud, among many others. The Academy is honored to make common cause with you all on issues from higher education to international peace and security.

We have enjoyed a close collaboration on the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative, launched in 2008 under the leadership of Professor Scott Sagan of Stanford, Professor Steven Miller of Harvard, and former Argonne National Laboratory Director Robert Rosner, now at the University of Chicago. The project supports the creation of regional networks of nuclear expertise in Southeast Asia and the Middle East to help countries make more educated decisions on nuclear policies. Ultimately, the purpose of GNF is to ensure that if a country decides to pursue nuclear power, it does so in a responsible manner.

Alongside its regional approach, GNF has also sought to contribute to the advancement of what is conventionally called the “global nuclear order.” We have worked and continue to work to produce scholarship that could foster institutional innovation in nuclear governance and strengthen existing institutions such as the NPT and the IAEA. Some of you might remember Shared Responsibilities for Nuclear Disarmament: A Global Debate, an occasional paper authored by Professor Sagan in 2011. In it, he advances the idea that, in addition to the NPT framework, nuclear disarmament has to be understood and tackled within the broader framework of general disarmament, whose success or failure is ultimately the responsibility of all. Similarly, in 2012, an occasional paper by Professor Miller, Nuclear Collisions: Discord, Reform & the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime, sought to investigate the root causes of divisions within the NPT community.

Today, we look forward to continued investigation of the role played by the NPT in ensuring global nuclear cooperation and how the NPT grand bargain has evolved—and with what consequences. Despite its imperfections, the NPT stands as a leading example of what can be achieved when nations decide to bypass their ideological differences and cooperate for the greater good. Yet, as the international community gathers to review the NPT, geopolitical tensions are mounting, arms-control negotiations have stalled, and risks of further military escalations continue to rise in different regions around the world.

It is in these difficult circumstances that the Academy can play an important role by looking historically at how the international community has successfully overcome similar challenges in the past and by distilling best practices that might be applicable to today’s context.

As most of you know, the American Academy was founded in 1780 to honor excellence in a broad range of disciplines and professions and to develop rigorous scholarship that could better inform policy-making and ultimately advance the common good.

The Academy has adopted an objective and multidisciplinary approach to conducting studies. Indeed, our ability to draw on experts from around the world and from every discipline and profession is the Academy’s biggest asset in providing thoughtful, independent advice. The Academy’s research program is organized around four broad areas: 1) Science, Engineering and Technology; 2) Humanities, Arts and Education; 3) American Institutions and the Public Good; and 4) Global Security and International Affairs.

For the last sixty years, global security has been our most enduring interest. A group of Academy members including Donald Brennan, Edward Teller, Henry Kissinger, and Thomas Schelling established the Arms Control Committee in 1959 to study possible pathways to deescalate the nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was this committee that coined the term “strategic stability,” which then became the central principle underpinning the nuclear postures of both superpowers.

In 1963, the Academy and several of its members, including Eugene Rabinowitch at the University of Illinois and Leo Szilard at the University of Chicago, played a critical role in the creation of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. The goal of Pugwash is to avert the dangers resulting from the global deployment of weapons of mass destruction, in particular, thermonuclear weapons. And Academy members have played an active role in its work; indeed, Steve Miller now serves as Cochair of both the Global Nuclear Future Initiative and of the Pugwash Executive Committee.

In 1982, the Academy established its Committee on International Security Studies (CISS), which remains active to this day. One of the Committee’s first activities was to convene the Nuclear Weapons Freeze and Arms Control Conference, with the goal of bridging the gap between the arms control community and the WMD-free zone supporters. The following year, in direct response to the speech by President Reagan on March 23, 1983, that launched the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars,” CISS opened a project to explore the implication of placing weapons in space.

The last American Academy initiative that I wish to highlight is the 1986–1989 study that explored the interface between the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty, or ABMT) and nuclear deterrence, and which was released by the Academy with a foreword by U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, who is now a member of the Advisory Panel of the Global Nuclear Future Initiative.

Since 2008, the Global Nuclear Future Initiative has allowed the Academy to build on its previous five decades of scholarship to better understand the implications of the expansion of nuclear energy around the world. We have benefitted enormously from the wisdom of many in this room in our efforts to develop solutions to the challenges that nuclear newcomers face in their pursuit of safe, secure, and transparent nuclear power programs.

The mission of the Academy offers a venue to facilitate thoughtful conversations on challenging and complex issues. We have come a long way in discussing, exploring, understanding, and writing about arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, but there remains much work to be done.

I thank you very much for having accepted our invitation to share your expertise as we advance together toward a more stable, peaceful, and secure world.

At this point, Dr. Fanton turned the program over to the Chair of the New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology, and War project Scott D. Sagan, the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, to introduce the panelists.

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