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Nonproliferation and disarmament go hand in hand
International Herald Tribune
Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Seven foreign ministers speak out Nuclear weapons, a legacy of the cold war, today give rise to dangerous new perspectives. Old and new threats converge, putting at risk the security of us all.

Seven years ago the foreign ministers of our countries - Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden - joined together in a New Agenda Coalition to work toward a security order where nuclear weapons would no longer be given a role. Today, we are more convinced than ever that nuclear disarmament is imperative for international peace and security.

We are faced with the perils of nuclear weapons finding their way into more military arsenals and the risk that these old tools of deterrence might become new tools of terrorists.

Nonproliferation is vital. But it is not sufficient. Nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament are two sides of the same coin and both must be energetically pursued. Otherwise we might soon enter a new nuclear arms race with new types, uses and rationales for such weapons and eventually also more warheads. And the primary tool for controlling nuclear weapons, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, risks falling apart, with further proliferation as a consequence.

The nonproliferation treaty cannot be complied with la carte. It is a legally binding agreement, which relies on a fine balance between the commitments of the five nuclear-weapon states - China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States - and those of the nonnuclear-weapon states. The heart of the treaty is that the latter will not develop nuclear weapons in return for which the nuclear powers will reduce and eventually eliminate their nuclear weapons.

In 1995 and 2000 this bargain was further refined. In 1995, the nonnuclear-weapon states agreed to the indefinite extension of the nonproliferation treaty, provided that the nuclear powers pursued nuclear disarmament and that all worked toward the entry into force of the comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty.

In 2000, the nuclear powers made an unequivocal undertaking to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, and all parties adopted a practical plan for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. Since then, however, very little progress has been made.

There are deeply disturbing signs pointing in the opposite direction. Instead of working toward the entry into force of the nuclear test-ban treaty, the United States, which was the first country to sign the treaty, has withdrawn its support. And China delays its ratification process year after year. Instead of eliminating nuclear weapons, some nuclear powers have plans to modernize or develop new kinds of nuclear weapons or new rationales for them.

Some even entertain the notion that nuclear weapons may be used pre-emptively against nonnuclear-weapon states. In Russia, nuclear weapons are increasingly seen as a possible defense against conventional weapons. Instead of destroying their nuclear warheads, the United States and Russia store them.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is an important step in the right direction, but it does not require the destruction of these weapons, does not include tactical nuclear weapons and does not have any verification provisions. The process is neither irreversible, nor transparent.

If the nuclear-weapon states continue to treat nuclear weapons as a security enhancer, there is a real danger that other states will start pondering they should do the same. Recent developments show that this has already happened.

What, then, can be done?

First, all parties must comply with their commitments under the nonproliferation treaty, and the treaty should be made universal. All states should raise the guard against the further spread of nuclear weapons. And the nuclear-weapon states must comply with their commitments and pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith. Any plans to develop new nuclear weapons, new uses, roles or rationalizations for their use, must be shelved immediately.

Second, the entry into force of the nuclear test-ban treaty should be pursued as a matter of urgency.

Third, talks on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty should start immediately. The treaty would ban the production of key components of nuclear weapons, enriched uranium and plutonium, and form a cornerstone in the nuclear disarmament process.

It would impose restraints on India, Israel and Pakistan, the three states still outside the nonproliferation treaty. Together with the test-ban treaty, it would go a long way to uphold the nonproliferation treaty and strengthen the norm on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament.

The future depends on our actions.

This article was signed by Foreign Ministers Celso Amorim of Brazil; Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit of Egypt; Brian Cowen of Ireland; Luis Ernesto Derbez Bautista of Mexico; Phil Goff of New Zealand; Nkosazana Dlimini-Zuma of South Africa; and Laila Freivalds of Sweden.