Is the USA truly committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

EAST WEST TREATY SIGNED

The extent to which the United States of America upholds their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has often been subject to scrutiny. Though a considerable number of states has ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty more than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, this fact alone does not provide enough evidence to display the extent of commitment by any particular party involved. As the headline suggests, the scope of this analysis will focus primarily on the extent to which the United States has remained compliant with the obligations regarding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

From the moment the Non-Proliferation Treaty become effective on March 5th 1970, it has no doubt marked a new age for the reduction and eventual disarmament of nuclear weapons, to promote peaceful uses of nuclear power, further encouraging harmonious cooperation between states that are recognized as both nuclear weapon or non-nuclear weapon states. It should be noted that the during the time of its establishment, the world had no experience in dealing with the disarmament of weapons of this magnitude. Over the past forty-six years the United States of America has significantly reduced the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal. During the time the NPT become effective in 1970, the USA was in possession of 26,000 nuclear weapons. By 2013, during Barack Obama’s presidency this figure had dropped to 4,804, a reduction of 82 percent, demonstrating a great deal of progress in the move towards disarmament. Despite these reductions, it is evident that both the USA and Russia still possess a significantly extensive amount (more than 90%) of the global nuclear weapons stockpile.

(Click here to open a larger version of the chart below)

 

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President Obama, who on many occasions publically claimed that his administration was making further progress towards “a world without nuclear weapons”, has been criticised for not doing enough. In fact, it is evident that though the amount of nuclear weapons has been reduced over the course of his presidency, he has proposed that the USA require a modern nuclear weapons program. As indicated by his administration, it would cost over one trillion USD, that would be funded by the US Government decades. At the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the USA was subject to criticism as this blatantly demonstrated contradiction to Obama’s commitment to see a “world free of nuclear weapons”. Furthermore, an extensive and modern nuclear weapons program would only certify the survival of the weapons of mass destruction for a great many years to come. Therefore, it is possible to rebuke President Obama’s frequent claims that Nuclear Non-Proliferation was central in his administration.

However, the USA continues to maintain a positive outlook on the situation. Professor Graham T. Allison of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard has stated that “despite its disparagers, the United States continues to reduce its weapons stockpile and provide global leadership to prevent a nuclear catastrophe”. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) demonstrates a great deal of promise for the future of Nuclear Non-Proliferation. It is hoped that the treaty will reduce both the USA’s and Russia’s nuclear weapon stockpile to 1,550 strategic warheads by 2018, a figure significantly lower than the current and the lowest it has been since the Eisenhower presidency. President Obama has also suggested further negotiations to reduce the nuclear weapons arsenal even further, by up to one-third below the figure proposed by START. If negotiations with Russia are successful, not only does this demonstrate great vision by President Obama, but provides further significant evidence of the USA’s commitment to the NPT.

Notably, in addition to the effort to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons themselves, the USA has shown a great deal of commitment towards the safeguard of nuclear materials. Recently, in March of this year, the USA has acquired a great deal of plutonium from Japan, enough to produce up to 50 nuclear bombs. The movement of the plutonium highlights both the USA’s and Japan’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. As Japan is the only country in the world to have “ever have been attacked with nuclear weapons, and under a 1967 policy it refuses to produce, possess or allow nuclear weapons on its soil”. Moreover, the USA continues to cooperate with non-nuclear weapon states. This can be displayed by the efforts of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, whereby the programs primary aim is to “develop innovative monitoring and verification solutions” with regards the negotiation and eventual verification of nuclear disarmament of over 25 countries currently involved.

President Obama demonstrated through his speech at Prague in 2009 that the USA will remain committed to holding noncompliant parties of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to account. He stated that “rules must be binding, violations must be punished and words must mean something”. This statement no doubt refers to North Korea’s withdrawal, the first and only country to formally withdraw from the NPT. The USA has persistently encouraged North Korea to re-join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to comply with its obligations and remain under the safeguard of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The USA, along with other parties involved in the NPT, has strongly proposed a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty would internationally outlaw nuclear explosions, by any means or on any grounds, and would greatly demonstrate a significant deal of progress in the move towards disarmament and non-proliferation. Thus, it is clear that the USA remains to be a strong proponent of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as not only have they made efforts concerning their own nation, but strongly advocate non-proliferation to both nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states.

The United States of America is no doubt a strong advocate of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The continued efforts to reduce their own nuclear weapons stockpile, the negotiations with nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states regarding non-proliferation all but display the significance of their actions. Furthermore, if the aims of the Non-Proliferation Treaty are to be achieved, the USA must continue to remain committed to their obligations regarding the NPT and continue to demonstrate leadership amongst all parties involved in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation movement.

Simon Hurst

Bibliography:

Arms Control Associated, https://www.armscontrol.org/print/6934, Accessed 5th December 2016.

The Global Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime, http://www.cfr.org/nonproliferation-arms-control-and-disarmament/global-nuclear-nonproliferation-regime/p18984#p3, Accessed 5th December 2016.

US Department of State, https://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/, Accessed 4th December 2016.

Walton L. Brown, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 3, Conduct of Foreign Policy (Summer, 1994), pp. 563-575, Accessed at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27551284?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents, Accessed 4th December 2016.

 

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