23 Apr Sobering State of Play for Upcoming NPT Review Conference
A new report entitled “Nuclear Weapons: the State of Play 2015” makes for very sober reading. The authors are Gareth Evans, Tanya Ogilvie-White and Ramesh Thakur, and the report was written for the upcoming NPT review conference.
Gareth Evans is on a world-tour releasing the report, and yesterday I saw him at the International Peace Institute in New York. You can watch his excellent presentation here. He noted that five years ago, there was reason for optimism on the disarmament front: President Obama gave his famous Prague speech, the Test Ban Treaty was ratified by the Senate, and new START agreements were put in place. All signs of progress. By 2012, optimism had started to fade, and now it has all but disappeared (with the important exceptions of progress on negotiations with Iran, and a new effort to focus on the humanitarian consequences of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). There is a clear reemergence of cold-war thinking about the deterrent utility of WMDs. Moreover, there are increasing risks due to new technologies and the potential of sabotage.
The report also illustrates that States are not very serious about disarmament. They have not committed to a timetable on reducing stockpiles, and at present, every nuclear power state – the 5 States party to the NPT, and the 4 outside – foresee indefinite retention of their WMD. While the report notes some progress on verification, there has been little to none with regards to transparency and irreversible dismantlement of weapons. The global total of warheads is now approximately16,400. Moreover, we are seeing Asian states increasing their stockpiles, although Evans noted they are proceeding from a small base. The report is very well organized with a color-coded progress rating on multiple issue areas, and well worth reading.
Despite – or rather because of – the seriousness of the current situation, Evans, and discussant Angela Kane, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, emphasized that it is an extremely important time to maintain energy and bottom-up pressure. Let’s hope this guide becomes a useful tool for negotiators at the meetings starting next week.