Thursday, April 09, 2009


President Obama's speech in Prague last week on nuclear proliferation is very encouraging. For the first time in decades, a US president moves away from a simplistic one-sided view of nuclear proliferation, and clearly acknowledges the legal obligation Nuclear Weapons States have contracted as Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to achieve significant steps towards nuclear disarmament. In other words, in order to be credible (and successful) in their action to prevent horizontal proliferation (more countries possessing nuclear weapons, let alone the risk of terrorist organizations developing their own nuclear devices), the five NPT original Nuclear Weapons States must address vertical proliferation (that is, according to NPT Article VI, to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control").

When the NPT was adopted in 1968, Article VI was the dealmaker: the Non-Nuclear Weapons States agreed not to acquire nuclear weapons, because of the Nuclear Weapons States accepting their part of the deal: Article VI, in good faith. But of course when the Nuclear Weapons States did not do their part of the deal, the system started to break down, and the perception that the NPT was discriminatory gained strength.

Obama's announcement in Prague that the US will host next year "a Global Summit on Nuclear security" is likely to make next year's scheduled NPT review conference an interesting event, if not an exciting one of historic dimension, exactly fourty years after the NPT entered into force in 1970. Here's the opportunity to bring non-proliferation and nuclear security into the 21st century.

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