US Is the Main Culprit in NPT Failure
Jimmy Carter is a former president of the United States and founder of the Carter Center in Atlanta. The 2005 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty convened in New York in May.
Atlanta—Considering the addition of Iran and North Korea as states that either possess or seek nuclear weapons programs, the indifference of the United States and other nuclear powers to the recent renewal conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty was appalling. The conference ended in failure, even though a recent United Nations report warned starkly: "We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible and result in a cascade of proliferation."
In the run-up to the conference, a group of "Middle States" had a simple goal: "To exert leverage on the nuclear powers to take some minimum steps to save the non-proliferation treaty in 2005." Last year this coalition of nuclear-capable states—including Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and eight NATO members—voted for a new agenda resolution calling for implementing NPT commitments already made. Tragically, the US, Britain and France voted against this resolution.
Preparatory talks failed even to achieve an agenda because of the deep divisions between nuclear powers that refuse to meet their own disarmament commitments and the non-nuclear movement, whose demands include honoring these pledges and considering the Israeli arsenal.
Until recently, all American presidents since Dwight Eisenhower had striven to restrict and reduce nuclear arsenals—some more than others. So far as I know, there are no present efforts by any of the nuclear powers to accomplish these crucial goals.
The US is the major culprit in this erosion of the NPT. While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea, American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new weapons, including anti-ballistic missiles, the earth-penetrating bunker buster—and perhaps some new "small" bombs. They also have abandoned past pledges and now threaten first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.
Some corrective actions are obvious:
If the US and other nuclear powers are serious about stopping the erosion of the NPT, they must act now on these issues. Any other course will mean a world in which the nuclear threat increases, not diminishes.