In May 2010, the 2010 Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was held in New York. Unlike the 2005 Review Conference, which came to nothing, the recent international forum adopted a final document that must strengthen the NPT. This document, we believe, marked a remarkable success.
At present, 190 countries are parties to the NPT. The Treaty, which has been extended indefinitely, is often called the cornerstone of international security. This is how things stand today. But what place will it occupy in the security architecture of the new century?
The NPT was opened for signature on July 1, 1968. Someone called 1968 “the year that changed the world,” while someone else described it as a “fever year.” Spring in barricaded Paris was over, but the Prague Spring was still in full bloom. In less than two months, Soviet tanks would roll into Prague.
MORE ALIVE THAN DEAD
The NPT rode out the European chills, just as it rode out later the apotheosis of the Cold War, the collapse of the bipolar world, and a new set of challenges and threats in the new century. The 11 succinct articles of the Treaty have never shook the world, yet they have always served as a firmly cemented foundation of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. When the world was shaken by crises, the NPT always proved to be earthquake-proof: some people even find it suspicious that the Treaty has not cracked over the years. The May Review Conference was another proof of its strength, even though it did not end in the absolute victory of the idea of a nuclear-free world. The Final Document of the Conference was a tangible success, as it spelled out specific steps that nuclear and non-nuclear countries must take towards a world without nuclear weapons. It even mentioned a “nuclear weapons convention,” without elaborating though.
The Treaty’s achievements are undeniable. The main one is the minimization of the Nuclear Club’s expansion. Before the conclusion of the NPT, it was commonplace to speak of a world with a few dozen nuclear states. Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and Canada actively worked on nuclear programs. Egypt, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan, Argentina and Brazil in different years had an eye to nuclear weapons. But throughout the NPT’s history, it has been violated by just a few states (Romania, Iraq, Libya, probably Iran and Syria).
Today, we have only a few dodgers of the non-proliferation regime: these are Israel, India and Pakistan, which consistently remain outside of the NPT and which have nuclear weapons of their own, as well as North Korea – the only state in the NPT history that in 1993 initiated and in 2003 resumed the procedure of withdrawing from the Treaty and that developed a military nuclear program, including nuclear tests. Strictly speaking, Iran is not a dodger as it has not withdrawn from the Treaty; however, from the mid-1980s to 2003 it worked (and probably is still working) on a limited military nuclear program under the cover of its NPT membership.
In fact, all discussions about nuclear non-proliferation have in the last two decades pivoted on this alarming yet still limited list of states. If one opens newspapers of two decades ago and looks at publications on proliferation, one will surely have a feeling of d?j? vu. Whatever believers in the domino principle may say, there are no signs of other candidates for new nuclear states in sight. On the contrary, over the past two decades, the NPT has been joined by two recognized nuclear states – France and China, as well as by South Africa, which voluntarily renounced and destroyed its nuclear arsenal. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, where there were strategic nuclear weapons after the Soviet Union’s breakup, joined the Treaty as non-nuclear states. In case of Ukraine, the decision to renounce nuclear weapons was the result of a difficult compromise.
Much to the chagrin of those who dramatically predict a “crisis” of the Treaty and even its “early collapse,” there are no fundamental problems that could make the Treaty null and void in the foreseeable future. However, as you might guess, the purpose of this article is not delivering a panegyric for the NPT, but analyzing problems related to it. Let us single out five vulnerable points: disarmament; universality; withdrawal from the Treaty; peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and nuclear security.
CLOSE TO ZERO
Nuclear weapons stockpiles are now at their lowest level in 50 years. This factor confirms that countries possessing nuclear weapons are gradually moving towards Nuclear Zero. Participants in the 2010 NPT Review Conference agreed that the only guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is their total elimination.
Actually, the Nuclear Zero goal is not a desire but a commitment by all the 190 parties to the NPT, both non-nuclear and nuclear ones. It is set out in Article VI, one of the three pillars of the Treaty, along with nuclear non-proliferation and the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, adopted by consensus, set out this goal even more explicitly: “An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament.”
Should any of the pillars of the NPT subside under the weight of empty declarations not backed up by concrete moves, the entire sophisticated mechanism of the non-proliferation regime may get loose.
The last ten years have been synonymous with stagnation in nuclear disarmament. On April 1, 2009, Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, at their first meeting in London, announced that Russia and the U.S. would lead the movement towards a nuclear-free world. Five days later, Obama followed up on this issue in Prague. Both presidents agreed to begin negotiations on measures for further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
Negotiations were difficult, sometimes painful. Strangely enough, it was not the thresholds for the reduction of warheads and delivery vehicles that were the main obstacle. What stood in the way of progress was the lack of deep mutual trust. Certainly, the successful visit by Obama to Moscow in July and his subsequent September decision to renounce the deployment of elements of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland cleared the way for an agreement, but they have not cleared the dialogue of mutual suspicion that has piled up over decades. The negotiating skills of the parties have been largely lost over the almost two decades that have passed since START I was concluded. Fortunately, the parties’ new teams are now led by top-class professionals, Anatoly Antonov and Rose Gottemoeller.
So, on April 8, 2010, the “Prague Disarmament Spring” blossomed. The new Treaty limits the number of deployed warheads on each side to 1,550, which is 30 percent lower than the warhead limit of the Russian-U.S. Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT) Treaty of 2002 (which is rather a letter of intent than a treaty). The limits on deployed delivery vehicles (700), established by the New START Treaty, are more than twice lower than the limits provided for by the previous treaty. These reductions were predictable (the previous “battles over details” were nothing more than a chronicle of announced success) and not too radical (the parties could have cut their deployed warheads to 1,000 without any significant damage to their security). But they have suited both parties and sent an important and clear message to the whole world that Moscow and Washington are indeed moving towards real nuclear disarmament, rather than simply talk about it. An international conference of the PIR Center, held in June 2010 to discuss the New START Treaty, once again showed how much importance both Russia and the U.S. attach to its signing and entering into force as soon as possible.
Indeed, Russia’s previous experience with the Americans was not very consoling, so simultaneous ratification of the Treaty by the two countries would be the best decision. It would be premature to speak about further steps towards nuclear disarmament before ratification. However, both Washington and Moscow have begun to outline the roadmap.
What can the bilateral agenda for the next five years include?
First, the parties can make headway in joint efforts to prevent missile threats, including their joint evaluation and the development of an “antidote.” Above all, they must decide on the scheme of their interaction: should it proceed between Russia and the U.S. or between Russia and NATO. And how does Russia’s dialogue with the EU fit in the scheme?
Second, they can start reducing not only strategic but also sub-strategic nuclear weapons. To this end, the United States must first unilaterally withdraw all its tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, and there are signs that Washington understands this.
Third, the parties can begin simultaneous discussions on the prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space. The U.S. has so far displayed no interest in this issue.
In addition to the bilateral dialogue between the states, which together account for more than 95 percent of all nuclear weapons in the world, there are other nuclear states, where we see different-vectored tendencies with regard to Nuclear Zero.
Britain has been seriously and consistently preparing for a world without nuclear weapons. Of course, this is a matter of decades. Yet it is the United Kingdom that has a chance to become the second country after South Africa to voluntarily destroy its nuclear weapons and the first recognized nuclear state to do that.
France is experiencing discomfort from the U.S. and Russian disarmament declarations. Carla Bruni’s words that she had long “wanted a man with his finger on the nuclear button” give a true and fair view of how the French public opinion perceives nuclear weapons – namely, as a status symbol. “Yes, I like the nuclear bomb,” a prominent French political analyst has confessed. Of course, Paris will also demonstrate efforts to reduce nuclear arsenals and balance “close to zero” but for the foreseeable future it is not inclined to achieve any results.
Finally, China, which, according to official data, maintains a modest nuclear arsenal, has a capability of doubling its arsenal in no time, if one is to believe Chinese expert Dingli Shen and some other analysts.
What can be done in the next five years at a multilateral level to ensure a consistent movement towards the cherished “zero”?
First, all nuclear powers could pledge (in a joint declaration or parallel unilateral statements) not to build up their arsenals. Some countries (Russia, the U.S. and the UK) will hardly object, but others (China) may.
Second, all nuclear powers could pledge (in the same way as above) not to deploy nuclear weapons on land outside their national territory. The first step has already been made: the New START Treaty has such a provision in respect of Russian and U.S. strategic weapons. Now it should be extended to all kinds of weapons and all nuclear states.
Third, efforts must be made for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to enter into force as soon as possible. The Treaty will not take effect until it is signed and ratified by North Korea, India and Pakistan and until it is ratified by its signatories: China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and the United States. We agree with Russian diplomat Oleg Rozhkov, who said at an international conference organized by the PIR Center: “The situation with the ratification of the CTBT today cannot be described otherwise than a scandal, as 14 years have passed since the Treaty was signed. All the prerequisites for its ratification are there, especially as the U.S. has been showing signs of a change in its attitude to the Treaty.” Until the CTBT enters into force, all states should observe a moratorium on nuclear testing.
Fourth, all nuclear powers could pledge (in a joint statement or parallel unilateral statements) to renounce the development of new, more sophisticated types of nuclear weapons.
Fifth, the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament must be finally unblocked. The treaty would be a weighty practical contribution to the cause of disarmament.
Sixth, all nuclear powers could join the initiative of Russia and China to start work on a treaty on the prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space.
Seventh, the Russian-U.S. Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) should be made multilateral, and all states possessing nuclear weapons de jure and de facto must join it.
As we can see, the belief that nuclear disarmament must be the concern of nuclear states only is partly true. All parties to the NPT (as well as states remaining outside the Treaty) can contribute to nuclear disarmament, if they are interested in preventing the non-proliferation regime from stalling.
Another matter deserving special attention is the place of nuclear weapons in military policy. There have been many discussions about it. Some of these discussions were prompted by the adoption of the new Military Doctrine of Russia in February 2010. In fact, this doctrinal document does not essentially revise the role of nuclear weapons in Russia. More important, however, is the fact that it would be hardly reasonable of nations like Russia or China to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in their military policies today, especially given the insufficient development of new types of conventional weapons in these countries, above all precision-guided weapons which play a strategic role. As the May Review Conference showed, Russia is not ready yet to begin negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons, while the superiority of some states over it in precision-guided weapons is manifold. The absence of any mention of tactical nuclear weapons in the text of the Final Document annoyed many European countries (especially Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Poland); however, mentioning these weapons would have blown up the compromise on the Final Document’s disarmament section. The approach of such countries as Norway was much more pragmatic and acceptable: they proposed starting negotiating “all types” of nuclear weapons over time.
But if we talk about an agenda not for the next five years but, for example, for the next 20 years, then one should really seriously think that nuclear weapons in the 21st century will play a diminishing role in military and status-political affairs. It is difficult yet to imagine Nuclear Zero in this century, but one should prepare for a situation of “close to zero” in advance.
THE FOUR “ILLEGALS”
In addition to the “legitimate” five nuclear countries, there are four members of the Nuclear Club that do not obey the NPT rules: these are Israel, India, Pakistan (each has between 60 and 80 deployed warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI), and North Korea. The latter country can be counted as a half, so it would probably be more correct to speak of “three and a half” members of the Club.
There is also one more problem state – Iran, which does not possess nuclear weapons but which may implement a secret military nuclear program with a view to developing nuclear weapons (at the same time, our estimates are based on the belief that Tehran has not yet made a political decision to develop nuclear weapons, although it already has basic technological capabilities for that).
* Most likely, there were no nuclear tests, although Israel’s involvement in the mysterious South Atlantic Flash (also known as the Vela Incident) in 1979 is still not ruled out.
** On January 10, 2003, North Korea announced the resumption of procedures for its withdrawal from the NPT.
*** Pakistan conducted two underground nuclear tests, in which six nuclear explosive devices were detonated.
Source: “NPT 2010: How to Strengthen the Regime.” Moscow, PIR Center, 2010 (in Russian).
States parties to the NPT call for “universality” of the Treaty, that is, for the need for universal membership in it. A joint statement adopted by the five nuclear nations in May 2010 reiterated the need for non-parties to the Treaty to join it. However, the “universality” of the Treaty should not mean universality of approaches to each of the states remaining outside the NPT.
India developed nuclear weapons of its own in response to its humiliating defeat in a war with China, which at that time already had nuclear weapons; moreover, it was recognized as a nuclear state in accordance with the NPT. India failed to jump into the last carriage of the last train named NPT as a legitimate nuclear power and conducted its first nuclear test only in 1974. But has India’s behavior in recent decades not proved to everyone that it is a responsible nuclear state? Has New Delhi ever proliferated military nuclear technologies or materials to third countries? Finally, is it right to speak of giving non-nuclear status to India without raising, at the same time, the issue of China?
Realizing this, many pragmatic members of the international community, including the U.S. and Russia, took an unprecedented step in 2008 – they lifted restrictions on nuclear trade with India, which the Nuclear Suppliers Group imposes on any state that has not signed the NPT. The decision aroused a heated controversy. We believe it was a step in the right direction. India should continue to be involved in nuclear non-proliferation issues, as if it were the sixth member of the Nuclear Club in accordance with the NPT but without legal participation in it.
For its part, New Delhi should take such steps by the international community not as an act of grace but as an element of dialogue. It implies reciprocity and a responsible policy on the part of India with regard to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
We believe that the steps in the field of nuclear disarmament mentioned above in respect to the Nuclear Five can and must be applied to India as well. If the Nuclear Five pledge not to build up and not to upgrade their nuclear arsenals, New Delhi should immediately follow suit, making a similar pledge. India should not wait for being asked to sign the CTBT and should not plead the Treaty’s non-ratification by the U.S. or China as an excuse for its own keeping aloof. On the contrary, it should set an example of responsibility by signing and ratifying the CTBT within a short period of time and observing a moratorium on nuclear tests until the Treaty enters into force. Why cannot India do what Russia, Britain and France have done? Finally, New Delhi should strictly observe its commitment to place its peaceful nuclear program under IAEA safeguards.
Pakistan is a quite different case, although, of course, it launched its nuclear program to overtake India: “We’ll eat grass, but we’ll make a nuclear bomb.” Today, Pakistan is the only state possessing nuclear weapons where the political regime is unstable and is on the verge of collapse. Although the Pakistani military has repeatedly assured the world that there is no reason to worry about the level of physical security, accounting and control of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, it is difficult to take their words on trust – especially because it is in Pakistan and in its immediate vicinity that the most aggressive non-state actors operate that seek to gain unauthorized access to nuclear weapons and their components.
At the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Islamabad should stop blocking the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (although it sometimes seems that there is a shadow of China behind Pakistan’s obstruction of the CD). Pakistan should also join the CTBT, observing a moratorium on nuclear tests until the Treaty enters into force. In addition, Islamabad should provide IAEA inspectors with comprehensive information on the case of Abdul Qadeer Khan and his “team” who sold nuclear secrets.
And then the Pakistani leadership and the military should think hard together over whether or not their country gains anything from possessing nuclear weapons. Do they really ensure its security? What if nuclear weapons prove to be a nail driven into the coffin of Pakistani statehood, rather than its guarantor, as it is believed in Pakistan today?
North Korea, like formerly Pakistan, is also “eating grass” for the sake of developing nuclear weapons. The North Korean arsenal is difficult to estimate. Most likely, its stockpiles of weapons-grade nuclear materials are small. Nevertheless, the country has conducted, with varying success, two nuclear tests. The world is also greatly concerned over North Korea’s well-developed missile program. For its part, the North Korean leadership is annoyed when it is included in the “axis of evil” (the first “link” of this axis has been crushed and its leader hanged) or when it is ignored. Pyongyang needs attention, security guarantees and room for bargaining. The six-party talks (North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States) will probably follow this path. The implementation of agreements reached within the framework of the Six-Party Talks will help North Korea restore its full-scale participation in the NPT as non-nuclear state. Pyongyang could also support a moratorium on nuclear testing and in the future join the CTBT. Further steps may include participation, together with South Korea, in the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.
Israel deserves a special discussion, because it is the situation in the Middle East and the root of evil – Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons and its non-participation in the NPT – that can become the main delayed action mine that may ruin the Treaty.
Neither the issues of nuclear disarmament, nor the problem of Iran, or any other unsolved problems can inflict so much damage on the prestige and effectiveness of the NPT as the lack of progress in implementing the 1995 NPT Review Conference’s resolutions on the Middle East. The resolution called upon “all States of the Middle East that have not yet done so, without exception, to accede to the Treaty as soon as possible and to place their nuclear facilities under full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.” It also urged all parties to the NPT “to extend their cooperation and to exert their utmost efforts with a view to ensuring the early establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.”
Fifteen years have passed since then, but no progress has been made. Today, Israel is the only state in the region that remains outside the NPT. Israel not simply ignores any calls to make its nuclear facilities open to IAEA inspections and to begin negotiations on a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, but it publicly speaks of destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities (where there are no nuclear weapons).
The present situation in the Middle East makes any optimism about the very possibility of solving the Israeli nuclear problem sound naive. And yet, when and if the situation in the region starts changing for the better and more responsible and far-sighted leaders come to power in Israel, there will be no need to reinvent the wheel. Recipes for moving towards a nuclear-free Middle East have already been worked out, specifically in the early 1990s when the situation was basically different and when there was hope for progress.
First of all, Israel must give its consent to the extension of IAEA safeguards to the nuclear infrastructure in Dimona. Also, the creation of a nuclear-free zone must be preceded by an unequivocal commitment by the parties to refrain from attacking each other’s nuclear facilities. A treaty on a nuclear-free zone can be based on the 1993 joint declaration of Israel and Jordan on the normalization of their bilateral relations. It is crucially important to work out a system of verification and monitoring in the region where the tradition of trust has been lost. One can use the experience gained by regional organizations such as Euratom and the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC). The 2010 NPT Review Conference in New York announced plans to convene a conference in 2012 on the implementation of the 1995 Resolution of the Middle East. The 2012 Conference could serve as a platform for preparing such steps.
Although Israel is a “key” (and now also the main obstacle) to the solution of the Middle East nuclear problem, other countries in the region should not use anti-Israeli rhetoric to cover their own ambitions.
Iran should stop its policy of evasion and provide the IAEA with comprehensive data on its applied military nuclear program, which it did have. Only unprecedented cooperation with the IAEA will help Tehran avoid isolation. But there is also Egypt which, like Iran, has not ratified the CTBT. All the three states of the region (Egypt, Israel and Iran) must ratify the Treaty as soon as possible.
And finally, all the countries in the region should heed Russia’s initiative and renounce the creation and development of sensitive elements of the nuclear fuel cycle.
NO WAY OUT
Article 10 of the NPT says: “Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance.” In other words, you can violate the Treaty on the sly. And when you feel that you are about to be caught red-handed, you can invent some “extraordinary events” – and you will be free from the obligations of the Treaty.
North Korea has already taken advantage of this provision. So far, it has been the only country to do that. But what if other countries use this loophole? For example, Ali Larijani, a prominent Iranian politician, speaking in Beijing early this year, first praised the NPT but then specified his country’s attitude to the Treaty: “If [some countries] pursue an unjust policy towards us, and if there are threats, the situation may change.”
UN Security Council Resolution 1887, adopted last year, offers a solution to this problem: “A State remains responsible under international law for violations of the NPT committed prior to its withdrawal.”
Some Russian initiatives deserve attention, as well. In particular, in case some state decides to withdraw from the NPT, Russia has proposed that the IAEA verify this state’s compliance with its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement. Intentional actions and preparation of a decision to withdraw from the Treaty with a view to conducting a military nuclear program should be regarded as a violation of the Treaty. A state withdrawing from the Treaty must leave all nuclear materials, equipment, technologies and facilities, created for peaceful purposes, under the IAEA safeguards regime. If the nuclear technologies imported into the country are not returned to the supplier state, they must remain under IAEA lifetime safeguards.
The International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, co-chaired by Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, has proposed an even tougher approach: The UN Security Council must “severely discourage withdrawals [from the NPT] by making it clear that withdrawal will be regarded as prima facie a threat to international peace and security, with all the punitive consequences that may follow from that under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.”
It is only logical that some of these proposals were reflected in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
LIVING IN THE ERA OF RENAISSANCE
Nuclear renaissance, even if very peaceful, is something unpredictable. According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the world’s demand for nuclear energy will increase by 40 percent by 2030. While Europe is far from nuclear renaissance and still is in a state of post-Chernobyl reflections, Asia and Latin America are working hard to “catch up and overtake” it. There is no doubt that the boom in nuclear power engineering will involve countries such as China and India. Things are more difficult with countries that previously showed no interest in peaceful nuclear uses but that have begun to change their attitudes over the last two or three years. The list is long, ranging from Vietnam and Myanmar to Jordan and the UAE in Asia; from Nigeria and Morocco to Cape Verde and Libya in Africa; and from Venezuela and Ecuador to Cuba and Chile in Latin America. It is another matter that some of them have already closely approached the construction of nuclear power plants, while others only talk about it.
How will peaceful uses of nuclear energy in countries that do not have much experience agree with their obligations concerning nuclear non-proliferation? The main rule laid down in Article IV of the NPT must remain inviolable: one is innocent until proven guilty. If a state is not found to have violated its obligations under the NPT, it has an inalienable right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.
Nikolai Spassky, Deputy General Director of Russia’s Rosatom Nuclear Energy State Corporation, said at an international conference of the PIR Center in June 2010 that the key problem of nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East is that the development of nuclear power engineering will inevitably be accompanied by an increase in the number of people with expertise in this area. In a crisis, there may be temptation to use this knowledge for military purposes.
However, those who develop nuclear power engineering could use the fruits of the international division of labor by taking the path of multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle. The matter at issue is the creation of a global nuclear fuel cycle infrastructure by means of a network of international centers. For now, however, there is only one operating center – the International Uranium Enrichment Center in Angarsk, built on Russia’s initiative and jointly run by Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Ukraine.
Some developing countries (above all, Egypt) fear being lured into some technological “trap” and being denied a legitimate right to develop their national programs. Certainly, international centers must be economically attractive and politically acceptable to all interested parties to the NPT and, possibly, to India. Those who are still cautious should heed the words of Sergio Duarte of Brazil, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament: “The creation of the International Uranium Enrichment Center in Angarsk is a constructive step which can alleviate concerns over nuclear proliferation by removing the need for national enrichment capability.”
For those who fear the dependence of uninterrupted nuclear fuel supply on politics, there are special fuel reserves that are under IAEA safeguards. The Angarsk center is one of them.
Of course, states like Iran, which have ambitious plans for the nuclear industry, should take a closer look at the proposed initiatives and join them without delay. They should renounce or minimize their enrichment programs, which are dubious in terms of economic benefits and politically provocative.
“We know very well about the sustained interest of terrorists in obtaining nuclear weapons in any form, including nuclear components.” This discouraging conclusion was drawn by Russian state structures.
An analysis made by the PIR Center has revealed that over the past 15 years international terrorist organizations have made dozens of attempts to receive unauthorized access to nuclear facilities to commit acts of sabotage. They have also attempted to gain access to weapons-grade nuclear materials, explored the possibility of seizing nuclear warheads during their transportation, and worked hard to create so-called “dirty bomb,” which, if used, can cause widespread radioactive contamination.
Of all possible terrorist scenarios, nuclear terrorism is still the least likely – first of all, because of sophisticated systems of physical security and accounting and control of nuclear weapons and materials in the majority of countries possessing nuclear weapons or developing nuclear materials.
Nevertheless, the price of such a terrorist attack would be catastrophic, and psychological consequences would be as great as material damage. In Russia, the underlying fear of nuclear terrorism is very high. According to a PIR Center survey, 83.4 percent of Russians fear that, if weapons of mass destruction fall into the hands of terrorists, they will use them against their country, and only 11.6 percent brush aside this threat.
There are several factors that increase the risk of nuclear terrorism. Paradoxically, the main factor is the release of significant quantities of weapons-grade nuclear materials due to the reduction of nuclear weapons. Another factor is the increase in the number, influence and financial capabilities of non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, transnational organized criminal groups, separatist ethnic movements, and extremist religious sects. Finally, the presence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, a politically unstable country, serves as a major irritant.
The April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington outlined measures to be taken collectively to counter the growing terrorist threat. The NPT is helpless in this case, because this threat does not come from states. This is why the UN Security Council must play the main role. In 2004, it already adopted Resolution 1540 which called on all states to “refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.” Consistent implementation of this resolution by all UN member states will help minimize the risk that nuclear weapons or weapons-grade nuclear materials may fall into the hands of terrorists. It is equally important that the Security Council not turn a blind eye to those UN members that ignore the provisions of this resolution. The Communiqu? of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit reaffirmed the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
It said that all IAEA member states must ensure that the Agency “continues to have the appropriate structure, resources and expertise” and promote “nuclear security culture through technology development, human resource development, education, and training.” The first step to strengthen the IAEA has been made, as the 2010 NPT Review Conference called on all states to provide financial support to the IAEA.
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The success of the 2010 Review Conference is a step forward towards strengthening the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. Although it is a modest step, it is nonetheless significant, as it has reaffirmed the vitality and viability of the NPT. All the parties to the Treaty (even skeptical Egypt and Cuba) supported measures to cement the non-proliferation regime. Neither the NPT, nor the Review Conference can remove pitfalls that arise now and then. Iran poses a most serious test for the international community. Israel is another and no less serious test. So, although the non-proliferation regime is strengthening, the number of factors that test its strength is not decreasing.