THE INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION REGIME
Nuclear weapons have enormous destructive power, which makes the containment of nuclear-weapons capability crucially important. Nuclear weapons normally serve as a deterrent against potential aggressors, in the form of a threat of terrible and inevitable reprisal against major attacks. At the same time, proliferation of nuclear weapons could destabilize existing balances of power, for example, or increase the possibility of accidental nuclear strikes. Further, countries with ambitions to expand their power could use the threat of nuclear attack for aggressive rather than defensive purposes. Finally, non-state actors, if they cannot be targeted by military forces and are therefore undeterred by threats of reprisal, could strike civilian population centers without warning, or attempt to extort concessions by threatening attack.
In discussing these issues, some workshop participants emphasized that the fundamental interests of the United States and Russia on nuclear nonproliferation coincide. The United States and Russia possess by far the largest nuclear arsenals and recognize fully the potential hazards of nuclear proliferation. In light of the need to ensure their own national security and maintain international stability, Russia and the United States seek to prevent nations and non-state groups from acquiring nuclear weapons or the means to make such weapons. They do this by reducing their own nuclear forces and through their bilateral cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation. Maintaining and strengthening the international nuclear nonproliferation regime is a component of the international collective security system. Further progress in this area depends to a large extent on the results of bilateral U.S.-Russian cooperation.
Cooperation between the United States and Russia on nuclear nonproliferation has a relatively long history extending back to the days of the Cold War. Cooperation among the United States, the Soviet Union, and many other nations facilitated the creation of the complex of international treaties which form the basis of today’s nuclear nonproliferation regime. The regime comprises a set of legal, organizational, administrative, and technical measures. These measures are intended to prevent the diversion or undeclared production of nuclear fissionable materials, or undeclared use of technologies, by a non-nuclear state or non-state actors such as an international terrorist organization, for the purpose of acquiring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
The key elements of the international nuclear nonproliferation regime are as follows:5
The Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT came into force in 1970 and in 1995 it was extended indefinitely. Now with 188 states party to the treaty, the NPT has become a nearly universal document.
The nuclear safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This system is now being strengthened with the adoption of the Additional Protocol to the NPT by a number of NPT signatories.
The nuclear export control system: the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Club, 1975) and Zangger Committee (nuclear exporting countries, 1971).
The nonproliferation regime is enhanced by additional agreements, such as the International Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials During Their Use, Storage, and Transportation (1987) and several agreements creating regional nuclear weapon-free zones.
Under this regime, nations with nuclear capabilities are divided into three groups: nuclear-weapon states under the NPT (the United Kingdom, the United States, the Russian Federation, China, and France), non-nuclear weapon states who are parties to the NPT, and states that are known or believed to have nuclear weapons but are not party to the NPT (India, Pakistan, North Korea,6 and Israel). The NPT has been described as a nuclear bargain between the parties: the non-nuclear-weapon states agree that they will not seek to acquire or develop nuclear weapons, and that all materials or technologies that could enable them to make nuclear weapons will be subject to international safeguards. In exchange, the nuclear weapon states must work in good faith toward nuclear disarmament and a treaty on general and complete disarmament; they must put in place export controls for the same materials and technologies; and they must cooperate in contributing to the further development of civil nuclear energy, especially in non-nuclear-weapon states.
Thus, the United States and Russia, the nuclear-weapon states that were the chief focus of the workshop, are under treaty obligations to ensure that both their external relations and their internal policies and programs support nuclear nonproliferation goals. Externally, when nuclear weapon states support efforts in non-nuclear weapon states to develop civil nuclear technology programs, weapon states are required to ensure that they do not inadvertently facilitate the development of nuclear weapons in the non-nuclear weapon states. Internally, weapon states must have domestic programs for export control and physical protection, control, and accounting for weapons-usable materials, relevant equipment, and technologies. Weapons expertise, too, must be contained within weapons states.
Although this workshop focused on the bilateral cooperative relationship between the United States and Russia, some participants noted several important multilateral efforts that are also under way. The NPT framework described above provides a number of multilateral opportunities to strengthen cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation. The G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction was also cited as being particularly important. This effort, which arose out of the June 2002 G8 summit in Kannanaskis, Canada, anticipates that G8 nations will spend a total of $20 billion over ten years to secure and destroy nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union.
The $10 billion that the United States expects to spend on the Cooperative Threat Reduction program will constitute half of this amount. Russia has committed to contribute $2 billion, and the other G8 nations will provide the balance of the funds.7 It is hoped that insights gained from this workshop will contribute not only to bilateral cooperation between the United States and Russia but also to multilateral efforts such as the G8 Global Partnership.
The Russian background paper suggested factors which, at a general level, tend to encourage or enable a non-weapon state to seek to acquire a nuclear weapon. First among these was the need for national security. If the international collective security system embodied by the United Nations and international safeguards is effective in ensuring each nation’s security against any potential aggressor, the reasoning was that this would reduce the number of nations that would consider seeking nuclear weapons. Deeper discussion of this topic was beyond the scope of this workshop.
The status of efforts by the nuclear-weapon states to fulfill their commitments under the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, including reductions of their nuclear arsenals, was indicated as a second reason why non-nuclear weapon states seek nuclear weapons. In the wake of the NPT, the fundamental obligations of the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals were restated in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I, 1991) and in the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT, ratified by the sides in 2003). Among the U.S. and Russian cooperative programs aimed at fulfilling these commitments, the following should be highlighted:
Dilution of Russian highly-enriched uranium (HEU) into low-enriched uranium (LEU) and shipping it to the United States to fabricate fuel for commercial nuclear reactors (Russian-U.S. HEU Agreement of 1993, also called Megatons-to-Megawatts)
Dismantlement of decommissioned Russian nuclear-powered submarines along with other strategic offensive weapons systems (the Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination agreement, SOAE, 1993)
Shut-down of plutonium-production reactors in Russia (U.S.-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement of 1997 )
Disposition of surplus weapons-grade plutonium, which is no longer needed for defense purposes in the United States and Russia (agreements of 1998 and 2000)
Third, using current technologies for civil nuclear energy (including the nuclear power industry, research reactors, and propulsion reactor facilities for civilian surface vessels) involves nuclear-fuel-cycle steps that some participants characterized as potentially vulnerable (in varying degrees) to production and diversion of weapons-usable material. These steps are: uranium enrichment, nuclear-fuel fabrication, power generation, interim storage of spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing of spent fuel with extraction of power-grade (reactor-grade) plutonium, storage of extracted plutonium, and shipment of fresh or spent nuclear fuel.
The Russian and U.S. governments believe Russia’s $2 billion contribution should not be considered part of the $20 billion that the G8 nations agreed to provide. Source: Global Partnership Resource Page, http://cns.miis.edu/research/globpart/fnB34, accessed February 11, 2004.
This vulnerability was seen as having been addressed to a considerable extent by the IAEA international safeguards system and by a set of safeguards arrangements and activities at the national and regional levels. It was noted, however, that the growth of nuclear power worldwide, using current technologies, could strain the current safeguards system’s limited resources, compromising their effectiveness by increasing the number of sites to be inspected and by facilitating the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Such developments would require new approaches to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, such as development and introduction of intrinsically proliferation-resistant nuclear energy technologies balanced with extrinsic measures (such as nuclear safeguards, etc.) to reduce the risk of indirect nuclear proliferation to an acceptable level.
Finally, the threat of nuclear terrorism by non-state actors has become a critical concern as groups such as Aum Shin Rikyo, Al Qaeda, and others attempt to acquire nuclear weapons or weapons-usable material (apparently unsuccessfully). Both the United States and Russia have been targeted by terrorists for major attacks; both have thwarted numerous attacks; and both have suffered losses of many civilian lives. Against this threat, too, the United States’ and Russia’s interests coincide.