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Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation: 

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A New Agenda for Nuclear Disarmament:

The Pivotal Role of Mid-Size States


John R. Burroughs, Executive Director
Jim Wurst, Program Director
Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, New York


September 2, 2001 panel:

"Reframing the International Security Agenda:
Small States – Large Impact"
2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association
San Francisco


Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy
211 E. 43d St., Suite 1204
New York, NY 10017
212 818 1861; www.lcnp.org
johnburroughs@lcnp.org , jimwurst@lcnp.org




In 1998 and 1999, Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden sponsored resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly calling for the establishment of a "New Agenda" for nuclear disarmament. Dismayed by the lack of progress made despite the end of the Cold War, the New Agenda countries' basic perspective is that a process - bilateral, plurilateral, multilateral - must be created that leads expeditiously to the total elimination of nuclear arsenals globally. The New Agenda approach was ultimately incorporated into the consensus Final Document of the 2000 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The NPT outcome was then affirmed by the General Assembly in its fall 2000 session, with unprecedented support from the United States, United Kingdom, and China. Factors in the New Agenda success include that it was the only pragmatic program on the table that also seriously aimed towards nuclear disarmament, and that the New Agenda group cut across old North-South boundaries, and included prestigious, and highly nuclear-capable, countries. The most important question remains to be answered: What will the effect of the New Agenda work be on the nuclear-armed governments?

The New Agenda Initiative

When disarmament succeeds and disaster or tensions are averted, the potential crisis retreats into the fog of memory. In the 1960s, several states capable of building nuclear weapons renounced that option, prior to negotiation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). It is a sign of the strength of the norm of disarmament that to name some of those countries that flirted with nuclear weapons -- Sweden and Switzerland -- is to sound ridiculous.

Consider these other footnotes from history:

  • When the Soviet Union disintegrated, the world actually had three new nuclear weapon states. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine not only found themselves independent, but nuclear-armed. All three found it in their best interests to renounce nuclear weapons, shipping them to Russia, signing protocols to the START treaty and joining the NPT as non-nuclear weapon states.
  • Argentina and Brazil, under military dictatorships, actively pursued nuclear weapons programs.
  • The restoration of democracy in both countries lead to the shut-down of these programs. Both states have entered the existing treaty regimes of the NPT and the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Latin America's nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ).

  • South Africa built several nuclear bombs. It voluntarily dismantled its program, in part to help regain good standing among the world’s nations, but also because apartheid's days were numbered and it was certain that the next president of South Africa would be a black man. This action removed the last obstacle to the creation of an African NWFZ. One of the legacies of the weapons program has been democratic South Africa's aggressive disarmament position.

These examples have three common themes. States with non-democratic governments pursued nuclear weapons but when replaced by democratic governments, they opted for disarmament; the transition to disarmament was made easier because disarmament and nonproliferation regimes were in place or pending; and all these states are middle powers. One should be cautious, however, about the linkage between democracy and disarmament. Democracy did not stand in the way of the United States, Britain, France and India building their nuclear arsenals.

Three of the middle powers mentioned above -- Brazil, South Africa and Sweden -- are now a part of the New Agenda group, along with Egypt, Ireland, Mexico and New Zealand. These seven nations have, in little more than three years, established themselves in international forums as the practical alternative to the insistence of the nuclear powers that their agenda, and theirs alone, will dictate how the world deals with nuclear weapons.

The spring of 1998 turned out to be a pivotal period for nuclear disarmament. The preparatory committee for the NPT's 2000 Review Conference ended in deadlock on May 8. On May 11, India conducted its nuclear weapons tests, followed a few days later by Pakistan. It was against this morbid backdrop that on June 9 a joint communiqué issued by eight foreign ministers declared "the need for a new agenda" for a nuclear-weapon-free world. The ministers stated:

The international community must not enter the third millennium with the prospect that the maintenance of these weapons will be considered legitimate for the indefinite future, when the present juncture provides a unique opportunity to eradicate and prohibit them for all time. We therefore call on the governments of each of the nuclear-weapon states and the three nuclear-weapons-capable states to commit themselves unequivocally to the elimination of their respective nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons capability and to agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations required for its achievement.

Later Darach MacFionnbhairr, the Head of the Disarmament Division in the Irish Foreign Ministry and one of the founders of the New Agenda group, explained that:

The origin of the initiative is the recognition by the middle of the nineties that the

[nuclear disarmament] process was stalling. By forcing the pace of reductions, as the Nuclear Weapon States were doing in the eighties and the early nineties, disarmament was occurring even if the intention was not necessarily to eliminate these weapons at an early date. But we have reached a stage now where ... if we don't make a radical reappraisal of how we get to nuclear disarmament, we will probably be looking at the persistence of these weapons well into the next century. As our ministers have said from the outset in this initiative, it is not acceptable that we enter the next millennium with the prospect that the possession of nuclear weapons will be considered legitimate for the indefinite future.


The New Agenda in the General Assembly

The New Agenda group's first step in putting its vision into practice came during that autumn's UN General Assembly's First Committee, which deals with disarmament and security issues. The first New Agenda draft resolution was submitted on October 27, 1998 and called on the nuclear powers "to demonstrate an unequivocal commitment to the speedy and total elimination of their respective nuclear weapons and without delay to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to the elimination of these weapons, thereby fulfilling their obligations under Article VI of the [NPT]." The phrase "unequivocal commitment" has become something of a rallying cry for disarmers ever since.

The draft was strongly criticized by most of the nuclear weapon states. The Western powers said it undermined the NPT and ignored the tests conducted by India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan objected to the draft's commitment to the NPT. Along with Israel, they firmly resist the demand that they join the NPT as non-nuclear weapon states. Non-nuclear NATO states, along with Japan and Australia, were loath to break ranks with their nuclear brethren on these issues, and the debate started with the likelihood that NATO would present a united front. If so, the vote split would largely be along North-South lines, replicating numerous other First Committee resolutions.

Somewhat unexpectedly, last minute changes in the draft produced abstentions by non-nuclear NATO states. The most important change was to a provision that originally called for the nuclear weapon states "to examine further interim measures, including the exploration...of an undertaking not to be the first to use nuclear weapons". As rewritten, it merely urged the examination of measures "to enhance strategic stability" and the review of "strategic doctrines". Other notable provisions called for "the de-alerting of nuclear weapons [and then] the removal of nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles" and vigorous pursuit of "the reduction of reliance on nonategic nuclear weapons and negotiations on their elimination". In other respects, the resolution more or less recorded a standard set of commitments and measures, including bilateral US-Russian reductions under the START process, ratification of the CTBT, negotiation of a fissile materials treaty, and establishment of a subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament.

This was first NATO split at the UN on a nuclear disarmament issue. The final vote in the General Assembly was 114 to 18 with 38 abstentions. China abstained along with most non-nuclear NATO states, Japan, and Australia. The seven other nuclear powers voted "no," as did Turkey and eastern European states seeking admittance or newly admitted to NATO. In 1999, the New Agenda countries put forth a similarly worded resolution which again triggered a split in NATO. It was adopted by a vote of 111 to 13, with 39 abstentions. This time Turkey and the Czech Republic abstained, leaving among the NATO states only newly admitted Poland and Hungary backing the United States, France and Britain.

The 2000 NPT Review Conference

General Assembly resolutions generally are not binding on nations. They are more like referendums. But nations take these decisions seriously; otherwise there would not be such tortured and protracted negotiations over every word and comma. Still the real test of a negotiator comes with something vital is at stake -- such as the fate of the NPT. Thus it was at the NPT 2000 Review Conference that the New Agenda initiative demonstrated its importance.

The 1970 Nonproliferation Treaty is the most adhered-to arms control agreement in existence, with only India, Pakistan, Israel, and Cuba outside the regime. It is also the only such treaty that permits two classes of members: those recognized as nuclear states, and those who have renounced these weapons. The United States has consistently placed a high value on the NPT, engaging in serious bargaining about its implementation and continued existence. Without it, instead of having to worry about a handful of countries that might develop nuclear weapons, the United States might have to keep an eye on 20 or 30 potential proliferators as was envisaged by Washington before the NPT was written. Until the 1995 and 2000 Review Conferences, the fact that the treaty also commits the nuclear powers to eliminate their weapons has been steadfastly overlooked. Selective reading permitted the focus to remain on proliferation rather than disarmament.

In 1995, however, in order to obtain the indefinite extension of the treaty, the United States and other nuclear powers, in the "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament", committed to conclusion of negotiations on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by 1996, commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons, and "systematic and progressive efforts" to reduce and ultimately to eliminate nuclear arsenals in compliance with Article VI.

The test ban treaty was completed in 1996. Otherwise, by the 2000 conference, the record was bleak. India and Pakistan had tested, and the US Senate rejected ratification of the test ban treaty in the fall of 1999. No negotiations on a fissile materials treaty had begun. A critical sticking point was the insistence of some countries that the negotiations address reduction of existing stocks as well as a cap on new production. Also, China and other countries resisted such negotiations absent commitments on other fronts comprehensively to pursue nuclear disarmament and to prevent an arms race in outer space. The US drive for missile defense further complicated the mix, because it pressures China to retain the option to produce more fissile materials for any arsenal buildup desired to maintain a secondike option against a combined US preemptive attack and missile shield.

Based on the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in 1998 and 1999, the New Agenda group was well positioned to seek to reverse the negative developments and to press for disarmament commitments at the conference held in April and May of 2000. Its influence was demonstrated at the outset by a joint statement by the five nuclear powers that are members of the treaty - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. Divisions among the so-called P5 (a reference to the fact that they are also the permanent five members of the Security Council) have been severe on arms control and other issues. But early on, the P5 papered over their differences to issue the statement, a first for an NPT conference, and then stuck together. "We remain unequivocally committed to fulfilling all of our obligations under the treaty," the five wrote, "None of our nuclear weapons are targeted at any state." The word "unequivocally" was a nod to the New Agenda's drive to get the P5 "to make an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the speedy and total elimination of their nuclear arsenals and to engage without delay in an accelerated process of negotiations."

The New Agenda group was not satisfied with the P5 statement, and demanded commitments not only to elimination of nuclear arsenals but also to a range of disarmament measures. By the end of the conference, the New Agenda group and the nuclear weapon states were engaged in separate negotiations that formed the basis for the outcome. This development was most clearly demonstrated in the central passage in the Final Document on "practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts" to achieve nuclear disarmament. While many states had their preferred language for these steps, the steps as agreed reflected New Agenda demands. A key element was "an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament, to which all states parties are committed under Article VI." That provision reportedly was a sine qua non for the New Agenda group. Other steps restated existing commitments, such as support for a nuclear test ban, and included measures favored by the New Agenda group but framed in language that left some room for maneuvering by the P5. They include:

• early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and a moratorium on nuclear-weapons-test explosions pending its entry into force;

• "the necessity of negotiations" on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, and agreement on a program of work in the Conference on Disarmament "which includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a treaty with a view to their conclusion within five years";

• "the necessity of establishing in the Conference on Disarmament an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament";

• "increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to their nuclear weapons capabilities";

• "further reduction of nonategic nuclear weapons";

• "concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems";

• "a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination";

• "the engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear-weapon States in the process leading to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons";

• "the principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament";

• and "the further development of the verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world".

The Conference thus identified most of the areas in which progress is needed. However, the question remains of whether the nuclear weapons states will match these words with deeds, which was in doubt then and is still more in doubt now given Bush administration policies. Moreover, the Conference did not address the problems of missile proliferation and defense, for example by calling for the development of a global missile control regime. Instead the Conference adopted the position put forward collectively by the nuclear weapon states, referring only to "preserving and strengthening" the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty along with further US-Russian arms reductions through the START process. Further, unlike the 1995 Principles and Objectives, which specifically and unambiguously set 1996 as the year by which a CTBT should be negotiated, the 2000 Final Document sets no clear timelines. 2005 is stated to be the year by which a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons should be completed, but this is tied to the consensus adoption of a program of work in the Conference on Disarmament. Such adoption is problematic due to the positions of China and other countries described above.

New Agenda representatives called the Final Document "a significant landmark" and Sen. Douglas Roche, Chair of the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI), wrote that "a new moment in nuclear disarmament has occurred." MPI is an international civil society coalition that seeks to support, inform, and embolden mid-size, non-nuclear weapon countries, in particular the New Agenda states, working for the elimination of nuclear weapons. However, speaking to journalists immediately after the document was adopted, US Ambassador Robert Grey said that it "will have no more impact than it’s had in the past... It’s more of the same."

The Next Step: The 2000 General Assembly

Despite the accomplishments of the spring 2000 NPT Review Conference, there were no further developments until the General Assembly's First Committee met between October 2 and November 1, 2000. There the New Agenda states took up the challenge to keep the momentum going in the international arena to fulfill the new commitments made at the NPT Conference.

Traditionally, resolutions under the same topic change little from year to year unless something dramatic happens. The New Agenda radically changed its 2000 draft from its 1999, turning it into an endorsement of the NPT Final Document, incorporating the 13 "systematic and progressive" steps leading to nuclear disarmament. The draft went further in "affirm[ing] that a nuclear-weapon-free world will ultimately require the underpinnings of a universal and multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument or a framework encompassing a mutually reinforcing set of instruments."

Speaking on behalf of the New Agenda group on October 2, Ambassador Henrik Salander of Sweden lashed the resolution tightly to the decision of the NPT Review Conference, basically saying if you support the NPT decision, you must support the resolution. He said:

The positive outcome of the 2000 NPT Review Conference was made possible because the states parties definitively agreed to engage in nuclear disarmament as an achievable goal without further procrastination and prevarication.... The nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT have finally agreed to proceed towards the achievement of a nuclear-weapons-free world. What had hitherto been implicit has thus become explicit.

The New Agenda approach met with success. Because it incorporated the NPT outcome and compromises that were made to achieve that outcome, the 2000 resolution was more moderate than the 1999 resolution, and could attract the support of nuclear weapon and NATO states, or at least abstentions in the case of France and Russia. An example of a compromise concerns de-alerting. The 1999 New Agenda resolution called for "early steps" to "proceed to the de-alerting and removal of nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles". In the consensus NPT Final Document and the 2000 New Agenda resolution, that was watered down to "concrete agreed measures to reduce further the operational status of nuclear weapons systems". In 1999, the NWS except China opposed the New Agenda resolution, and NATO states abstained. In 2000, the non-nuclear NATO countries were ready to vote in favor of the draft, putting pressure on their nuclear-armed partners, who opposed the 1999 resolution. It was also difficult for nuclear weapon states to vote against a program that they had endorsed only a few months before. In explaining their votes, the United States said the Final Document "is our guiding light for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts", and the United Kingdom said First Committee drafts "should faithfully reflect [the Final Document's] letter and spirit".

The final vote in the General Assembly on November 20 was 154 (including China, the United Kingdom, United States) to three (India, Israel, Pakistan), with eight abstentions (including France and Russia), in vivid contrast with the 1999 vote of 111 to 13, with 39 abstentions. Rarely has there been such a swing in voting in support of a UN resolution, much less on such a contentious issue as nuclear disarmament.

Speaking at an MPI consultation in spring 2001, Salander looked back on the strategy, stating:

We gambled in a way, in the sense that we exposed the NPT outcome to some risk, and also put our own influence at some risk, in order to get a strong confirmation that the Final Document agreements do extend beyond the very NPT-mechanism itself. We did that against the background that we had heard, soon after the Review Conference, disturbing noises to the effect that the NPT decisions are limited and confined, that they are not new, and/or insignificant. It was a bit of a balance act. We analyzed the risk for failure thoroughly, and concluded that the positive possibilities outweighed the risks. I believe it is fair to say that our strategy worked...

The Effect of the New Agenda

The obvious question to ask is, what difference has the New Agenda for nuclear disarmament made in the actual policies of nuclear-armed states? First to be noted is that elements of the agenda do challenge, if politely and with language that allows for some evasion, the fundamentals of those policies. Thus the commitment to a "diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies" runs counter to the dogmas of deterrence. It shows that the lesson has been learned that disarmament requires focussing upon and opposing policy rationales for nuclear arsenals, rather than allowing the quest for quantitative reductions to be the defining framework. Relatedly, the commitment to "measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapon systems", in a word, to dealert, recognizes the importance of ending treatment of nuclear explosives as usable instruments of foreign policy and warfare. And, the recognition found in the 2000 General Assembly resolution that a nuclear-weapon-free world will require a comprehensive legal framework demonstrates the will to plan seriously for abolition.

Second, the nuclear weapon states continue to claim to comply with the NPT agenda, a task admittedly lightened by the wiggle room it allows. High Bush administration officials have publicly stated this position, noting, however, that ratification of the CTBT is not sought by Bush. Should the Bush administration carry through with the unilateral reductions Bush has promised this would be one concrete instance of compliance that United States could claim. Here it must be added that reductions likely to be implemented to 2000-2500 deployed strategic warheads could have been achieved through the already completed START II agreement, had its entry into force not been derailed by US-Russia disagreement over missile defenses and preservation of the ABM Treaty.

In general, the experience of the last decade, especially the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and the 2000 Review Conference, is that elements favoring arms control within the US government have used nonproliferation and disarmament demands made by other governments as ammunition in intra-governmental deliberations over nuclear weapons policy. Put another way, programs and demands like that of the New Agenda states have reinforced the position of arms control factions within the US government. When arms control elements lose strength within that government, there is a corresponding loss of leverage on the part of non-US actors like the New Agenda group to the extent their influence is dependent on those elements. Arms control elements clearly have much less power within the Bush administration, but that in fact is just a profound deepening of a trend already underway during the Clinton years. All this suggests that the New Agenda states may need to find ways to exert influence at the very top of the US government.

Third, in the more than a year since the adoption of the NPT agenda there have been no significant concrete actions taken to comply with that agenda. As Tariq Rauf states in his report prepared for MPI on implementation of the 2000 NPT commitments prepared for MPI, "scant progress has been achieved in the implementation of the agreed 'practical steps'" and "prospects for future progress appear bleak, at least in the short-term".

How, then, to assess the contribution of the New Agenda states? It is fair to say that the agenda they have pushed is not mere rhetoric, but rather is comprehensive, sophisticated and specific, and thus constitutes a yardstick to measure progress, or the lack thereof, in nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. They have strengthened the claim of the NPT to be the foundation for disarmament, not only nonproliferation, and thereby strengthened the regime – assuming that the agenda is not utterly disregarded in the months and years ahead.

Since the US atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the balance of terror calculus that is deterrence has served as the asserted basis for national and global security and stability. But there has been a countervailing emergence of a normative and institutional framework that may eventually displace and replace deterrence. Key developments include the negotiation of the NPT in the late 1960s, its extension in 1995, the 2000 Review Conference, and the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally contrary to international law and that under the NPT there is an obligation to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations on nuclear disarmament. The New Agenda group has contributed to the consolidation of that framework. And indeed the group views its work in this context, referring for example to the ICJ opinion in its June 1998 declaration, and consistently and emphatically proclaiming the fundamental importance of the nonproliferation regime and portraying their work as seeking to preserve that regime. At a speculative level, one could view the New Agenda initiative as contributing to a democratization of global politics comparable to the democratization of South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina that led to the abandonment of their nuclear weapons programs.

The New Agenda Initiative In Perspective

What accounts for the sudden prominence of the New Agenda group in international forums? For decades the torch of complete nuclear disarmament was carried by the Non-Aligned Movement, the large grouping of states from the South. The Movement was the prime force behind the seminal 1961 General Assembly resolution condemning use of nuclear weapons as illegal and criminal and also the General Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. At the Conference on Disarmament and in the General Assembly, moreover, the Movement demanded acceptance of a program for elimination of nuclear arsenals within a timebound framework. However, the nuclear weapon states’ steadfast resistance to this program, the fading relevance of Cold War categories (non-aligned meant not aligned with either East or West), and then the 1998 tests carried out by the most prominent state in the Movement, India, all have diminished its cohesion and political force.

Thus the stage was set for the surprise intervention of the New Agenda group. While extremely clear about the necessity of complete nuclear disarmament, the group avoided putting forward a program guaranteed to trigger a negative reaction, notably by not including a timebound framework. While the 2000 New Agenda resolution recognizes that a nuclear-weapon-free world will require a legal framework and calls for establishment of a body to "deal" on a multilateral basis with nuclear disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament, the New Agenda group has not insisted on immediate commencement of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention comparable to the convention prohibiting and eliminating chemical weapons. The group includes states, notably Ireland, which were instrumental in the creation of the NPT. It overcame traditional North-South divisions by including important states in the Non-Aligned Movement, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, and South Africa. All seven states are well-regarded in general for their role at the United Nations and in international affairs. All are on good terms with the United States. Finally, it includes states with nuclear weapons expertise and a long history of commitment to disarmament. Several (Brazil, Sweden, and South Africa) had known nuclear weapons programs which they have foresworn as NPT members. Mexico, Sweden, New Zealand, and Ireland all have long-established credentials in the nuclear disarmament arena. Mexico, for example, is well known in disarmament circles for its decades-long leadership in the campaign for a CTBT.

All of this of course does not suffice to bring about nuclear disarmament. After all, there is nothing for those states who are not nuclear-armed and who are not allied with the nuclear powers (in NATO, or the US-Japanese and US-Australian security agreements) to do themselves to accomplish disarmament. There is no real parallel to landmines or small arms here. Most states in the world can take steps to stop or restrict producing, selling, or using landmines or small arms, regardless of what the major powers do. That is not the case with nuclear weapons, which all but nine states in the world have agreed as a matter of law under the NPT not to acquire. Therefore, the New Agenda group, or any group seeking disarmament, needs the cooperation of the nuclear-armed states, the NATO states, and Japan and Australia. So it is of real importance that the New Agenda group has spurred some movement among those states.

Following the 2000 NPT Review Conference, Japan and Australia sponsored a resolution in the General Assembly which, like the New Agenda resolution, incorporated the NPT outcome. The New Agenda group likely would have preferred instead that Japan and Australia had co-sponsored the New Agenda resolution, but this would be very difficult for both countries given their close military relationship with the United States.

Also, soon after the initial New Agenda declaration in June 1998, the important NATO middle powers Canada and Germany, along with some smaller NATO members (e.g., Norway, Belgium) have pressed for changes in nuclear posture on the part of NATO, and therefore the United States. They sought, in particular, a revision of the decades-old NATO policy of threatened first use, to no avail so far. The most that has been achieved as a matter of public record is a modest statement of NATO’s commitment to arms control and nonproliferation objectives. (One should not overlook, however, the possible importance of a history of such controversy if and when a nuclear first use is actually considered.) And, as noted above, the willingness of non-nuclear NATO states and Japan and Australia, first to abstain in 1998 and 1999, and then in 2000 to vote for, the New Agenda resolutions, was the most critical element to New Agenda success, and what differentiated it from Non-Aligned Movement resolutions, which garner large majorities but no support from NATO states and Japan and Australia.

What is needed ultimately, to be sure, is movement from the nuclear weapon states. Here it is Britain perhaps that is the prime candidate. The United Kingdom has unilaterally reduced its arsenal and taken transparency measures with respect to its fissile materials stocks, and generally has evinced a cooperative approach in the NPT and UN contexts, for example by producing a study of verification requirements for nuclear abolition.

The Ottawa Model and the Creation of New International Forums

The Ottawa model -- in which mid-size states led by Canada, Norway, and Austria, in active cooperation with NGOs, produced the treaty banning anti-personnel landmines when the traditional negotiating route failed -- has tended to be the basis on which other humanitarian and arms control movements are judged. But as noted above, this is not an apt comparison in the case of nuclear weapons, for the reason that in effect there has already been an Ottawa process: in the 1960s, by negotiating the NPT, most of the world’s states gave up the option of acquiring or producing nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Mine Ban Treaty, which as of August 2001 had 140 states parties, has a long way to go to reach the level of adherence of the NPT. The world's most powerful states are prominent among both those states which remain nuclear-armed and those which continue to possess landmines, but this may change. France and Britain already are already parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, and the United States has said it may join in a few years (the Bush administration may retract this statement). While landmines can be dismissed as not vital for national security, this is not perceived to be the case for nuclear weapons. With the possible exception of Britain, no country currently possessing nuclear weapons considers them as anything but absolutely central, not only to their strategic doctrines, but to their very national identity.

There are certainly aspects of the landmines campaign well worth considering in the nuclear context. The campaign was wildly successful in stigmatizing landmines -- association with mines made you a bad person. Notice how quickly Motorola got out of the business when it was documented its chips were used in Chinese mines that were used in Cambodia. The campaign also managed brilliantly to move mines out of the "ghetto" of arms control to define it as a humanitarian disaster, thus making it more accessible to a wider public. To some extent, nuclear weapons are also stigmatized. General Electric, for example, stopped doing nuclear weapons work at least partly due to a boycott campaign. But it would appear that while it is accepted that use of nuclear weapons would be a disaster and wholly unacceptable, a similar condemnation does not extend to possession. This is due in some part to the rhetoric of "deterrence"; the public seems to believe that nuclear weapons are held only to ensure that other states do not use them. This is not and never has been declared US policy, which from the outset featured "extended" deterrence based on the option of first use, but nonetheless it is the perception.

Another notable aspect of the process leading to the Mine Ban Treaty is that it was undertaken outside the Conference on Disarmament or any established forum. Although the obvious point is recognized that for nuclear disarmament, unlike landmines, a way must be found to involve some or all of the eight nuclear-armed states, since they are the only ones producing or possessing nuclear weapons, still there is interest in use of new or different forums in the nuclear context, in particular to escape the requirement of consensus in the Conference on Disarmament.

Most prominently, Secretary-General Kofi Annan in early 2000 proposed a special conference on eliminating nuclear dangers, an artfully worded proposal that left to the imagination just what would be the content of the conference. New Agenda countries, and others, showed some interest in this proposal, presumably because it could be a new way of putting pressure on the nuclear weapon states, especially if civil society was mobilized on the scale of the Beijing women’s conference or the Rio environmental conference. Following the apparent success of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, though, it has been judged, rightly or wrongly, that for the time being it makes sense to focus on the NPT review process. One significant downside of that process, however, is that it basically leaves out the region of the world, South Asia, which many say is the mostly likely site of actual use of nuclear weapons in the near future. Also, and importantly, both NPT conferences and the General Assembly have been ineffective in addressing the critical issues posed by missile proliferation and missile defenses.

Another possibility, perhaps the most likely at the present time, is the convening of a Fourth Special (General Assembly) Session on Disarmament. Such a session would address all areas of disarmament, not only nuclear. On the one hand, this would inevitably lessen the focus on nuclear weapons. On the other, it opens the possibility of productively addressing the linkages between nuclear disarmament and other types of disarmament. For example, control of missiles seems essential to nuclear disarmament, yet missiles can also be used for delivery of chemical, biological, and conventional warheads.

Another option would be the initiation of a process to amend the NPT to transform it into a universal abolition regime. Any amendment to the NPT, to enter into force, would under that treaty’s amendment provision have to be accepted by all the NPT-party nuclear weapon states, among others. However, an amendment conference could at least serve as another forum.

Also under discussion is a conference of all states involved in regional NWFZs, which could take steps towards consolidation of a Southern Hemisphere NWFZ, and thus increase pressure for a world "NWFZ".

Finally, it has been proposed that negotiations on a fissile materials treaty, or at least exploration of the technical and legal aspects of such a treaty, take place outside the Conference on Disarmament. It would seem, however, that such an approach makes sense only if some of the nuclear weapon states fully participated. It must be borne in mind, again, that all but nine states in the world are already, in effect, parties to a fissile materials treaty, namely the NPT.


The last word on the subject of the New Agenda for nuclear disarmament is perhaps best left to one of the initiative's representatives, Ambassador Salander. Speaking to the General Assembly in October 2000 concerning the outcome of the spring 2000 NPT Review Conference, and noting the lack of any progress in the Conference on Disarmament over the summer despite that outcome, he stated regarding the global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime: "The patient is not cured, but a diagnosis has been made and a remedy prescribed. What remains is to make sure that the patient takes the medicine ...."

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