One no doubt could tally the number of draft and final resolutions that wind their way in and out of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security every session—the current being the 59th. But there sure has been a bunch of them. And I don’t envy anyone the task.
For example, while “Reaffirming the inalienable right of all States to acquire and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes” and “Emphasizing the essential role of the United Nations in the establishment of a mutually verifiable nuclear-weapon-free zone,” the General Assembly adopted a resolution last December 3 on the Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East (A/RES/59/63). In part, this resolution:
1. Urges all parties directly concerned to consider seriously taking the practical and urgent steps required for the implementation of the proposal to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly, and, as a means of promoting this objective, invites the countries concerned to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons;
2. Calls upon all countries of the region that have not done so, pending the establishment of the zone, to agree to place all their nuclear activities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards;
5. Invites all countries of the region, pending the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East, to declare their support for establishing such a zone, consistent with paragraph 63 (d) of the Final Document of the Tenth Special Session of the General Assembly, and to deposit those declarations with the Security Council;
6. Also invites those countries, pending the establishment of the zone, not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or permit the stationing on their territories, or territories under their control, of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices….
(Quick aside. The Americans will be more than happy to help enforce this resolution, I’m sure. At least insofar as they can apply it to Iran’s nuclear program. As for the Middle East as a whole? Namely, Israel’s nukes? Forget it.)
Similarly, on December 3, the General Assembly adopted a resolution titled Verification in All Its Aspects, Including the Role of the United Nations in the Field of Verification (A/RES/59/60), the purpose of which simply was to reaffirm the “criticial importance” of verification procedures in all matters related to nuclear non-proliferation, arms limitation, and disarmament. Like the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East resolution, the Verification resolution was adopted without a vote.
Also on December 3, the General Assembly adopted a resolution titled Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (A/RES/59/65). Not only did it recognize “that prevention of an arms race in outer space would avert a grave danger for international peace and security,” but it reaffirmed the “importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space and the readiness of all States to contribute to that common objective,” and called upon “all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race in outer space and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective and to the relevant existing treaties in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation.”
However. Unlike the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Middle East and the Verification resolutions, the No-Arms-Race in Outer Space resolution was put to a vote: It passed 178 to 0, with 4 abstentions (i.e., Haiti, Israel, Palau, and the United States having abstained).
Still on the same day, recalling the “purpose of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security and, to that end, to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace, as enshrined in the Charter,” the General Assembly adopted Promotion of Multilateralism in the Area of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (A/RES/59/69). “Reaffirming the absolute validity of multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, and determined to promote multilateralism as an essential way to develop arms regulation and disarmament negotiations,” this important little resolution:
3. Urges the participation of all interested States in multilateral negotiations on arms regulation, non-proliferation and disarmament in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner;
4. Underlines the importance of preserving the existing agreements on arms regulation and disarmament, which constitute an expression of the results of international cooperation and multilateral negotiations in response to the challenges facing mankind;
5. Calls once again upon all Member States to renew and fulfil their individual and collective commitments to multilateral cooperation as an important means of pursuing and achieving their common objectives in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation;
6. Requests the States parties to the relevant instruments on weapons of mass destruction to consult and cooperate among themselves in resolving their concerns with regard to cases of non-compliance as well as on implementation, in accordance with the procedures defined in those instruments, and to refrain from resorting or threatening to resort to unilateral actions or directing unverified noncompliance
accusations against one another to resolve their concerns….
The vote in the General Assembly that day last December was 125 to 9, with 49 abstentions. The 9 “Againsts” included Albania, the Federated States of Micronesia, Israel, Latvia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Poland, United Kingdom, United States. In a descending order of importance, note the three weightiest “Againsts”: The United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel.
To pick up one more of the many resolutions and drafts of resolutions that the First Committee juggled last fall: A Path to the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (A/RES/59/76).
This important and quite comprehensive resolution (among other things—I am focusing on operative Par. 3) reads as follows:
3. Stresses the central importance of the following practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and paragraphs 3 and 4 (c) of the decision on principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty:
(a) The importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications, without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as well as a moratorium on nuclear-weapon-test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending the entry into force of that Treaty;
(b) The establishment of an ad hoc committee in the Conference on Disarmament as early as possible during its 2005 session to negotiate a nondiscriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty
banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, in accordance with the report of the Special Coordinator of 1995 and the mandate contained therein, taking into consideration both nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives, with a view to its conclusion within five years and, pending its entry into force, a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons;
(c) The establishment of an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament in the Conference on Disarmament as early as possible during its 2005 session in the context of establishing a programme of work;
(d) The inclusion of the principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and other related arms control and reduction measures;
(e) An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States, as agreed at the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, leading to nuclear disarmament, to which all States parties to the Treaty are committed under article VI of the Treaty;
(f) Deep reductions by the Russian Federation and the United States of America in their strategic offensive arsenals, while placing great importance on the existing multilateral treaties, with a view to maintaining and strengthening strategic stability and international security;
(g) Steps by all the nuclear-weapon States leading to nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability, and based on the principle of undiminished security for all:
(i) Further efforts by all the nuclear-weapon States to continue to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally;
(ii) Increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon States with regard to their nuclear weapons capabilities and the implementation of agreements pursuant to article VI of the Treaty and as voluntary confidence-building measures to support further progress on nuclear disarmament;
(iii) The further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process;
(iv) Concrete agreed measures to reduce further the operational status of nuclear weapons systems;
(v) A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons will ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination;
(vi) The engagement, as soon as appropriate, of all the nuclear-weapon States in the process leading to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons;
(h) Reaffirmation that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control….
Now. I can’t do justice to the complexity of the documents, negotiations, themes and subterfuges on display in these paragraphs. But, if you’ll forgive my oversimplification, the General Assembly was stressing the “central importance” of Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. (Always the core of the NPT, in fact, as it calls for the “cessation of the nuclear arms race” and “nuclear disarmament.”) It also stressed the “importance and urgency” of carrying out the entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear test-Ban Treaty. (A treaty that has has been left hanging in a limbo of non-ratification for the past nine years, principally because the Americans won’t accept it—the current regime in Washington least of all.) And, last but not least, it called on the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to continue to negotiate a
nondiscriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,…with a view to its conclusion within five years and, pending its entry into force, a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons….
These three objectives—the ultimate goal of the NPT being nuclear disarmament “under effective international control” (3(h)), non-proliferation a meaningless demand to make of any state unless it leads toward disarmament; the final entry-into-force of the Test-Ban Treaty; and the drafting of a new treaty banning the production of nuclear-weapons-grade material (the so-called Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty)—are the heart of everything, along with what the resolution calls the “principle of irreversibility” (3(d)), meaning that any step towards disarmament must be understood to be an irreversible one.
Oh, yes. The December 3 vote in the General Assembly on the Path to the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons resolution also was tallied.
The final total was 165 states in favor, 3 states against, and 16 states abstaining.
The 3 states that voted “Against”? India. Palau. And the United States.
Palau’s rejection of multilaterialism and nuclear disarmament we can live with. America’s and India’s we cannot. As last Sunday Boston Globe reported (“US Is Urged To Back 2 Nuclear Treaties,” Bryan Bender, March 13):
Diplomats representing more than a dozen countries have urged the United States to embrace a set of proposed treaties to stem the spread of nuclear arms. They accuse Washington of backing away from a collective approach to arms control and helping to erode a three-decade framework for controlling nuclear weapons.
At the same time, they said, the United States appears to be undermining the effort to reduce the number of nuclear weapons by considering more advanced designs of its own, keeping thousands of warheads on alert, shielding facilities from international scrutiny, developing a national missile defense system that some worry could spark a new arms race with China or Russia, and keeping an estimated 400 tactical nuclear weapons in Europe while chiding the Russians for not destroying their battlefield nukes.
But the Bush administration opposes the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, a measure the Clinton administration supported when it was introduced in 1993.
The treaty would bind nuclear powers to permanently halt production of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium, the material needed for a nuclear weapon.
The United States refuses to sign the treaty, out of fear that others will violate it, a position that seems to call into question the usefulness of any such agreement.
Another international agreement with wide support — the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, first proposed by President Kennedy — was defeated by the US Senate in 1999 after it was backed by successive US presidents. The Bush administration has declined to resubmit the treaty for approval, also because it says verification would be a problem.
In the words of a report issued by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, the net effect of the American position “‘may serve to heighten, rather than reduce the risk’ of the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists,” the Globe adds.
Or any other conventional or not-so-conventional misstep by any power, anywhere, leading directly and inexorably up the ladder of escalation to a decision we dare not risk.
First Committee: Disarmament and International Security, UN General Assembly
Conference on Disarmament, United Nations, Geneva
Illegality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, International Court of Justice (Advisory Opinion), July 8, 1996
“Expert Group Releases Findings on Multilateral Nuclear Approaches,” IAEA, February 22, 2005
Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security, George Perkovich et al., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March, 2005 (For the PDF version of the same. And the accompanying Media Release)
2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, UN Headquarters, New York City, May 2-27, 2005
Arms Control Agreements , Federation of American Scientists
Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (Federation of American Scientists)
Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (Federation of American Scientists)
Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (Nuclear Threat Initiative)
“The west’s truce with Iran buys time for both sides, but spectre of proliferation remains,” Ian Traynor, The Guardian, November 23, 2004
“UN to urge global action as spread of nuclear weapons threatens to ‘cascade’,” Mark Turner, Financial Times, November 30, 2004
“Test Ban Network Probably Detected Quake But Was Unequipped to Warn of Tsunami,” Colum Lynch, Washington Post, December 30, 2004
“Bush Failing at Nuclear Security,” Lawrence J. Korb, Boston Globe, January 2, 2005
“US allies fret at hard line of ‘nuclear hawks’,” Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, February 5, 2005 [$$$$$$---see below]
“US is urged to back 2 nuclear treaties,” Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, March 13, 2005
Iran V, March 6, 2005
FYA (“For your archives”):
Financial Times (London, England)
February 5, 2005 Saturday
London Edition 1
SECTION: THE AMERICAS & INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY; Pg. 7
HEADLINE: US allies fret at hard line of ‘nuclear hawks’ NON-PROLIFERATION TALKS:
BYLINE: By GUY DINMORE
How far the second Bush administration can take its charm offensive in rebuilding its traditional alliances is already being put to the test by newly promoted “nuclear hawks” committed to a hardline approach on arms control and non-proliferation.
Tensions are emerging between the US and its allies over what non-nuclear nations see as a lack of sincerity by the superpower towards nuclear disarmament, even as it pushes for a tightening of the international nuclear regime and a tougher response to the ambitions of North Korea and Iran.
Senior diplomats are concerned that a review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a conference held every five years and due to reconvene in New York in May, will produce no outcome.
The “nuclear hawks” – or “bomb lovers” as one former official described them – include Jack Crouch, named this week as deputy national security adviser; Robert Joseph, expected to be named soon as undersecretary for arms control; and John Rood, who replaces Mr Joseph in the White House as special adviser.
The hawks – supported by Vice-President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary – are known for their scepticism towards arms control agreements, their commitment to missile defence and development of new nuclear weapons, such as “bunker busters”, and an appreciation of covert operations.
In his Senate confirmation hearing in 2001, Mr Crouch was questioned about his support for nuclear testing and his 1995 recommendation for attacks on North Korea’s nuclear complexes should agreements fail.
Discussions over the NPT review agenda are stalled, in part because of the US refusal to reaffirm the “13 steps” adopted at the 2000 conference. Those steps included a broad commitment to undertake nuclear disarmament and not to resume testing.
“Times change. Debate moves on. The debate will be relevant to conditions that prevail today, not in 2000,” Stephen Rademaker, assistant secretary of state for arms control, told a panel discussion organised by the independent Arms Control Association this week.
Roberto Abdenur, Brazil’s ambassador to Washington, was visibly upset. Reflecting the sentiment of countries that have renounced development of nuclear weapons, he warned that the NPT review conference, to be chaired by Brazil, could fail. “If a nuclear power says the 13 steps belong in the past, what confidence do we non-nuclear developing states have in the NPT?” he said. “Let’s be careful about this.”
Failure at the review conference to produce a consensus has happened before. It would by no mean spell an end to the NPT. But diplomats say it would weaken the main pillar of non-proliferation at a critical moment.
The US administration insists the NPT remains the cornerstone of global arms control and non-proliferation efforts.
Under the bilateral 2002 Moscow Treaty, the US will reduce (but not destroy) its operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 – about one-third of the level in 2002 – in the next seven years. Since 1989, the US says it has cut by nearly 90 per cent the number of non-strategic nuclear weapons.
The hawks were instrumental, while George W. Bush was campaigning for office in 2000, in drawing up a review of US nuclear strategy, adopted in 2002 that foresaw an expanded role for nuclear weapons.
Washington affirms it will not resume nuclear testing, even though it refuses to become a party to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Despite these declarations, Joseph Cirincione, head of the non-proliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment, is among analysts and former officials concerned that the review conference is heading for a “train wreck”.