Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear nations don’t acknowledge they undermine key nuclear treaty

Five nations with nuclear weapons announced Friday that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is at risk, but failed to take any responsibility themselves when they cited Iran’s uranium enrichment as the cause. I can’t help but shake my head in amazement at the way countries with nuclear weapons seem to have blinders on when it comes to upholding their end of the bargain to disarm under the NPT.

"The proliferation of nuclear weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security," the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France said in a joint address on the final day of a two-week meeting of 106 NPT member nations.

"The proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear program continue to be a matter of ongoing serious concern to us." Tehran is under U.N. sanctions for refusing to suspend the work and curbing U.N. inspections meant to verify its nature.

If nuclear weapons nations are concerned about undermining the NPT and the spread of nuclear weapons, they need to take a cold hard look at the effects of their own policies as well. I’d recommend beginning with the US.

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While threatening Iran, the US is playing favorites by contemplating a nuclear energy sharing deal with India, a country with a nuclear weapons program that has never signed on to the NPT. The US has taken part in increasingly hostile rhetoric and saber-rattling over Iran’s uranium enrichment, alleging that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons instead of the nuclear energy program that, for better or worse, Iran is technically allowed to do as a signer of the NPT. The NPT rests on the idea that countries with nuclear energy programs will not divert materials to be used for nuclear weapons programs. The US-India deal would give India civilian nuclear technology, but it would also free up limited amounts of India’s own uranium for weapons activities. India has not stopped its fissile material production. The deal with India doesn’t even require halting the trade in nuclear technology if India tests another nuclear weapon. If the US is worried about strengthening the NPT, it should stop pushing the deal with India.

The US signed on to the NPT forty years ago, but is taking steps today to build a new generation of nuclear weapons rather than fulfill our obligation under the treaty to work towards disarmament. Article VI of the NPT states that the US and other nations that have signed on must work in “good faith” towards nuclear disarmament at an “early date.” Sadly, Bush’s Complex Transformation proposal gives lip-service to the goal of disarmament by claiming to modernize the nation’s nuclear infrastructure in order to shrink our nuclear arsenal. But stockpile reductions can just as easily be achieved without Complex Transformation. What Complex Transformation actually allows is the infrastructure to support building the Reliable Replacement Warhead, a new nuclear weapon.

The US is right that the NPT is under attack. The “do as I say, not as I do” foreign policy approach to nuclear weapons currently held by the US seriously undermines the NPT. If the US is truly concerned by the global danger posed by the spread of nuclear weapons, it should practice what it preaches.

Photo: President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, March 2, 2006 (White House photo by Eric Draper)

Categories: Nuclear Weapons