160 NGOs observed the 10th Review Conference of the Nonproliferation Treaty, August 1-26 and mourned the blocked outcomes. “We are witnessing the death of an international process” said Zia Mian of Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.
“That’s about right” said Charlie Johnson, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. “The nuclear weapons possessing countries are giving the appearance of taking this seriously. They don’t want to see the NPT die and all there be left is the TPNW.”
Unlike the TPNW, the NPT does not prohibit the threat of use of nuclear weapons. Ten US strategic bombers approached towards Russia from both the west and the east, coming within 20 kilometers of the Russian border during “Global Thunder’, an annual nuclear command and control exercise in November 2021. “Steadfast Noon’, in October 2021, US-led NATO forces likewise conducted rehearsals for use of nuclear weapons.
The Nuclear Ban Monitor, in its status report of the United States, acknowledged that the City of New York resolved last December to divest public funds from nuclear weapons manufacturers. It listed construction of a new underground nuclear weapons facility at F.E. Warren AFB, and the 200 B61-12 gravity bombs assigned to NATO.
“There are no such thing as small nuclear weapons,” demonstrated Moritz Kütt, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg. “We will not be able to cope and respond adequately,” agreed Veronique Christory, Senior Arms Control Advisor to the International Committee for the Red Cross.
The nine nuclear-possessing states currently maintain stockpiles of 12,700 nuclear weapons, down from 25,000 in 2007, when Condoleeza Rice appealed for a waiver for India to accede to obligations of the Nonproliferation Treaty. Jayantha Dhanapala, the former UN Undersecretary -General for Disarmament and Chairman of the 1995 Review Conference, claims that at the 2010 Conference NNWS challenged the NSC waiver calling it a violation of Article I of the NPT where all parties are urged ‘to ensure that their nuclear -related exports do not directly or indirectly assist the development of nuclear weapons or the nuclear explosive devices.’
Last year, in clear violation of Article I of the NPT, the US made transfer to the UK Trident II (D5) SLBMs, exporting Trident SLBM fire control system and missile compartments. The US also shared with the UK its W76 warhead design and it would be another violation if the US shares its W93 warhead design.
In deliberations that would ultimately be deemed overly politicized, and blocked by the Russian Federation, the US delegation introduced language condemning hostilities threatening the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Days after the conference, emergency protocols automatically shut down reactor 5 at the plant after shelling struck a 330-kV backup power line. The UN Security Council has stationed a fourteen-member mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the plant.
Tensions in the Middle East likewise gave a pretext to shelving outcomes from the 2015 NPT Review Conference. “It’s hard to get 190 some countries to agree on anything,” said Brian, a recent graduate from Middlebury with a MA in nonproliferation studies and counterterrorism. “I don’t have high hopes in nuclear disarmament. I don’t think it will happen ever.”
The ICRC conducted a survey of 16, 000 youths. Christory said, “We found worrisome more 50 percent think they will witness a nuclear confrontation during their lifetime. Even more worrisome, when asked what could they do, they said, nothing.”
“Intergenerational solidarity is not optional,” commented Jonathan Granoff, Global Security Institute President, citing Pope Francis on justice between the generations “but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” The live-streamed side event featuring Mikhail Gorbachev’s initiative at Reykjavik occurred two weeks before his death, at 91, Aug. 30.
Zia Mian compared the unresolved conflict of nuclear weapon states and non-possessing states saying “They are like a couple seeking divorce, sleeping in different rooms, not talking to one another.”
Delegates from the Pacific tried to confront the AUKUS agreement’s nuclear neocolonialism, but seemed more interested in the prospects achieving a landmark treaty protecting biodiversity in International Waters. Momentum, following the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in Vienna, seemed lost. The delegates, whose entrance to the UN bypassed an exhibition by the Hibakusha (Bomb Survivors), lacked resolve.
Observers at the United Nations are welcome thanks to the activists who encamped outside its Geneva Headquarters in the early 1980s. Fed by a mass march, the route of the women-led Berlin-Geneva march exposed bases hosting operable cruise missiles aimed at Russian cities. At least one US activist participated, the recently deceased Fr. Carl Kabat, member of the Plowshares 8. The marchers, encamped at Geneva University, were soon kicked off campus, but not before they won a permanent location, two parking spaces on the street of the Palais des Nations.
In a dissertation on the role of women’s encampments for disarmament, Jenny Clay recalls the tactic’s impact on the United Nations. The women’s sustained presence, on-on-the-scene during the disarmament conference of 1984, lent proof to a shift in favor of civil society inclusion at multi-lateral level. They drew up maps of meeting rooms which were soon sought after by delegates to navigate the sprawling Palais grounds.
Vanda Proskova, a leader of Youth Fusion, and member of the Abolition 2000 Working Group said, “The NPT is an old document. We need a new framework, a space where both NW states and non-NW states can create a roadmap to disarmament together.”
C.R. Spicer is a member of Peace Action Massachusetts and is Human Rights Commissioner in Somerville, MA.