Prospects for the 2010 NPT Review Conference

April 26, 2010 — Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), joined us for a discussion of the upcoming Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May. Ambassador Dhanapala served as Chair of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and is former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States. He is currently a Jennings Randolph Visiting Scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace and President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

Ambassador Dhanapala began by providing context for May’s NPT Review Conference.  The global atmosphere for non-proliferation is mixed with apprehension and hope.  While the failure of the previous review conference in 2005 to address Iran’s nuclear program and promote the ascension of India, Israel, and Pakistan to the treaty has engendered pessimism about the utility of the NPT, President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons has fueled optimism that the Obama administration can strengthen the global non-proliferation regime.  Other non-proliferation-related developments since the previous review conference in 2005 are likely to present new challenges, as well as opportunities, to extending and strengthening the NPT.  Of these developments, the progress of the Iranian nuclear program and the bilateral Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement, which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2008, are likely to be particularly important.

Ambassador Dhanapala then discussed the status of the three pillars of the NPT: non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear technology.  Again, progress has been mixed.  For example, North Korea’s exit from the NPT and Iran’s nuclear program have challenged the non-proliferation pillar, but Libya’s decision to come back into the treaty with full compliance has bolstered it.  In the realm of disarmament, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) agreement between the United States and Russia is generally seen as progress, however limited.  Similarly, the recently completed Global Nuclear Summit produced some progress in ensuring only the peaceful use of nuclear technology.  Other issues, however, such as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), have not seen progress in recent years.  Ambassador Dhanapala concluded by explaining that, because one state can block a consensus, a successful conference will require concerted efforts by both nuclear and non-nuclear states. 

The Question and Answer session began with a discussion of the consensus rule.  The procedure of the conference itself was then analyzed, including the role of NGO’s in the meeting.  The nuclear programs of India, Pakistan, and Israel and the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement were also discussed in the context of the state of the non-proliferation regime.  The session concluded with a lively discussion of Iran’s intentions toward the NPT, potential ways to levy costs on states for leaving the treaty, and the impact the conference could have on the United States’ campaign in the United Nations to establish tougher sanctions on Iran.

Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].

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