WASHINGTON, Oct 8—If the United States and other countries with nuclear weapons take action toward further disarmament, they hope that countries without them will support additional efforts to prevent the further spread and use of nuclear weapons.

But non–nuclear-weapon states take a different view. Citing the unfulfilled promises of nuclear-weapon states, they declare such a bargain to be unfair and a misreading of the political landscape.

A better understanding of the views of non–nuclear-weapon states would provide the next U.S. administration with a serious opportunity to lead the rebuilding of a dangerously damaged nonproliferation regime, explains Deepti Choubey in a new report.

Through discussions with sixteen foreign ministries of important non–nuclear-weapon states, Choubey provides a “reality check” on the environment in which U.S. officials seek to advance their nonproliferation agenda, offers a step-by-step approach to engage states without weapons, and explains what non–nuclear-weapon states want and how they can maximize their own agenda by responding to positive signals from the United States.

Key recommendations:

The next U.S. administration should:

  • Acknowledge and reconfirm previous disarmament commitments.
  • Unambiguously deemphasize the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy in the next U.S. National Security Strategy document and Nuclear Posture Review.
  • Reengage aspects of the disarmament machinery while setting a timeline for action and setting expectations about the roles and responsibilities of all states.
  • Negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • Update NATO’s nuclear doctrine for today’s threats.
  • Appoint a team of high-level officials, who can listen to the concerns of non–nuclear-weapon states and reorient U.S. policy ahead of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Non–nuclear-weapon states should:

  • Acknowledge the difficulties that fully disarming global arsenals will entail.
  • Demand more disarmament from nuclear-armed states other than the United States.
  • Make progress first in areas of common ground between nuclear and non–nuclear-weapon states.
  • Resolve internal policy inconsistencies—particularly the disagreement among NATO members on the utility of its nuclear umbrella.
  • Allies protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella should weigh in on U.S. nuclear posture debates and articulate their comfort with the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Choubey concludes:

“On both the nonproliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons, America’s leadership and authority have eroded so far that they have imperiled U.S. national security. There is a way forward, if American policy makers recognize that disarmament is not altruism. Instead, disarmament is vital to U.S. security. Many countries must take corrective action to improve the nonproliferation regime, but the United States has the best capacity to do so. With the alignment of a new U.S. administration, the sheer impact U.S. action can have on the international regime, and the impending 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the United States has a serious opportunity to reclaim its leadership.”


  • Deepti Choubey is the deputy director of the Carnegie Nonproliferation Program. Her research interests include the calculations of non–nuclear-weapon states, the intersection of nuclear nonproliferation and climate-change agendas, and the role of nonproliferation for long-term U.S. foreign policy. Prior to joining the Carnegie Endowment in 2006, Choubey was director of the Peace and Security Initiative (PSI) for the Ploughshares Fund.
  • The Carnegie Nonproliferation Program is an internationally recognized source of knowledge and policy thinking on efforts to curb the spread and use of nuclear weapons. Carnegie’s analysis consistently stays at the forefront of proliferation developments and nonproliferation policy debates. In Washington, Moscow, Brussels, New Delhi, and increasingly in Beijing, the program hosts public and private seminars, speeches, and workshops, where leading officials and experts seek to overcome obstacles to reduce the danger of nuclear war.
  • Carnegie Proliferation News provides synopses of top news stories related to preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons every Tuesday and Thursday as well as periodic issue briefs on the top news making issues.