Erosion of U.S. authority in the nonproliferation regime has imperiled U.S. national security and its ability to pursue its security objectives, particularly those related to nonproliferation. The next U.S. administration has an opportunity to reclaim leadership and rebuild the dangerously damaged nonproliferation regime, but only if it better understands the views of non-nuclear-weapon states.

Deepti Choubey led a discussion based on her new Carnegie report, Are New Nuclear Bargains Attainable? Representing two key non-nuclear-weapon states, Australian diplomat Peter Sawczak and Brazilian diplomat Achilles Zaluar commented on actions the U.S. must take to restore credibility among non-nuclear-weapon states.

Reality Check

Based on her interviews with the foreign ministries of sixteen important non-nuclear-weapon states, Choubey began by explaining that too often the U.S. misreads the political landscape when it crafts quid pro quo bargains that offer progress on disarmament (like ratifying the CTBT) for non-nuclear-weapon states support of additional nonproliferation initiatives. Nuclear-weapon states must fulfill previous commitments to demonstrate equal attention to the three pillars of the NPT before non-nuclear-weapon states will consider additional nonproliferation obligations.

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.
  • Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty.
  • Update NATO's nuclear doctrine for today’s threats.
  • Send a team of high-level officials to the 2009 NPT Preparatory Conference, 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.
  • Identify areas of common ground between nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states.
  • Resolve internal policy inconsistencies among foreign and defense ministry bureaucracies – particularly 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 different sizes of the U.S. nuclear arsenal over time.

Peter Sawczak supported Choubey’s pragmatic approach and called for renewed U.S. leadership. Sawczak warned that disarmament and nonproliferation concerns must be approached from a political angle that values different threat perceptions and works to build inter-regional trust. Achilles Zaluar added that the 13 Steps agreed upon at the 2000 Review Conference must be fulfilled, the U.S. must give equal attention to all three pillars of the NPT regime, and the U.S. must ratify the CTBT.

Question & Answer

A French diplomat questioned Choubey’s use of the term “bargain,” arguing that the word implies an exchange, whereas movement of disarmament is in the security interests of nuclear-weapon states. Choubey responded that the title referred to the notion of new quid pro quo bargains and not to existing arrangements agreed to between nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states.

Additional questions focused on the 2010 NPT Review Conference and where expectations should be set to ensure a sense of urgency from the next U.S. administration. The discussion also focused on redefining the 2010 NPT Review Conference as a foundation for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.