WASHINGTON, May 8—As North Korea prepares for another nuclear test and Iran continues to install centrifuges to enrich uranium, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) needs shoring up more than ever. Delegates are meeting in New York now to prepare for the next review of the landmark treaty in 2010. A topic that will certainly be on the agenda is the “13 Practical Steps” toward nuclear disarmament.

All NPT states agreed in 2000 to lay out a practical path toward nuclear disarmament—the 13 Steps. Are these still the right steps? How far have we come? In a new paper, Sharon Squassoni assesses the progress of the declared nuclear-weapon states (United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom) on the steps, and recommends measures to breathe new life into the 13 Steps or a similar package.


  • The 13 Steps are still the currency of the nuclear bargain, but need updating. New approaches, like Japan's "11 Benchmarks for Global Nuclear Disarmament" deserve attention.
  • U.S. leadership is critical, but not enough. Other states, nuclear-weapon states and non–nuclear-weapon states, must do their part.
  • China must commit to greater transparency in its nuclear force modernization efforts. Its nuclear posture heavily influences Indian and Pakistani strategic calculations.
  • Recent Russian initiatives are helpful, but nuclear weapons deserve less, rather than more emphasis in their security policies.
  • India, Israel, and Pakistan—all weapon states outside the NPT—must be included in the disarmament dialogue.

Squassoni concludes:

“The nuclear disarmament process must necessarily go above and beyond the NPT, particularly since there are now four states outside the regime. Yet it must also travel through the NPT, since nonproliferation is a sine qua non of disarmament. It is therefore essential that all states take the disarmament discussions seriously within the treaty review process, with an eye toward a safer world.”



  • Sharon Squassoni is a senior associate in the Carnegie Nonproliferation Program and has been analyzing nonproliferation, arms control, and national security issues for two decades. Previously a specialist in weapons of mass destruction proliferation at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Squassoni also served in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the State Department.
  • 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.
  • 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.