A key treaty, the Non-Proliferation Treaty has been in force for 22 years and is the only multi-lateral treaty among nuclear weapons states to pursue disarmament. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the treaty’s significance. It is signed by 189 countries including the five official nuclear states: the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France. The only non-signatory sovereign states are Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Note that Iran has in fact signed the NPT.
The binding principle of NPT is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology to countries that did not already have them. States with nuclear weapons must pursue nuclear disarmament. In return, nuclear technology for peaceful uses is to be made available to all.
Besides the commitment to complete disarmament, it is also very important to note that Article VI ensures that nuclear-weapon states would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are parties to the NPT. Many US planning documents are not inline with this requirement.
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)
Another important measure would be preventing any nation from testing a nuclear weapon. This can be accomplished though the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
A Nuclear Test Ban would increase U.S. security by making it harder for nations with nuclear weapons from developing new, more sophisticated warheads. And it would help prevent non-nuclear weapon states from developing nuclear weapons that could be delivered on a ballistic missile.
The CTBT has been signed by 180 nations, and ratified by 148, including all NATO countries and other key U.S. allies. But the CTBT cannot not be implemented until it is ratified by nine additional key countries, including the United States—which has signed but not ratified the treaty. President Obama has committed the US to ratify the CTBT and made it a top priority by placing Vice President Biden in charge of shepherding the treaty through the Senate.
START I, II, III
There have been a number of treaties to limit and reduce the number of strategically deployed nuclear weapons. The START treaties significantly reduced deployed weapons, but not stockpiled weapons. And only START I actually came into force. START II was signed but not ratified. START III was in the process of being negotiated. The other START treaties have been replaced by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, or SORT Treaty.
Presidents Bush and Putin sidestepped START III with a handshake agreement in November 2001 to reduce nuclear weapons to 1,700-2,200 on each side. A poorly written treaty, it only comes into force on a single day in 2013. You can have 6000 weapons before that day, and 6000 after, but only 2200 on that day. There are no enforcement mechanisms in the treaty, and SORT permits warheads to be stored directly next to missiles instead of destroying them. Weapons in reserve are not counted.
Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC)
One possible route to global zero is a Nuclear Weapons Convention treaty that PSR’s international affiliate—International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is pursuing. The proposed treaty will ban nuclear weapons and ensure their elimination. It would complement rather than undermine existing nuclear weapons treaties, such as the NPT and the CTBT.
The NWC would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as the production of fissile material suitable for making them (either highly enriched uranium or separated plutonium). It would require all nuclear-armed countries to destroy their nuclear weapons in stages, the last stage being to place all fissile material under international control to prevent nuclear weapons ever being made again.
In the months ahead our government will be re-examining its nuclear weapons policy. It is crucial that citizens participate in these critical decisions.