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Indefinite Extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Risks and Reckonings

ACRONYM Report No.7, September 1995

Part IV: Assessment

"Only history can prove the wisdom of the decision. If genuine progress on nuclear disarmament is embarked on, if we have rigorous accountability as part of a strengthened review process, we should be able to hold the nuclear-weapon states to Article VI. If the world is a safer place with only five nuclear-weapon states rather than the 20 or 25 that were President Kennedy's nightmare, then the world is safest with no nuclear-weapon states. Going from five to zero is the road we must take now."

Jayantha Dhanapala

Four months on is too soon to judge whether making the Treaty permanent will strengthen the international proscription against the acquisition of nuclear weapons, by the haves as well as the have-nots, or whether it just reinforces the status-quo, leaving five nuclear weapon powers in the Treaty and three outside. Political developments nationally and internationally will be determining factors, but some preliminary appraisal can be attempted.

Part IV first examines the outcome of the Conference, including the strengths and weaknesses of the Principles which were agreed, the reasons for the failure of the review and the factors affecting the outcome. As one proof is in the practice, Part IV takes a brief look at the political aftermath: the actions of key states parties, and how the negotiations at the CD have been affected. The final section considers the prospects for the future, and sketches out some questions that need to be addressed now, in order to start planning for an enhanced review process that will fulfil the aims of its proponents.

Assessing the Outcome

The necessary function of the NPT Review and Extension Conference was accomplished: the Treaty was extended, by will of the majority of states parties. What were the other purposes and objectives of the NPT Conference, and to what extent were they achieved? What are the implications of its decisions for the future of global security?

Formally, of course, the other primary purpose was in accordance with Article VIII, to 'review the operation of this Treaty with a view to ensuring that the purposes of the Preamble and the provisions of the Treaty are being realised.' This turned out to be a poor second course to the main meal of extension, and one that a number of states were prepared to sacrifice. Additionally, it was the stated desire of many parties that the Conference should contribute to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime and to universalisation - bringing in all remaining states.

The first step would be to agree on what would strengthen the non-proliferation regime. Stronger safeguards were endorsed by almost all. Nuclear disarmament leading to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons was emphasised by an overwhelming majority of non-nuclear-weapon states, but resisted by the nuclear-weapon powers themselves (with the ostensible exception of China, which called for a convention for the complete and thorough prohibition and destruction of nuclear weapons). Although all states signed on to reiterations of the commitment to nuclear cooperation for peaceful purposes in Article IV, an analysis of the actual debates and proposals reveals a greater anxiety about the safety and utility of nuclear power and its link with nuclear weapons proliferation than at any previous review conference. This subtext of concern about Article IV formed alliances across the groups, joining Western, Eastern European and NAM states, and may well grow before the next review.

From the beginning, NAM states had stressed that the extension should be decided by consensus. Though many Northern states were concerned about the Treaty losing authority if rammed through on a vote - particularly if the majority was not overwhelming - advocates of indefinite extension had little hope before the Conference that consensus would be possible. Therefore the two most likely outcomes were judged to be indefinite extension by majority vote or a 25 year rolling extension agreed by consensus. Accepting, without a vote, the package of indefinite extension, principles and objectives, and strengthening the review process, together with the decision on the Middle East, enabled the Conference to avoid a potentially divisive vote, while saving face for those who could not be seen to endorse indefinite extension.

It was a clever solution and, in the circumstances, perhaps the only way to achieve extension without splitting the parties and weakening the Treaty. Its ability to consolidate an agreed outcome depended in part on ambiguities left open to interpretations that each government could sell back home. The device of deciding without a vote allowed some states to claim victory for consensus, and others to distance themselves from the decision, saying that they had merely concurred with the fact that a majority for indefinite extension already existed. Nonetheless, despite the reservations expressed immediately after by a number of NAM states, 174 out of 178 states parties participated in the decision without registering formal opposition.

Legally Binding, Politically Binding

Views on the relationship between the extension decision and the others taken at the same time also revealed potential for future conflict. Ambassador Thomas Graham of the US told a press conference on 11 May that the extension decision was legally binding, whereas the Principles and Review decisions were 'politically binding...intended to express the commitment of the parties to its principles and objectives.' He emphasised that it had been specifically designed not to be conditional. In accepting the decision, however, Indonesian Ambassador Nugroho Wisnamurti had stressed that the 'three decisions are of equal importance and constitute a package'. Iran's Ambassador Sirous Nasseri called them 'part and parcel of the extension decision' which 'made possible...conditional indefinite extension' of the Treaty. He spoke the obvious when he said that the 'Declaration on Principles and Objectives and the Decision on Strengthening the Review process [were] instrumental in avoiding a vote on the extension.' Egypt included the Middle East Resolution as part of the package, although it was not cross-referenced in the extension decision or the Principles and Review decisions, and was taken as a separate decision. Nevertheless, the timing and context were clearly dictated by the Arab states' need to have their concerns over Israel addressed more specifically than in the Principles, and the desire of the Conference President (and other parties, especially the nuclear-weapon states) to have these 14 important countries on board.

Without those collateral decisions, it would have been impossible to persuade a significant group of NAM states - possibly as many as one third of the NPT parties - to go along with indefinite extension, particularly in light of the degenerating review debate on nuclear disarmament in MC.I. With the contest over an open or secret ballot still simmering, the rules of procedure were only adopted on 10 May, by which time it was clear that their novel resolution on voting was unlikely to be tested. As well as the 25 year rolling extension proposal from the 'like-minded group' of NAM states, Mexico's resolution on indefinite extension with recommendations had stayed on the books, and would have attracted some of Canada's co-sponsors. A vote could have proved extremely messy. Though the legality of a majority decision on indefinite extension may have escaped challenge, without the other elements of the package this legal decision might rather quickly have become politically undone and left gaping. Attempting to cut short this emerging conflict of interpretation, Ambassador Dhanapala dismissed the debate about what was legally binding or politically binding: 'What is more important is that through delicate and painstaking negotiations the states parties were able to craft a balanced and forward-looking agreement which they are committed to implement in a systematic and progressive manner.'

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Principles

Even before failure of the Final Document loomed large, the states involved in the President's Consultations were taking the negotiations on the Principles more seriously than the reviews in the Committees. The purpose was to flesh out and bring up to date the broad obligations enshrined in the 1968 Treaty. The 23 Principles South Africa provided in the second week became the basis for hard-nosed bargaining over concepts and language among the key players. But in the end, how much was achieved?

Pressure was intense for some kind of time-bound framework. Managing to keep that out, the nuclear-weapon states were forced to accept reference to a 'programme of action'. Although this programme, as outlined, only contained three provisions, the precedent may prove significant. A target date of 1996 was set for concluding a CTBT. This was conceded only as a result of heavy pressure on Paris and due in no small measure to Mexico's dogged insistence. However, in return, France and China succeeded in diluting Mexico's demand that the nuclear-weapon states should maintain the moratoria and refrain from testing pending a CTBT's entry into force. This was flattened into a pledge to 'exercise utmost restraint'. Though this has been evoked time and again by the non-nuclear-weapon states in their criticisms of the French and Chinese tests, China's stock reply is that it is exercising utmost restraint. France and China have justified this in the following ways: they say their tests are the absolute minimum they need; and China points to the far greater number of tests conducted by the superpowers. Senior British officials have dismissed some of the outrage as 'sheer hypocrisy', arguing that 'everyone in New York knew what 'utmost restraint' meant - it meant China would carry on testing and France was leaving the option open.' Such comments only underline the view of one G21 representative: 'We should have held out for the moratorium language.' Given the battle over 1996 and subsequent events, there is no certainty that they could have won, and Mexico was not in a position to risk the extension package, as it had done in 1990 with the Final Declaration.

No deadline was set for a treaty that would ban fissile materials for nuclear weapons purposes, and the issue of stockpiles was left as ambiguous as Ambassador Shannon's statement to the CD on 23 March (excluding stocks from the direct mandate but not precluding them from discussion). Where Article VI vaguely commits parties to 'pursue negotiations in good faith', the Principles require 'the determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons, and by all states of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.' The Western nuclear powers unsuccessfully resisted the term 'eliminating nuclear weapons', and the overall tenor gives a positive impression. However, the language contains two diplo-speak loopholes which can be employed to keep nuclear disarmament at a far distance. An 'ultimate goal' may be interpreted as final or conclusive, coming at the very end of the process of disarmament (meaning, perhaps, never). Alternatively, though, non-nuclear-weapon states could argue that an 'ultimate goal' may be read as a paramount, highest or fundamental objective, meaning one accorded the greatest priority. The other loophole, used increasingly in statements from the nuclear-weapon states, is to locate nuclear disarmament or the elimination of nuclear weapons within the context of complete and general disarmament, implying the far future, if ever. However, just as in the case of the CTBT, which was kept remote by UK policy-makers in the 1970s and 1980s as a 'long term objective', it is sometimes possible to shorten the political distance intended by the P-5.

With due regard for the importance the issue of universality had assumed at this Conference, the Principles placed it prominently at paragraph 1, calling on all states not yet party to the NPT 'particularly those states that operate unsafeguarded nuclear facilities' to accede at the earliest date. Emphasising the point unmistakably, without ever naming Israel, Principle 6 on nuclear weapon free zones refers especially to 'regions of tension, such as in the Middle East...'.

The Principles and Objectives took security assurances a step forward, noting UNSC 984 and calling for 'further steps ... [which] could take the form of an internationally legally binding instrument.' However, the statement still lacked agreement on mechanisms or means for taking this forward. Following the loss of the consensus text agreed for the abortive Final Document, and with the CD paralysed on this issue (partly due to the policies of India and Pakistan), there are likely to be calls for a Conference on security assurances to be held in the near future.

South Africa's first draft of the Principles contained a fourth requirement under the section on nuclear disarmament: 'The placement of nuclear material transferred from military use to peaceful nuclear activities under IAEA safeguards.' This was already much weaker than demands by Germany, Mexico and others, that all fissile material from dismantled warheads should be placed under safeguards. Nevertheless, at the insistence of the P-5, the paragraph was weakened further and transferred to the section on safeguards. All that is now required is for material to be transferred 'as soon as practicable', in the framework of voluntary agreements, with universal application only after the achievement of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, an almost meaningless provision.

In general, the safeguards agreements in the Principles reflect Northern concerns rather than those pushed by Iran. This is partly because Iran itself had little support within the NAM for some of its positions. The Principles underline the need for an increased capability to detect undeclared nuclear activities. Most importantly, they enshrine IAEA full-scope safeguards and 'internationally legally binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices' as a precondition for new supply arrangements of nuclear material or equipment. This would choke off supply to India, Pakistan and Israel, unless suppliers could argue that their arrangements were pre-existing. Given the China-Pakistan, Russia-India and France-Israel connections, this has potentially significant implications, if actually implemented.

The final section on the non-military uses of nuclear energy is long on rhetoric but short on concrete action. Point 16 calls for preferential treatment to non-nuclear-weapon states parties, which might affect the IAEA's budgetary decisions on assistance to non-NPT parties India, Israel and Pakistan. There is a call for transparency in nuclear-related export controls, though no indication of what that will mean in practice. In a paragraph substantially weaker than the commitments the AOSIS and others had won in MC.III, states are asked to maintain the 'highest practicable levels' of safety, including waste management, and observe existing standards on materials accounting, physical protection and transport of nuclear materials. There is no mention of raising standards or of making states liable for damage, including environmental damage, arising from their nuclear activities. Concerns voiced by Iran and others about attacks on nuclear facilities are also reflected, with woolly reference to 'appropriate action' according to the provisions of the UN Charter.

Nothing of MC.III's rejection of so-called peaceful nuclear explosions found its way into the Principles (except through the logic that China would have to drop PNEs for the CD to meet the requirement of a CTBT no later than 1996). Although Australia and Finland both pushed China in the CD, using this language, the fact that it was agreed only by the Committee and had no status as part of a Final Declaration has enabled China to ignore it. Instead, China has reportedly been bolstering its arguments for PNEs in the CTBT talks by culling from past NPT Final Declarations, which contained rhetorical affirmations of Article V, even though no-one was benefiting from it in practice.

The Unreconcilable Review

Reasons advanced for the loss of the Final Declaration include: the victory arrogance of the nuclear-weapon states; the vengeance of 'like-minded' NAM states who felt defeated; poor management and negative dynamics in MC.I resulting in a ridiculously bracketed text; diversion of political interest, energy and authority into the Principles negotiations; and the primacy of the extension decision. With full political and diplomatic attention only focusing on the review in the final 36 hours, lack of time proved fatal. Because of this failure, a number of important potential agreements not fully covered by the Principles and Objectives were lost. Perhaps they were not lost completely, because the Committee reports were attached to the final document, and subsequently circulated by the IAEA as part of an information circular, INFCIRC/474, but as can be seen from China's tactics on PNEs, the loss of authority of such understandings is significant.

Although several issues, including the Middle East, export controls and security assurances, had been fiercely debated, it was the opposing positions on nuclear disarmament which sank the Final Declaration in the end. As can be seen from statements made before the NPT, during the General Debate and in MC.I, there were deep differences between the nuclear-weapon states and many non-nuclear-weapon states over whether they have done enough to comply with Article VI and whether further measures should be specifically identified, including a time-table for implementation. Undoubtedly too, the heavy-handed chairing by Ambassador Ayewah contributed to a breakdown of MC.I, as states on all sides grew increasingly irritated and fractious. Nevertheless, the differences on substance were great, and it would have taken great skill and understanding from any chair to engineer a compromise.

Ambassador Strulak, as chair of the Drafting Committee, tried to resolve the differences in the final week. His instinct to write a fresh draft, taking the discussions into account, was probably right, but time and the legacy of rancour and polarisation from MC.I conspired against him. His difficulties were compounded because so many key states had their 'heavyweight' diplomats closeted in the President's Consultations until Thursday. By the time Ambassador Dhanapala was free to become involved, the time-pressure was excruciating. Some states proposed that he lift the relevant text on disarmament from the Principles and Objectives, but others objected that too much was not covered there. Others suggested that he should exercise the Chair's prerogative and impose a 'vision text', though there was little time left for that. In the end he banged heads together and set deadlines, and when that did not work he called a halt. Whether he would have persevered if there had been no Principles and strengthened review commitment giving substance to the extension decision is an interesting question. The Conference may have been forced to toil through the weekend!

The cause of the impasse was not simply a fight between the 'like-minded group' of NAM states and the nuclear-weapon states, as several Western officials have tried to portray it. In fact, while the NAM were deeply divided on the extension decision, they were remarkably unified on the substantive issues relating to Article VI. The positions they took at the NPT Conference were consistent with positions endorsed by the NAM as a whole in Document NPT/CONF.1995/PC.III/13, issued at the Third PrepCom in September 1994. This called for a time-bound framework and a target date for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, a CTBT by 1995, a fissile materials ban including stockpiles and legally binding security assurances (preferably by means of an international convention), and for arms reduction initiatives to follow on from START II, including participation by China, France and the UK.

It was the Western Group that divided over Article VI. Breaking with the EU, Sweden and Ireland called for a time-table and steps towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. New Zealand argued for a follow-on measure to ban the production and development of nuclear weapons. Several states considered that stockpiles should be included in fissile ban negotiations, or mentioned the desirability of a START III process and the need for China, France and the UK to participate in multilateral arms reduction negotiations. After the extension decision had been taken, the 'abolitionists' in the Western Group were joined by several more, including Canada, Australia and Japan, who tried to pressure the nuclear-weapon states, particularly the US, the UK and France, to compromise on their refusal to allow criticism of their past compliance and provide some programme of action for the future. But despite having agreed to a 'programme of action' in the Principles Document, the nuclear-weapon states held out against any clear identification of steps or a timetable in the Final Declaration.

In the disagreements over language and emphasis, nuclear disarmament seemed to be used by the nuclear-weapon states and some of their allies to denote a process rather than a goal. During the cold war, arms control was the process and disarmament the goal. Now, however, the UK declares 'Britain has not folded its arms and decided that nuclear disarmament is only for others'. This is in connection with removal of tactical weapons, while elsewhere the UK makes clear that it expects to rely on nuclear weapons 'for the foreseeable future'. If nuclear disarmament is a process, the nuclear-weapon states can argue that it is being achieved; if it is a goal, it has clearly not yet been attained.

It must also be noted that during the Cold War the UK extolled the virtues of multilateral nuclear disarmament, while ridiculing calls from the anti-nuclear advocates in the Labour Party and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) for unilateral nuclear disarmament measures. Now, faced with growing pressure to participate in multilateral disarmament negotiations, the UK advocates unilateral measures, falling back on the Chinese position - when the superpowers get their arsenals down to hundreds of nuclear weapons, then we will consider talking multilaterally.

Factors Affecting the Outcome

Four of the nuclear-weapon states had made indefinite extension of the NPT a major foreign policy objective. In the final months before the Conference, they and their allies intensified the pressure on smaller states. While US representatives spoke confidently of having the numbers, France, the UK and Russia were less certain of the outcome. The breakdown of the intersessional meeting over NAM demands for a secret ballot increased their nervousness that this would be a tricky victory to pull off. With the havoc wreaked by Iran at the Third PrepCom fresh in their minds, they did not want to take chances. But the NAM opposition fragmented, the numbers piled up, and by the half way mark indefinite extension looked like a done deal. The only questions remaining were whether some kind of consensus could be negotiated, which both sides considered desirable, and at what price.

Advocates of indefinite extension were organising openly over two years ago, passing resolutions backing this option in as many fora as possible: NATO, the EU, the OSCE, South Pacific Forum. They obtained the support of several countries, such as Sweden, Ireland and Japan, before any real political debate got going domestically. The strategy of the P-4 (the US, the UK, France and Russia) was simple: present indefinite extension as the only reliable and legally unchallengeable option, pick off and apply pressure to the NAM states one by one, create a momentum for indefinite extension, and this will carry it through. The strategy worked, but not as they had expected. Few had believed that consensus would be possible, though they paid it lipservice. When the NAM started pushing collectively for consensus, the P-4 responded with hostility, viewing this (probably rightly) as a device to get a rolling extension. While a 25 year rolling extension may have been the US fallback position (though Russia was adamantly against), it was not something the P-4 wanted. If the problems with the rules of procedure for voting had not occurred, the outcome might have been very different. To the extent that they had a strategy, the P-4 expected to exchange views, begin the review, have a major confrontation and force a vote (which they would win on a greater or lesser majority). They would then have some picking up of pieces, while asserting the legal authority of the majority vote, and in a year all would be forgotten and accepted.

Paradoxically, it may have been the 'disastrous' Third PrepCom which woke the Northern powers to the need to marshall their arguments and strategise more effectively. Those NAM states which they could not persuade, such as Iran and Nigeria, they aimed to isolate. It was rumoured that they applied pressure on governments to isolate or neutralise ambassadors capable of inspiring or unifying the NAM with a strong and articulate vision, such as Marin Bosch of Mexico and Taylhardat of Venezuela. Ambassador Marin Bosch stayed on to the end, but with his hands tied. Ambassador Taylhardat resigned in the last week of the conference, when his government signed on to indefinite extension. One of the interesting 'what ifs' of the conference concerns Mexico's 'wild card' resolution. What if Mexico had backed indefinite extension earlier and circulated its proposal with recommendations at the same time as Canada was garnering support for its three-line resolution? A large number of NAM representatives and others were attracted to Mexico's recommendations. What if the Principles negotiations had foundered, and delegates had been faced with a choice between the bald Canadian and the 'semi-conditional' Mexican resolutions on indefinite extension? Sandwiched between the peso crisis and the US's unyielding push for indefinite extension, Mexico put its cards down but made no attempt to play its best hand. It neither tried to get co-sponsors nor argue for its resolution, perhaps only ever intending to have it lie on the table 'keeping the Principles negotiations honest.'

Collapse of NAM Opposition

'When the Bandung Conference collapsed, the NAM knew it was over', a conference official observed the week after. Less clear is why the NAM leadership left it until Bandung - half way through the Conference - to try to coordinate a common position on extension. Around the time that it presented its arguments for the third option of a long term rolling extension, South Africa reportedly tried to unify NAM support behind this option. Commenting on its lack of success, one NAM diplomat said that South Africa went about it 'the wrong way, too pushy...these things take time.' But with only a few months to the Conference and an intensification of pressure from France, the UK and the US, time was not unlimited. In NAM terms, South Africa was up against several drawbacks. It was a new member, albeit with the enormous prestige of Nelson Mandela; it had clandestinely developed nuclear weapons (though widely welcomed, the previous administration's reasons for dismantling them and joining the NPT might not bear too close scrutiny); and it was an advanced nuclear supplier with a white-dominated nuclear industry. Another reason for lack of response to South Africa's overtures was division among the traditional NAM leadership. In the run-up to the Conference, most of them rejected the 25 year rolling extension as tantamount to indefinite: Nigeria thought they could get a much shorter period, 10-15 years; Egypt was preoccupied with Israel; Venezuela was pursuing its own version of the 25 year 'roll-over' treaty; Mexico had been stifled; and Indonesia seemed slow to pay the issue the attention it needed. In addition, Nigeria and Indonesia had lost moral authority within the NAM due to their domestic policies.

As the larger nuclear powers were not slow to exploit, commercial interests were a big factor, with the implied threat that a short term or insecure treaty would mean no more nuclear cooperation. For states such as Iran and Indonesia, as well as South Africa, this was a compelling argument. After more than two months of trying to get NAM backing for the 25 year rolling extension, and following high level discussions with several countries, including Canada and the US, South Africa decided to support indefinite extension. The Principles and strengthened review proposal was born out of a desire to provide the pressure for 'constant review' and implementation which had first attracted it to the rolling option.

South Africa may have been a more prominent state than most, but its dilemmas, faced with the lack of a coherent alternative from the NAM leadership, illustrate some of the reasons why so many NAM countries ended up backing indefinite extension. If they might have preferred a 25 year rolling option, their security and commercial interests made certain that they did not want to risk something shorter or less stable.

It appears that the NAM leadership, gathering in Bandung 25-27 April, were slow to realise the shifts. They finally agreed among themselves to back the most automatic version of the 25 year rolling extension, but when they presented it to the Conference for approval, they lost. Early reports blamed South Africa for sabotaging the Bandung meeting, but these were not borne out by the facts (as far as one can glean). In what may have had its origins in francophone/anglophone rivalry, Benin spearheaded the opposition, backed by a significant number of the 50 African states in the NAM.

Though Bandung was a political disaster, one positive outcome was Indonesia's realisation that the only hope of applying pressure for future implementation lay in the President's Consultations on the South African Principles and enhanced review. Indonesia's late input resulted in strengthened language and a tighter binding of the three resolutions through explicit cross-referencing in the preamble of the extension decision.

Although some observers and press were quick to write the NAM's obituary at the end of the Conference, it would be premature. As already noted, though divided on the extension decision, the NAM was more unified than the Western Group on substantive issues like nuclear disarmament, security assurances and peaceful cooperation. They backed the interests of the small island states on nuclear safety, waste, transshipments and liability and, to a large extent, supported Egypt and the Arab states in pushing Middle Eastern concerns to the forefront of the Conference. Moreover, given the juggernaut for indefinite extension at the start of the Conference, it was a combination of NAM stubbornness on voting by secret ballot, the South African principles and Ambassador Dhanapala's desire for consensus that avoided a vote and, almost certainly, an empty-handed defeat.

Arab States

By contrast, the role of the Arab States was largely successful. They had unified around a set of demands relating to universality and Israel's nuclear programme, and they applied pressure disproportionate to their numbers because they withheld agreement on extension until their issues were addressed. They could not be ignored because, in addition to those dismissed as 'pariah' states, the group included key states in terms of Western strategic interests. Though the US was able to prevent a specific targeting of Israel by name, the meaning and intention was clear in the language adopted not only in the Resolution on the Middle East, but also in the Principles and Objectives, and in numerous sections of the Main Committee reports. Moreover, the sponsoring of the Resolution by the three depositary states was an inspired political manoeuvre.


Iran's role was interesting, but not nearly as combative as some nuclear-weapon states had expected after the Third PrepCom. Although only the UK explicitly cast doubts on Iran's nuclear probity during the NPT Conference, a sub-plot involving US attempts to scupper the Iran-Russia reactor deal ran through the four weeks. For some time, the US had accused Iran of developing a clandestine nuclear programme, but without providing proof to contradict the IAEA safeguards assessment that Iran is a party 'in good standing'. When Russia announced an agreement to complete two pressurized water reactors and supply Iran with nuclear fuel, the US Administration whipped up media outrage. Russia agreed not to supply Iran with a centrifuge for uranium enrichment that most observers considered was never on offer in any case, but was immensely irritated by US accusations of irresponsibility. It pointed out that its deal with Iran was not so different from the US-DPRK offer under the September 1994 Framework Agreement, and that Russia would be responsible for handling the reactor's spent fuel. Nonetheless, half way through the Conference, President Clinton announced trade sanctions against Iran, in a speech aimed at a domestic audience.

The reaction of Iran's delegation seemed calmer than that of US delegates, who were furious that they had not been warned. Other Western delegations feared that this could spark the kind of confrontation with Iran that they had been anxious to avoid. With the exception of the last minute insertion of a paragraph condemning 'unilaterally enforced restrictive measures' into MC.III's report on 'direct and explicit instructions' from its government, Iran's delegation kept its cool. It was rewarded with a substantial paragraph in the Principles directing states with concerns about non-compliance to present their evidence to the IAEA as the 'competent authority' for verifying fulfilment of Article III obligations. This was almost certainly aimed at the US. However, advocates of the export control regime succeeded in preventing the IAEA being designated the 'sole' authority, as Iran had insisted on in MC.II's report.

The reasons for Iran's more accommodating attitude are complex. Its ability to paralyse the Third PrepCom was in large measure due to the reasonableness of its procedural challenges and effective manipulation by its shrewd team of diplomats. At the NPT Conference, however, the stakes were higher. Few NAM states backed Iran's central demand for an export control committee of all states parties to replace the London Club of nuclear suppliers. They might support greater openness, even accountability (as evinced by their support for 'transparency in nuclear-related export controls' in the Principles) but very few, if any, had a real complaint about the operations of the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Knowing this, Iran hedged its bets by framing its demands in terms both of nuclear cooperation and of non-discriminatory controls, inserting similar language in MC.II and III, and in the Principles. In addition, there was pressure from Russia not to jeopardise the Conference. One of the Iranian delegation's skills was in knowing when it had realised as much as it could and the time had come to let go and compromise. Paradoxically, the Russian reactor deal increased the importance of Iran's own commercial interests and added consequence to Russia's pressure on Iran over the NPT. It will also have contributed to Iran's determination not to become isolated through its own intransigence.

Iraq and the DPRK

By contrast, Iraq and the DPRK challenged practically every negative reference to their non-compliance, but with negligible support. Though they succeeded in maintaining brackets around the relevant paragraphs, they would not have been able to prevent their inclusion, had there been a final declaration. Having kept the references down to the minimum, the DPRK withdrew from participation in decision-making three days from the end, so that it would neither veto nor acquiesce in criticism of its nuclear programme and non-compliance with its safeguards obligations. Iraq remained, but was almost completely isolated.

Alliances in the Future

If it is too early to write the NAM's obituary, it is nevertheless clear that the present system of groups is not working effectively, whether in the CD, the UN or at the NPT. In his farewell speech to the CD in June, Ambassador Shannon of Canada argued that the traditional groupings, inherited from a bygone era, may have been a calming device during the cold war, but were now 'artificial and unproductive.' He spoke of the effectiveness of convening groups of members outside the traditional groups when he was negotiating the Fissban mandate in 1994-95. This may well have been a factor contributing to the success of the President's Consultations, as opposed to the polarisation in MC.I. As the raison d'être for the Cold War alliances recedes, different groupings will assume greater prominence in decision-making. These are likely to have a geographical dimension without being exclusively regional. Political alliances may be grouped around commercial, trading or environmental interests. They may be more fluid than at present, with groups for particular issues or to achieve specific objectives. Examples were already emerging at the NPT Conference: the G-11 group of non-nuclear-weapon states, which issued a series of working papers on safeguards and civil nuclear issues; and the alliance of small island states, which were supported on nuclear safety and transport issues by countries such as the industrialised nations of the Southern Hemisphere, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. On nuclear issues, non-nuclear-weapon states such as Australia, Japan and Sweden have more in common with NAM states such as South Africa, Mexico and the Philippines than with the three nuclear-weapon states in the Western Group. Those Eastern European countries which are now seeking membership of the EU and NATO, are presently supporting those alliances with little criticism. But as they grow more politically and economically confident, they may form a stronger bloc with the Scandinavians, Austria and Ireland. As the nuclear-weapon states (or at least the P-4) increasingly stick together, one trend to watch out for is that of the nuclear-weapon states versus the rest.

Immediate Aftermath (May to September)

The four months immediately following the NPT Conference contained serious blows for the non-proliferation and disarmament commitments enshrined in the now permanent NPT. There were setbacks on nuclear testing, with small but significant gains in the CTBT talks in Geneva. A leaden air of hangover (with perhaps some retribution) stifled current negotiations and offered little breathing space for new initiatives. Perhaps that was inevitable, given the energy and interest expended on the NPT Conference, and time needed for both sides to stop considering themselves victors or victims.

Nuclear Tests

The first month after the NPT was made permanent looked ominous for the future of non-proliferation. Barely waiting for the ink to dry on its commitment in the Principles to exercise 'utmost restraint' pending entry into force of a CTBT, China exploded a nuclear bomb on 15 May. The 85-110 kt nuclear device was detonated at Lop Nor in Xinjiang Province, as part of a continuing programme of nuclear tests. That same day, China's Ambassador told the Plenary Meeting of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) that 'the results of the [NPT] conference will have a positive and far-reaching bearing on the disarmament process, as well as on international peace and security.' Delegates attending the UNDC seemed most outraged that China had conducted the test earlier than expected. 'We had been told it would happen on Wednesday' said one senior Western delegate, who added that the test was originally planned during early May, and that it had taken some effort by diplomats to persuade China's military to hold off until after the NPT Conference had ended. Although many countries made ritualistic statements regretting China's test, it was left to NGOs to condemn it as inconsistent with the NPT obligations just reaffirmed in the Principles and Objectives. China exploded another 60-80kt nuclear weapons test on 17 August, amid rumours that at least 3-5 more explosions were planned. As more countries condemned the continuing tests, directly evoking the commitments made in the Principles and Objectives, China's official statements emphasised that by conducting only the minimum number required, it was exercising 'utmost restraint'. China also began to place different emphasis on the commitment in the Principles to completing a CTBT 'no later than 1996.' No longer accepting 1996 as the deadline for ceasing all nuclear testing, as was the clear intention of the non-nuclear-weapon parties to the NPT, China now says that it will stop testing 'once the comprehensive test ban treaty enters into force'. Depending on the terms for entry into force, that could be some years hence. China, like most of the other nuclear-weapon states, currently favours rather strict conditions, based on adherence by about 60 states with nuclear programmes.

On 13 June, the newly installed President of France, Jacques Chirac, announced that France would resume nuclear testing to conduct up to eight explosions between 1 September 1995 and 31 May 1996. Although the same statement pledged that this was to be the last series, and that France would sign the CTBT (if concluded) in 1996, the prospect of more French tests in the South Pacific ignited strong public protest throughout the world, and a political backlash in the Pacific.

At about the same time, rumours that a debate over testing thresholds had reopened in the US were confirmed in a public statement by Secretary of Defense William Perry on 18 June. The Pentagon had reportedly been given permission to raise the threshold question as long as it waited until the NPT extension was safely in the bag, and the Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff, with some support in the Department of State, were now pushing for tests of up to 500 tons to be allowed in the CTBT. There were further indications that some sections of the weapons laboratories and the Defense Department were also lobbying to terminate the US moratorium, in force since October 1992, so that the US could conduct a few additional tests before conclusion of a CTBT. This was vehemently denied by the Clinton Administration.

France's resumption and the US's dithering seemed to paralyse the negotiations in Geneva, but galvanised public and political opposition to nuclear testing. Threatened with boycotts and condemned from all sides (though not by all governments), Chirac attempted damage-limitation with positive offers in the context of the CTBT negotiations. On 14 July, he indicated that France would drop its requirement for a 'low threshold' in the CTBT and subsequently left open the possibility that the test series might be fewer than eight, and could finish earlier than May 1996. Since France had been pushing for most of the year among the P-5 in Geneva for tests up to 200-300 tons to be permitted in the CTBT, there was intense speculation regarding the meaning of the 'Bastille Day' comments. On 10 August, France satisfied the speculators by advocating 'a truly comprehensive prohibition' and adopting Australian scope language banning 'any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion'. Since this had already been adopted by the US and the UK, with the understanding that very low yield weapons tests, known as hydronuclear experiments (HNE), would be exempt, it is probable that France intended to adopt this understanding as well. However, they were overtaken by events as the Clinton Administration decided to resolve its inter-agency argument (over a genuinely comprehensive ban versus thresholds from 4 lbs to 500 tons) by announcing, on 11 August, the US's commitment to 'a true zero yield comprehensive test ban.' Five days later, a seven-line communiqué from the French Presidency clarified that France accepted a prohibition on all nuclear tests 'whatever the level'.

It took the UK until 14 September before it too joined the US and France in supporting an 'absolute ban on test explosions involving the release of nuclear energy'. No such indications have yet been forthcoming from Russia and China, despite China's insistence in 1994 that the scope should cover any nuclear weapon test 'which releases nuclear energy' (in effect a zero yield). Despite the unanimous acceptance by the NPT Conference's Main Committee III that the benefits from so-called peaceful nuclear explosions had not materialised or been demonstrated, and the view of international experts that it would be impossible to ensure a strict separation between weapons tests and PNEs, China continues to insist that PNEs should not be banned under a CTBT, impeding agreement on scope.

Although the France-US-UK decisions to back a zero yield treaty gave a welcome boost to the last few weeks of CTBT negotiations in Geneva, the CD concluded its 1995 session with a rolling text containing about a thousand pairs of brackets around disputed language and preferences. Progress had been made on the international monitoring system, but agreement still seemed a long way off on the key articles covering scope, verification, entry into force and the CTB Organisation. Although most of the negotiators evoke the commitment in the NPT Principles decision to conclude a CTBT by 1996, several have begun to raise doubts as to whether this can be achieved at the present pace. While France is now displaying a greater sense of urgency than many, China has compromised little, and some negotiators are now questioning whether the political will exists in China for a multilateral CTBT to be signed in 1996. The effects of the public protests against French and Chinese testing have also been felt in London and Washington, giving warning of revived anti-nuclear and peace movements if a CTBT is not forthcoming. However, there are worrying signs that there is little post-NPT attention in Moscow to nuclear disarmament in general and the CTBT negotiations in particular. The situation in Russia appears confused and contradictory, with committed negotiators in Geneva, backed by some progressives in the Foreign Ministry, and hard-liners in the Defence Ministry and Minatom still digging in.

While, on the one hand, the French Government responded to international criticism of its nuclear test programme by taking positive initiatives to further the CTB negotiations, other defensive manoeuvres were less welcome. Philippe Séguin, Speaker of the French National Assembly, supported French proposals to 'share France's nuclear arsenal with the European Union', in which Bonn is reportedly showing interest. Séguin argued that the 'aim would be a system in which [certain EU] countries' conventional troops would enter any military engagement with the cover of a nuclear force that would function on their own, even if it would essentially be up to the French to implement nuclear action.' He spoke of 'joint decisions about targets for the French nuclear arsenal' and suggested the possibility for 'French nuclear submarines regularly [to] carry a non-French officer - presumably a Belgian, German or Spaniard - who would have a second nuclear key.' Such discussions do not sit consistently with the Articles I and II commitments undertaken by France itself and the non-nuclear-weapon EU countries Séguin named. This is particularly provocative in light of the concerns raised by a number of non-nuclear-weapon states in Main Committee I about NATO's existing arrangements for deploying US and British nuclear weapons in Europe. At that time they did not wish so much to castigate NATO members for the past, recognising that those Cold-War arrangements had pre-dated the NPT and that ratification by the US had been with the understanding that such deployments would not be prohibited per se. The salient message of that debate was that in the changed international climate, the acceptability of such deployments could not be taken for granted. France's latest proposal will undoubtedly raise this debate to greater prominence, fuelling fears among North African, Middle Eastern and Central European neighbours.

Gains and Setbacks: May to September

15 May: China explodes 85-110 kt nuclear test at Lop Nor

June-July: US Pentagon pushes for nuclear tests up to 500 tons to continue after a CTBT

2 June: US funding for dismantling former Soviet nuclear and chemical weapons threatened with 40 percent cut

13 June: France announces resumption of nuclear testing

12-16 June: IAEA pushing for powers for comprehensive safeguards

26 June: Israel rebuffs US over halting fissile material production for nuclear weapons

13 July: Brookings Institute estimates that US nuclear weapons programme cost nearly $4,000 billion

7 August: US Congressional Committee recommends overturning the 1972 ABM Treaty

10 August: France supports fully comprehensive test ban treaty

11 August: US announces 'true zero yield' commitment on CTBT scope

16 August: France confirms zero yield CTBT scope

17 August: China explodes 60-80 kt nuclear test

24 August: Declassified US Department of Defense reports from 1984 confirm that Pakistan had assembled several nuclear weapons, with Chinese assistance

5 September: France explodes 5-20 kt nuclear test at Moruroa

14 September: UK accepts zero yield CTBT scope

22 September: CD closes 1995 session with no agreement on scope, verification, entry into force or CTBT Organisation, and no consensus on establishing a Fissban committee in 1996

Gridlock in the CD

In all respects except the CTBT, the CD has been completely deadlocked, failing to agree its 1995 agenda, and establishment of committees and coordinators. Although problems on these issues pre-date the NPT Conference, there was a discernible post-NPT effect on relations and attitudes. The CD session of 29 May-7 July was characterised by polarised intransigence and rancorous exchanges between representatives of the nuclear-weapon states and certain members of the G21 Group of Non-aligned States. Chiefly because of French and Chinese testing decisions, relations also deteriorated publicly between the French and Australian delegations, and between China and Japan. One senior US diplomat called the mood a 'post-NPT hangover' and predicted that it would improve over the summer. It did, mainly in response to positive French and US moves on CTB scope, but not enough to get the CD moving again.

Despite consensus on a mandate to negotiate a weapons-based fissile materials ban in March, discussions could not begin because of wrangling in the CD over which committees should be established. Each side insisted on linking the issues, regardless of their individual merits, leading to futile exchanges based on 'you shan't have your committee if you don't agree to mine.' In 1994, in addition to the Nuclear Test Ban (NTB) Committee, committees were convened on Transparency in Armaments (TIA), Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), and Negative Security Assurances (NSA). Several NAM states, including Mexico, Egypt and Iran, argue that in order to fulfil the commitments in the NPT Principles decision, a further committee should be established on Nuclear Disarmament. With the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty getting a hammering from US developments on Theatre Missile Defence, some G21 states want the PAROS Committee to be reconvened, while others in the CD caution against overloading the agenda. Some G21 states further argue that the TIA Committee should only be reconvened if its mandate covers transparency in nuclear arms as well as conventional armaments, and that the NSA Committee should be given a mandate to negotiate a legally binding convention on security assurances. The US, France and the UK have adamantly opposed establishing a Committee on Nuclear Disarmament and argue that TIA should continue to deal only with conventional weapons as it is the sole body in the CD to do so. Their interpretation of the Fissban mandate is based on a restrictive interpretation of the 1994 UNGA consensus resolution 48/75L, excluding stockpiles.

The policies of India and Pakistan, as non-NPT parties which play prominent roles in the CD, have added to post-NPT complications. India and Pakistan support establishment of a Committee on Nuclear Disarmament, but India is unhappy about NAM insistence on including stockpiles in a Fissban treaty. Pakistan, with negligible plutonium and around 200 kg HEU, compared with India's estimated 360-700 kg plutonium, is a prime mover in trying to get stockpiles included in the fissile ban negotiations. India and Pakistan want unconditional security assurances. For obvious reasons, they oppose restrictions such as that required by four of the nuclear-weapon states (France, Russia, the UK and the US) that guarantees only be given to members of the NPT or a similar regional non-proliferation treaty. At the UNDC, held directly after the close of the NPT, India denounced the NPT extension decision as 'perpetuating nuclear discrimination'.

The failures in the CD have complicated histories and cannot just be ascribed to the NPT-effect. Nevertheless, G21 countries have complained that, having achieved indefinite extension of the NPT, the nuclear-weapon states have gone back to business as usual. They say that in view of the Principles and Objectives agreed in New York, some adjustments should be made in the CD: the CD agenda should reflect the priority given to a programme of action on nuclear disarmament. The nuclear-weapon states and some members of the Western Group have criticised certain G21 delegations for 'punishing' the CD because they did not get what they wanted at the NPT. These accusations and counter charges are uncomfortably reminiscent of the final 36 hours of the NPT Conference, before Ambassador Dhanapala abandoned hope of getting agreement on a Final Declaration.

When President Chirac announced his decision to resume French testing - also amid reports of the threshold debate in the US - the loudest protests were heard from countries such as Australia, South Africa and Japan, which had advocated indefinite extension. Non-aligned reaction was cynical, with 'I told you so' uppermost. Iran's Ambassador Sirous Nasseri drily remarked that the NPT Conference seemed to have served as the prime deterrent to nuclear testing. Hitting close to the bone, he reminded the CD that there had been two views at the NPT Conference: that indefinite extension would promote a climate of confidence, which would lead to nuclear disarmament; or that indefinite extension would allow the nuclear-weapon states to pursue their own agendas and objectives.

Prospects for the Future

"If there is naked cynicism on the part of the nuclear-weapon states and a total disregard on nuclear disarmament commitments...then we might see not just one or two countries for individual reasons wanting to opt out but a major threat of an exodus from the Treaty using Article X.1 as its exit clause. That is a very grave danger. We must never ever let the Treaty be in jeopardy, and for that there has to be progress in nuclear disarmament."

Jayantha Dhanapala

The NPT is now permanent. Both Russia and China underlined that this did not mean permanent possession of nuclear weapons. Some Western states had pushed for indefinite extension on the grounds that this would create the stable conditions necessary for progress on nuclear disarmament. Others had argued that permanence was necessary for continued nuclear cooperation for peaceful purposes. The 'like-minded' group of NAM states had argued that a permanent NPT would permanently enshrine the status quo, surrendering what little leverage had been provided by the original 25 year duration.

In retrospect, that leverage seems to have been very weak, as for the first 17 years of the Treaty the nuclear arms race ran out of control. Admittedly, as the 1995 extension drew close, it seemed to concentrate the minds, resulting in test ban negotiations, a Fissban mandate and updated security assurances. But the most significant bilateral and unilateral reductions in nuclear arsenals took place, not under pressure of a review or extension conference, but because of changing international conditions and security assessments.

By the decisions taken together with indefinite extension, the Treaty parties have agreed to an ongoing 'rolling' review, starting in 1997. Instead of a spasm of attention once every five years, they will (in Canada's words) 'have to visit the dentist four years out of every five.' Furthermore, the review will not only look at the past, but is required to look forward and identify means for further progress towards implementation and universality. But how will this strengthened review process work?

The US and the UK insisted on the enhanced review being provided by PrepComs, ostensibly on grounds that any other arrangement might require amendment of the Treaty. Following Indonesia's intervention, the meetings will be of 10 working days' duration, i.e. two weeks. Little else was established. One of the first questions concerns funding: how will the PrepComs be financed? Presumably they will be held in Geneva or New York, enabling participation by states parties with permanent missions at the UN to attend. With a different brief from previous PrepComs, how will they be organised? Rules of procedure will have to be adopted, but may need to differ from the previous rules in use. How will the intention of the NPT Conference that these PrepComs address substantive issues be carried out? Something more programmatic and concrete than the usual exchange of statements on national positions was clearly intended, but how is this to be managed? Paragraph 6 of the review decision agreed to maintain the structure of three Main Committees, and also to set up 'subsidiary bodies...for specific issues', though there is ambiguity about whether these subsidiary bodies - presumably working groups - are only for the Review Conferences or for the PrepComs as well. Would they be open to all states parties, or a representative group of states? Could they meet in between the PrepCom meetings?

The PrepComs were also tasked with making procedural preparations for the next Review Conference, with the possibility of a fourth PrepCom specifically for that purpose. Already a number of observers have raised fears that the whole process could be hijacked for procedural operations, which, by a variation of Parkinson's law, always seem to expand to fill the time available to a given diplomatic forum. But since procedure can either choke or facilitate the political work, it is important to get these questions right. A smaller group may have to be convened, perhaps under the auspices of the President or a diplomat from Sri Lanka, to work out the procedures and programme for the Review PrepComs - or at least for the first.

The first PrepCom will take place in 1997, and it will be important that it sets the most effective kind of precedent. What will be the relationship between the Principles and Objectives agreed in 1995 and the enhanced review? South Africa intended the Principles to be dynamic, able to be updated to be appropriate to the period under consideration. If the founding Principles are successful, by 1997 a CTBT should be signed, and a fissile materials ban on its way. How will the states parties agree on the following steps and what should they be? What about another incremental measure, such as a warhead production ban, as New Zealand suggested, or will it be time for a complete ban, as was decided with chemical and biological weapons? As objectives are fulfilled (in the hope that the Principles decision is worth more than the paper it was written on), how will the Principles and Objectives be kept relevant? Will they be renegotiated every PrepCom or only at the five-yearly reviews? Will a decision on adopting a new set of Principles be required in addition to a Final Declaration, and what would happen if a particular review conference or PrepCom failed to adopt a version of the Principles? Will decisions at the PrepComs be taken by consensus or could a majority suffice?

The Principles were intended as a yardstick, not conditions, with no recommendations of action in the event of persistent non-compliance. Are the reviews and PrepCom meetings intended primarily as uncomfortable experiences for problem states (including the nuclear-weapon states), and for others to shine a spotlight on their failings and dig around a bit, as implied by Canada's dentist metaphor? Or can other mechanisms for overseeing compliance be developed within the structure already agreed?

There are now 179 states party to the Treaty, but the ghosts at the wedding may decide its future. Universality was set by the Arab states as a test of the NPT's credibility: they argue that without universality - specifically the adherence of Israel - it fails to meet their security needs. Though South Asia was seldom mentioned, it is similar in that the question of nuclear proliferation cannot be solved without regional and political confidence-building and political solutions to provide longer term stability. Advocates of indefinite extension argued that a permanent norm against nuclear-weapons acquisition was more likely to attract the threshold states than if the Treaty were weakened. While true, indefinite extension will not of itself persuade the de facto nuclear-weapon states that joining the Treaty will provide them with greater - or at least as much - security as they seek in nuclear ambiguity or nuclear possession. At the same time, it must be remembered that universality does not only mean bringing in the stragglers; it also means preventing others leaving. The Arab states signalled very strongly their dissatisfaction with the NPT regime and its inability to meet their security needs. Unless the NPT parties - and particularly the undeclared weapon states' allies in the P-5 - find a more far-reaching and constructive resolution, the Treaty could still unravel.

What will be the relationship between the NPT Review PrepComs and existing bodies, including the CD, the UNDC and the IAEA. Originally, following the 1994 UNGA resolution, it was intended that a UN Special Session on Disarmament be held in 1997, but that will now not take place before 1998. If the 1997 PrepCom fails, it could have negative consequences for UNSSOD IV, as well as the future of the enhanced review process.

These are just some of the immediate questions that occur. If the first review PrepCom in 1997 is to be successful, strategising and planning must begin now. If it fails or degenerates into procedural wrangles, it could set a precedent that would see the enhanced review process become just another diplomatic talk-shop, while the nuclear proliferators carry on business as usual in perpetuity.

Developing a practical and effective system of enhanced reviews is primarily the responsibility of states parties - particularly those that argued for indefinite extension on the grounds that greater stability would create the conditions for better implementation and accountability. NGOs have a role to play here too, in providing discussion fora and ideas for the review, but most importantly in pushing at the outer envelope of what is possible and practical, to create an agenda and momentum for nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and security. The NGOs must continue to raise the orphaned issues and push them onto the agenda again and again until they are taken up. This includes issues that were mentioned by one or two states and then dropped out of sight, such as reprocessing and the growing commercial trade in plutonium, safeguarding and disposal of fissile material from dismantled warheads, the next multilateral, bilateral or unilateral steps beyond START II, CTBT and Fissban. The strength of the non-proliferation regime for the future may be determined by how soon (and how well) the international community addresses these questions.


The outcome of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference created many opportunities and some risks for strengthening the international norm against nuclear weapons acquisition. It resulted neither in a simple rubber stamp of permanence nor the insecurity of short termism. Many of those who opposed or had reservations about indefinite extension were primarily concerned not to deliver to the nuclear-weapon states a carte blanche to carry on business as usual. They wanted to retain some leverage to ensure that progress towards full implementation of Article VI on nuclear disarmament would be pursued, preferably accelerated. Very few states wanted their own security and commercial interests jeopardised by an unstable regime based on short renewals. Therefore, for most NAM governments as well, the only viable alternative to indefinite extension would have been a 25 year rolling extension.

This could possibly have been achieved if the NAM had united around this demand several months before the Conference and offered it as the compromise to get consensus. It might have worked. As the alternative to a divisive vote, the governments of the nuclear-weapon states and their allies could have lived with it, and indeed, some would have preferred it. As it turned out, the NAM did not have the discipline and unity to bargain effectively for such an alternative, and by the end of the first week there was little doubt that the Treaty would be indefinitely extended. What happened next, however, was fascinating. Through the vision of two NAM representatives, South Africa and the Conference President, Ambassador Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, aided by middle-ground delegations from all regions, a set of mechanisms to maintain pressure on the nuclear-weapon states was re-inserted into the extension decision.

A central flaw in the rolling-extension-as-leverage argument had been that if the period was too long - 25 years - the leverage might only work in the last five years (as appeared to be the case in the first phase of the NPT's duration); if the period was too short - 5-15 years - then military and commercial decisions could use worst-case scenarios to ensure that the nuclear arms race continued to be fed. Since it would have taken considerable pressure to induce the nuclear-weapon states to agree to a 25 year rolling extension in the first place, it is doubtful that any further mechanisms to strengthen review and implementation would have been possible. The Treaty would therefore have been extended in much the same terms as before: four years of inaction, a spasm of interest as a review conference approaches, then relative inaction again until the final stage before further extension. Instead of this, the Treaty was indefinitely extended, but with a potentially very strong mechanism for constant review, requiring attention four out of every five years, and with some unusually specific Principles and Objectives against which progress will be measured.

From this it is clear - and Russia and China have accepted - that indefinite extension does not mean indefinite possession of nuclear weapons. However, France and the UK have already tried to neutralise this understanding. Government officials of both countries have in recent months argued that the indefinite extension decision confers an indefinitely extended 'right of the nuclear powers to keep their weapons'. They appear to deduce this from the fact that the NPT defines them as nuclear-weapon states, but their reading patently contradicts the purposes of the NPT Preamble and Article VI. Furthermore, such a reading is most clearly refuted by the ringing endorsement given to nuclear disarmament by 175 states parties when they adopted Principles and Objectives which explicitly named the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons.

With the Treaty's permanence and 179 states already party, gone are the excuses of military planners in the P-5 that they keep needing extra weapons because the Treaty might collapse in the future. As Ambassador Dhanapala intimated, only the nuclear-weapon states' own cynicism and failure to meet their obligations would be likely to cause such collapse. Admittedly, among the few remaining states are three with nuclear weapon programmes: India, Israel and Pakistan. These do not constitute a great threat to the big powers, but rather to their own neighbours, and through this to international peace and security. While a stable Treaty would be more likely to encourage universal adherence, indefinite extension itself is not going to make much difference in bringing the de facto nuclear-weapon states in. Decreasing the discrimination between nuclear haves and have-nots would go some way, but this requires a progressive transformation of the P-5 from nuclear possession to nuclear free. Imposing full-scope safeguards as a condition of nuclear supply will help, as could concerted international efforts to back nuclear weapon free zones in South Asia and the Middle East. Ultimately, though, the NPT can only be a tool of confidence-building: the answer must lie in political solutions and regional security.

While Madeleine Albright was hailing a great victory immediately after the decisions on 11 May, she may have been speaking for more NPT parties than she realised. In agreeing to a more specific and constant review process, the nuclear-weapon states may have surrendered a much higher price to get indefinite extension than they would have paid under a 25 year rolling option. If this review process is effectively developed, starting in 1997, the non-proliferation regime could indeed be strengthened, involving all states parties in a dynamic process of safeguarding the world from nuclear war. As President Dhanapala told the Conference on the last day: 'It was the Treaty that won.'

The emphasis, however, is on the word 'if'. States parties must now, as a matter of urgency, consider what is required to ensure that the enhanced review process is effectively developed. When the Conference concluded, it had agreed a document on Principles and Objectives, but not the Final Declaration on the review. At the time it was emphasised that the Principles and enhanced review are politically binding, but what authority do the Principles and Objectives actually have? Four months later cynical interpretations are hard to resist. Claiming consistency with its undertaking to exercise 'utmost restraint', China has conducted two nuclear tests. It disregards Main Committee III's unanimous injunction against so-called peaceful nuclear explosions, which it continues to press for within the context of a CTBT. While supporting the date 1996 for conclusion of a CTBT, China has also thrown up major impediments to agreement on verification, and now offers only to cease testing after a test ban treaty enters into force. Meanwhile, France has so far conducted one test, after announcing a programme of up to eight explosions in the South Pacific, between September 1995 and May 1996. With a positive nod to the Principles (and in response to impressive international protest), however, the Chirac government underlined its intention to sign a CTBT in 1996 and initiated the move that has resulted in France, the UK and the US all agreeing that a CTBT should ban all nuclear explosions, no matter how small. However, all three also placed on record their view that worries about the safety and reliability of their nuclear weapons arsenals could be interpreted as jeopardising their supreme national interests, enabling them to leave the treaty and test at a future date. The fact that they would find the political cost of this prohibitively high gives a measure of reassurance, but the problem remains. The nuclear-weapon states are not yet willing to construct their security and defence strategies on the basis of universal non-proliferation: they still envisage having their nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.

So far there has been little discussion on how to use the review process and the Principles and Objectives to fulfil the intentions of the NPT Conference. They require conclusion of a CTBT and fissile materials ban. They sketch an opportunity for progress on nuclear disarmament, stronger safeguards to investigate clandestine activities, nuclear weapon free zones and security assurances, but there were many issues raised in the review debates that the Principles do not yet address. Issues that a serious non-proliferation regime cannot afford to dodge much longer include: commercial production and use of plutonium and highly enriched uranium; the technical and political relationships between acquisition of nuclear energy programmes and nuclear weapon capability; and the next bilateral, unilateral or multilateral steps beyond START II, CTBT and a Fissban. There is a growing body of opinion that if the full impact and economics of nuclear power, including nuclear waste and environmental clean-up, were taken into consideration, no country would now embark on a nuclear power programme unless it wished to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear weapon option at some point in the future.

After a period of intensive diplomatic, political and campaigning activity, maintaining the necessary pressure for effective implementation of the 1995 agreements will be a challenge of some magnitude for the international community. The authority of the NPT rests on its credibility, and this will be determined by how well its parties cooperate to ensure full implementation. In particular, the regime's future will depend on how well the nuclear-weapon states respond to the challenges of nuclear disarmament, and whether the political conditions can be created, regionally and internationally, to bring the non-NPT states with nuclear weapon programmes into compliance with the non-proliferation regime. 1997 is not so far away. Planning to make the first Review PrepCom effective and dynamic is a task which must be started now.

© 1995 The Acronym Institute.