Non-production and -supply of nuclear material
Yet another of the 13 Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament agreed to by the five recognized nuclear weapons states in 2000 is the creation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, informally known as 'fiss-ban.' Since the beginnings of the NPT, such a ban on the production of fissile material has been seen by the non-nuclear countries as a milestone toward the nuclear disarmament mandated by Article VI. Additionally, it was viewed as the best hope of bringing the three nuclear weapons states refusing to join the NPT - Israel, India, and Pakistan - into the nonproliferation regime. By ratifying a fiss-ban treaty, they would agree to freeze their nuclear capabilities at fairly modest levels.
To these ends, as well as to guard against nuclear terrorism, President Clinton first proposed the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in 1993, vowing to "press for an international agreement that would ban production of these materials [highly enriched uraniam and plutonium] for weapons forever." That hopeful prospect was one of the incentives motivating non-nuclear states to accept an indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995.
When the five acknowledged nuclear powers promised a fiss-ban at the NPT review in 2000, it was meant to be an effectively verifiable one. Indeed, the stance of most countries is that it must have a verification mechanism, administered for example by the IAEA, to be at all credible. However, a year ago, in a sudden reversal of policy that baffled arms control experts and put the US at odds with close allies like Australia, Canada, and Japan, the Bush administration saw fit to discard the principle of 'trust but verify.' The Washington Post reported:
Arms-control specialists reacted negatively, saying the change in U.S. position will dramatically weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. The announcement, they said, also virtually kills a 10-year international effort to lure countries such as Pakistan, India and Israel into accepting some oversight of their nuclear production programs.
Which may well have been the goal. The move seems designed to benefit a select group of US allies: Israel, India, and, paradoxically, the latter's arch-enemy Pakistan, whose fleet of nuclear delivery-capable F16s the Bush administration has been replenishing since 2002. Thus, besides the betrayal of its commitment to the non-nuclear countries, it callously boosts the South Asian arms race, which puts billions at risk from what a fresh report by the Congressional Research Service identifies as the most likely prospect for the future use of nuclear weapons by states.
Last month, in another radical about-turn undermining fiss-ban and reversing decades of US non-proliferation policy, President Bush unilaterally recognized India as a nuclear power. He did so by agreeing to share civilian nuclear technology with India, dropping the sanctions imposed on it since its 1998 underground tests. Thus he also ditched the fundamental principle that nuclear technology can only be shared if there are guarantees that it will not fuel nuclear arms production. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation nailed it:
In one important respect, the Indians have received more leniency than the five established nuclear "haves" have asked for themselves: The US, Britain, France, Russia, and China say they have halted the production of the fissile material that goes into nuclear bombs, while India has only promised to join a universal ban that would include Pakistan - if such a thing ever materializes. Yet that pledge, in the future conditional tense, was apparently enough for the Bush administration.
Implementation of the agreement would break domestic US law, but Bush has pledged to lobby for these laws to be amended. Robert Einhorn, formerly the State Department's top nonproliferation official, told an American Enterprise Institute program that the nuclear agreement will make it harder to advocate stricter rules for Iran and North Korea. "The administration lowered the bar too far," he said.
The US move is widely seen as a geostrategic attempt to counterbalance China, which in result is less likely to join a future fiss-ban treaty even in the declawed form promoted by the USA. In one sense, however, the move merely codifies established policy, inasmuch as the sr. Bush administration sold at least 1 500 nuclear dual-use items to Israel despite requirements under the NPT that the existing nuclear powers not help another country's nuclear weapons program 'in any way.'
Needless to say, the jr. Bush administration continues the US policy of shielding Israel from pressures to sign the NPT and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the IAEA - as Iran has done long ago and even North Korea is now signaling willingness to do. The policy contradicts US acceptance of the 1991 UN Security Council Resolution 687 with "the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons."
The hypocrisy over Israel led to much contention at the NPT Review Conference in New York in May this year, where even close US allies like Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, found it unacceptable. But perhaps the most vexing issue was one that the Bush administration declined to discuss at all: ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
Like the fiss-ban treaty but even more so, the CTBT has been seen as key to nuclear disarmament for over four decades. A complete ban on nuclear tests, it would prevent the nuclear quintet from developing new nuclear weapons, which only self-imposed moratoria on testing currently do. When the NPT was extended in 1995, the non-nuclear signatories - including Iran - agreed to do so on the background of the nuclear powers' promise soon to finalize a CTBT.
Again, Clinton blazed the trail: Having lobbied hard for the treaty, he became the first world leader to sign it on September 24, 1996. And again, Republicans proceeded to quash his achievements. On October 13, 1999, the Republican Senate majority rejected ratification. Subsequently the Bush administration has not only refused to ask the Senate to reconsider but declared, in August 2001, that it will not provide financial or technical support for on-site inspections related to the treaty.
It refused to allow ratification to even be discussed at the May 2005 review conference in New York, although such ratification is one of the 13 steps agreed to in 2000 and the treaty is ratified by 122 countries including all other NATO countries and Russia.
According to European diplomatic sources, progress toward a joint statement at the May 2005 conference foundered during the final days as the US refused to meet a Russian demand to promote the CTBT. The resultant non-result of the conference was described by delegates from around the world as "extremely regrettable" (Japan), "profoundly disappointing" (Norway), "unfortunate" (Ukraine), and a source of "frustration" (Chile and Brazil). One of the more instructive comments was made by the President, Sergio de Queiroz Duarte. Asked if the United States had been fully committed to success, he replied that every party to the Treaty was fully committed to the success of the Conference, "as each participant defines success."
Quite so: Not a single high-ranking US official bothered to attend. According to the May 11 issue of Newsweek, US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton - now the recess appointee to the post of ambassador to the United Nations - cut off pre-conference negotiations six months in advance.
Non-deployment against non-nuclear states
Bolton, to be sure, has never missed a chance to sabotage the vision of a world free from nuclear fears. Back on February 21 2002, he single-handedly repealed the 24-year-old US pledge, issued by the Carter administration, not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. On the next day, a State Department spokesman dutifully reaffirmed US commitment to the pledge. But it soon turned out that Bolton may have been more forthright, or better informed. For the following month, a leaked Pentagon report revealed contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Libya. The plan "identified four areas where the US should be prepared to press the button":
In an Arab-Israeli conflict, in a war between China and Taiwan, in an attack by North Korea on South Korea and in an attack by Iraq on Israel or another neighbor. Additionally, the weapons could be used against targets able to withstand conventional attack and in retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons."
More disconcerting contingency plans were to be revealed. According to the Washington Post, in January 2003 Bush charged the Strategic Command (or Stratcom) with preparing a pre-emptively focused plan ignoring the 1978 'negative assurance.' This is a plan for a 'full-spectrum global strike,' which Bush secretly defined as "a capability to deliver rapid, extended range, precision kinetic (nuclear and conventional) and non-kinetic (elements of space and information operations) effects in support of theater and national objectives." And sure enough; on March 15 this year, the Pentagon placed on its public Web site the 'Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations,' the executive summary of which declares that the line between nuclear and conventional attack has been obliterated and that the "integration of conventional and nuclear forces is therefore crucial to the success of any comprehensive strategy."
So where, in all this, is the NPT with its vision of, and legally binding commitment to, a phasing out of nuclear weapons? Shockingly if unsurprisingly, the Bush administration has suggested that the 13 Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament agreed to in 2000 is now merely a 'historical document.' And presumably, so is the Non-Proliferation Treaty, negotiated by terminal enemies at the height of the Cold War but relegated to the dustbin of history by the winner - except for the bits that suit its interest.
The last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, who contributed more than anyone to ending the Cold War on peaceful terms, does not mince his words:
"I think the United States is sick. It suffers from the sickness, the disease of being the victor and it needs to cure itself from this disease."
He said the United States should not suggest that other countries have no need for nuclear weapons while it retains a large arsenal itself.
"They say other people don't need it, but what kind of law is this that they are advocating? It's the law of the jungle," he said.
Among the many who echo his words is one of the architects of US nuclear policy in the postwar era, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Robert S. McNamara:
I would characterize current US nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous.... It says to the nonnuclear weapons nations, "We, with the strongest conventional military force in the world, require nuclear weapons in perpetuity, but you, facing potentially well-armed opponents, are never to be allowed even one nuclear weapon."
This, then, is the moral context in which it is strongly rumored that top elected officials in the Bush administration are preparing, not just for sanctions, but for military action against Iran - a country which has not yet been proven to violate the NPT and which, even if it does in fact seek a nuclear deterrent, is only doing so to forestall such illegal invasion as the US carried out against its neighboring country based upon trumped-up charges of having weapons of mass destruction.
Which brings us back to Bush's lofty words in March: "We cannot allow rogue states that violate their commitments and defy the international community to undermine the NPT's fundamental role in strengthening international security." Or, as he put it in February 2004: "See, free societies are societies that don't develop weapons of mass terror and don't blackmail the world."
Good to know.