[WSF-Discuss] 'Nuclear Disarmament Summitry' by Daryl G. Kimball

Sukla Sen sukla.sen at gmail.com
Sun Apr 17 01:17:23 CDT 2016


Nuclear Disarmament Summitry

April 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

The positive results of the nuclear security summit process from 2010
to 2016 demonstrate how high-level, sustained leadership can catalyze
action on a global problem: the threat of terrorists gaining access to
nuclear weapons-usable material. More work lies ahead, but the
intensive, six-year-long summit process has significantly reduced
nuclear vulnerabilities in key states.

As with preventing nuclear terrorism, reducing the catastrophic
threats posed by nuclear weapons is a global enterprise that requires
renewed leadership, dialogue, and action on the part of all the
world’s nations.

Unfortunately, 70 years after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
progress on disarmament is stalled; the risk of nuclear competition
and conflict is growing; and several states are expanding or upgrading
their nuclear arsenals. There are no active bilateral or multilateral
negotiations to further regulate, cap, or reduce the stockpiles of any
of the world’s nine nuclear-armed states.

U.S. President Barack Obama Presiding over the passage of UNSCR 1887
to address nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament issues on
September 24, 2009. (Photo: Wikimedia)U.S. President Barack Obama
Presiding over the passage of UNSCR 1887 to address nuclear
nonproliferation and disarmament issues on September 24, 2009. (Photo:

The possessors of the two largest arsenals, Russia and the United
States, each deploy more than 1,800 strategic warheads on several
hundred bombers and missiles—far more than necessary to deter nuclear

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced he is prepared to cut the
U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal by an additional one-third. So far,
Russian President Vladimir Putin has rebuffed the proposal and failed
to make a counteroffer. Bilateral talks on further nuclear reductions
are on hold indefinitely.

Meanwhile, other nuclear-armed states, such as China, France, India,
and Pakistan, sit on the nuclear disarmament sidelines. Leaders in
Beijing, Islamabad, and New Delhi profess support for disarmament and
“minimum” deterrence, but each is pursuing new land- and sea-based
nuclear delivery systems. Although smaller in number, these arsenals
are increasingly dangerous and destabilizing.

For nearly two decades, the key countries at the Conference on
Disarmament in Geneva have been unable to reach consensus to begin
negotiations on a fissile material control treaty or to start nuclear
disarmament discussions.

The 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference
failed to produce an updated, meaningful action plan on disarmament
that builds on previous disarmament commitments. The next review
conference is another four years away.

Frustrated by the slow pace of progress, more than 150 states attended
conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use.
Earlier this year, many non-nuclear-weapon states joined an open-ended
working group to discuss possible measures “to fill the legal gap for
the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Some states and civil society campaigners want to launch talks on a
treaty to ban nuclear weapons possession or use. Such a ban is
eventually a necessary step toward a world without nuclear weapons,
but it will not by itself change today’s dangerous nuclear doctrines
or eliminate nuclear arsenals. It is not a substitute for the
difficult work and bold leadership necessary to reduce nuclear risks
and head off new dangers.

As Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz argued
in an op-ed in 2013, a new multilateral effort for nuclear disarmament
dialogue is needed. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon suggested in 2009
that the UN Security Council convene a summit on nuclear disarmament.

Now is the time to seriously consider a high-level summit approach to
help overcome the impasse on disarmament. Leaders from a core group of
states could invite their counterparts from a representative group of
20 to 30 nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon states to join a one- or
two-day summit on steps to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

This high-level meeting could be a starting point for ongoing, regular
disarmament discussions at the expert and ministerial levels. As
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has argued, the dialogue on
disarmament should be based on a clear understanding of the
devastating impacts of nuclear weapons use and an objective assessment
of the security concerns of states.

Borrowing a concept from the nuclear security summit process, all
participants should be encouraged to bring “house gifts”—specific
actions by states that would concretely diminish the threat of nuclear
weapons use, freeze or reduce the number of nuclear weapons, reduce
the role of nuclear weapons, bring into force key agreements such as
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or make their nuclear programs more

For instance, U.S. and Russian leaders could jointly announce they
will resume negotiations on a follow-on treaty to the 2010 New
Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Further U.S.-Russian cuts, which are
possible even without a new treaty, if combined with a pause in the
nuclear buildups by China, India, and Pakistan, could help establish
the conditions for future multilateral disarmament talks.

A nuclear disarmament and risk reduction summit process would
complement the ongoing dialogue on nuclear terms and concepts
involving the five NPT nuclear-weapon states and the humanitarian
impacts initiative. Such a process by no means would be easy. But by
putting the spotlight on the issue, it could spur new ideas and

Posted: March 29, 2016

Peace Is Doable

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