NPDI matters?

(Published 23 April): The Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) will hold a side event today at 13.15 in the Assembly Hall. The group of ten countries has submitted several working papers to this PrepCom and some to last year as well. The model reporting form, submitted last year, is something of interest and should be used as by the NPDI states themselves to report to the Prep- Com. The working papers submitted this year, however, are woefully inadequate.

Instead of examining each of the four docu- ments, I will focus on two areas that the NPDI can have a significant impact, if they choose to do so. In NPT/CONF.2015/PC.II/WP.4, on the reduced role of nuclear weapons, NPDI only calls on the nuclear weapon states. It does not address the role nuclear weapons play in the security strategies of seven of the ten NPDI members. The basic recommendation seems to be for the rest of the nuclear weapon states to adopt the US Nuclear Posture Review language from 2010, just as NATO has done. NPDI is correct in saying that “concrete efforts must be made so that the pos- sible use of nuclear weapons becomes even more remote than it is now”. Fortunately, NPDI mem- bers can, themselves, make concrete efforts in this regard by choosing themselves not to remain under the US nuclear umbrella—they do not need to wait for further quantitative reductions. This is something that Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, and Turkey can do right away to reduce the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be ever used again.

The second working paper to take note of is WP.3, on non-strategic nuclear weapons. NPDI starts off on the right track, recognizing that non strategic nuclear weapons are “typically smaller and more easily transported” making them more susceptible to theft by madmen or terrorists. NPDI goes on to note the positive initiative between NATO and the Russian Federation to build confidence and transparency about each others’ non-strategic nuclear arsenals. NPDI’s suggestion that both the non-strategic and strategic arsenals can be reduced through “unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures” also opens a door for reductions as a confidence-building measure. Reductions, or relocations (easily verified through existing national satellite technology or crowd-sourcing), can be taken without delay. Given yesterday’s article in the Guardian UK, highlighting the escalating costs of planned B-61 modernization in the US (these are the gravity bombs forward deployed in three of the NPDI countries), further reducing these weapons and saving an expected $10 billion. That NPDI says they “there- fore call for a fresh look at the deployment of non- strategic nuclear weapons” is a welcome contribution to these ongoing discussions, something that the NPDI members themselves can, and should, do something about.

In today’s plenary, and during side events, NPDI will present itself and its proposals. This group of ten states has some interesting and potentially useful proposals, and if the actions of the seven states under nuclear umbrellas were as strong as the words of the ten, then one could easily agree that NPDI matters.

This was first published in the News in Review, a publication of Reaching Critical Will.