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50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SIGNATURE OF THE NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION TREATY (NPT)

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1 JULY 2018

 

PEOPLE FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

HUMAN SURVIVAL PROJECT

www.pndnsw.org.au

https://www.facebook.com/Human-Survival-Project-388802504634024/

 

50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SIGNATURE OF THE NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION TREATY (NPT)

 

 

Fifty years ago today (July 1), the US, Russia, the UK, and some 60 other governments signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, known as the NPT. It is now by far the most universally signed treaty in the world, with only India, Pakistan, Israel and the DPRK not signatories.

 

The NPT was initially lobbied for by a group of non-nuclear countries that prominently included Ireland, still a nuclear disarmament stalwart, and New Zealand. However it was then negotiated by the US, Russia and the UK, and then by the non-nuclear weapons states who wanted a prominent emphasis not merely on nonproliferation but also on actual nuclear disarmament.

 

It's often said that the NPT 'divides' the world into states that are 'allowed' to have nuclear weapons (Basically those states that already had them when the treaty was signed in 1968), and everyone else who is 'not allowed' to have nuclear weapons.

 

But this is an inaccurate account of what the treaty actually says. The NPT does not 'allow' ANYONE to have nuclear weapons in perpetuity. Article VI of the treaty in fact requires the nuclear weapon states to negotiate away their nuclear arsenals 'by an early date'. That 'early date' has long since gone.

 

The nuclear weapons states argue that Art VI requires no specific outcome, merely a negotiation, but this is just not true: Art VI, honestly interpreted, would mean that the nuclear weapons states should have eliminated their arsenals as of, about 30 years ago. The 1996 ICJ advisory opinion reaffirmed that an obligation existed not just to negotiate, but for the nuclear weapons states actually to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

 

This isn't just a legal nicety. Those arsenals, in particular those of the US and Russia, who still hold 90% of all the nuclear warheads that exist, if used in quantity, would terminate civilization, most humans, and much else besides – and there are upwards of a dozen terrifying occasions on which this has nearly taken place.

 

Current tensions between the US and Russia (not to mention the DPRK and China) have driven the nobel prizewinners who position the hands of the Doomsday Clock, that gives some indication as to how close we are (or not) to the end of what we call the world, to put those hands at two minutes to midnight – as close as it has ever been including at the height of the cold war.

 

The imperative to:

--Reduce spiraling risks of a global nuclear apocalypse

--Honestly fulfill the intent of Art VI of the NPT by eliminating nuclear arsenals

 

Has never been clearer.

 

A variety of commonsense measures can be taken to make a nuclear apocalypse less likely. These include lowering the operational readiness of nuclear weapon systems, no-first-use policies, and improved transparency and military to military communication.

 

An excellent start on fulfilling the promise and intent of Art VI would be for as many Governments as possible to sign the TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons). This emphatically includes nuclear weapon states.

 

While the nuclear weapon states make up their mind to sign the TPNW, Russia and the US should at least extend the New Start Treaty, and negotiate further reductions as well as negotiating to eliminate high-alert nuclear postures and implementing agreements, already many times reaffirmed, to construct a data exchange centre in Moscow.

 

All these, together with the presence of tactical nuclear weapons in Germany, Italy, Turkey and Kaliningrad, are matters that should be high on the agenda's of both the upcoming NATO meeting and the Putin-Trump Helsinki summit.

 

In the absence of progress on these commonsense initiatives we run the risk of further nuclear arms racing, and the very real possibility that, most likely due to miscalculation, malfunction or malware, we may all end up being toast, and cause a major glitch in 4 billion years of evolution – an outcome that the NPT was supposed to avoid.

 

John Hallam

UN Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

People for Nuclear Disarmament www.pndnsw.org.au

Human Survival Project

https://www.facebook.com/Human-Survival-Project-388802504634024/

 

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