A New Grand Bargain for Nuclear Nonproliferation
Posted by Morton H. Halperin
With Iran and North Korea both continuing to defy American efforts to get them to abandon nuclear programs, we need to consider whether we are on the right track in our attempts to halt nuclear proliferation.
The NPT tried to create a grand bargain. States, other than the five who had already tested nuclear weapons, would agree not to develop such weapons. In return they would receive assistance in developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
Ever since, all American administrations have adopted a double standard in implementing this bargain, looking the other way when our friends decline to sign and ratify the NPT or hedge their commitments and coming down hard on "rogue states." However, the Bush administration has taken this posture several steps further by accepting the Indian nuclear programs and by seeking sanctions against Iran (which continues to observe its treaty obligations) and North Korea which has exercised its right to withdraw from the treaty.
The United States needs to put forward neutral rules which apply to all states and which take account of the realities of the twenty-first century.
Not enough attention has been paid to the contrast between how the administration is dealing with India and Pakistan as opposed to its dealings with Iran and North Korea.
In the case of India, the administration has agreed to provide support for the Indian nuclear power program even though India has not signed the NPT and is deploying nuclear weapons in clear violation of the norms of the treaty. The Indians were not even asked to agree to cease the production of fissionable material for weapons, although they were asked not to conduct any additional tests of nuclear weapons. (This is, to say the least, strange since the administration resolutely defends the right of the United States to test nuclear weapons and refuses to ratify the test ban treaty.)
Pakistan stands exposed as the leading proliferator, having helped many countries, including North Korea, develop nuclear weapons. It possesses such weapons and continues to produce fissionable material and reserves the right to test. It is not a democracy nor does it have a stable government. Yet the administration says not a word in protest.
How are North Korea and Iran different? They are countries that we do not like and that we have labeled part of an axis of evil. The problem is that we need the cooperation of other countries if we are to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and persuade North Korea to give up its weapons.
Our current approach to nonproliferation is untenable. We must enunciate neutral principles and create a new bargain.
The first step is to acknowledge and deal with the real security issues which other states face. The United States needs to be willing to give up its right to threaten the use of nuclear weapons and work with the P-5 to give effective positive and negative security assurances to states which adhere faithfully to the NPT. We should drastically reduce our stockpile of nuclear weapons and take them all off alert. We should ratify the test ban treaty and commit to serious negotiations for a treaty which bans the production of fissionable material for weapons purposes with effective inspection procedures. We can then move to stigmatize nuclear weapons and insist that no state has the right to deploy or threaten to use them.
Second, we need a new bargain on peaceful nuclear programs which treats all states equally. The Russian offer to process uranium for the Iranians may be one place to start. Pulling back from our offer to India (which Congress in any case may and should block) is another.
The administration is heading in the opposite direction. The end result may be a successfully defiant North Korea and a disastrous war with Iran.