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March 26, 2005

Bye-Bye NPT?


by Gordon Prather

The 2005 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will occur 2-27 May 2005 at the United Nations in New York and it may be the last.

Under the NPT, the International Atomic Energy Agency is the designated "inspectorate" for verifying compliance by nation-states with their safeguards and additional protocol agreements with the Agency.

It is surely an understatement for Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to say the system "clearly needs reinforcement."

Part of the current problem with the system is Bill Clinton's fault.

It appears to have been a Clinton-Gore administration article of faith that the 21st Century would see the end of the nation-state. Believing that, Clinton-Gore proceeded to hand over to the United Nations – the presumptive world government for the 21st Century – every semi-international problem that arose, including gun control, women's reproductive rights and nuke disarmament.

Nuke disarmament?

Now, it's true that upon the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, Soviet officials actually came to our Congress and asked for our help in getting rid of thousands of excess nukes.

In the so-called Nunn-Lugar Act, Congress authorized Bush the Elder to provide such financial and technical assistance to the Russian nation-state as they would accept to prevent the proliferation of excess nukes, nuke materials, technologies and technologists.

But, it needs to be emphasized over and over that the Nunn-Lugar programs were never intended to be disarmament programs. They were strictly intended to help the Russians keep all those excess Soviet nukes from getting into the hands of rogue states or terrorists.

Nevertheless, the incoming Clinton-Gore Administration seized on the Nunn-Lugar programs – as well as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, itself, and the just negotiated Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – as levers to advance their cause of global nuke disarmament via the United Nations.

Note that a) nuke non-proliferation and b) nuke disarmament are very different animals.

And, until Clinton-Gore came to power, the NPT – which had to be renewed every five years – was about nothing other than preventing the acquisition by hook or crook of nukes by those NPT signatories who did not already have nukes.

However, there is this Article VI in the NPT that says something about the declared nuke states agreeing to someday seriously consider getting rid of all their nukes, too.

So, soon after taking office, President Clinton began to pledge at UN Conference after UN Conference that he would comply with Article VI, now, rather than someday. He began the unilateral and irreversible subjection of our "excess" nuke materials and nuke infrastructure to the NPT-IAEA inspection regime.

By 1995 Clinton had gotten all Nonproliferation Treaty signatories to agree to extend the life of NPT indefinitely.

As a byproduct of that indefinite NPT extension there are now NPT Review Conferences held every five years wherein the signatories assess effectiveness of the NPT-IAEA regime.

The first Review Conference – held in 2000 – was considered by the disarmament crowd to be a great success, in spite of the fact that in 1998 both India and Pakistan – neither country an NPT signatory – had detonated their homegrown nukes for the first time.

Why a success? Because the Clinton administration committed the United States to:

"an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all states parties are committed."

Then, at the 40th General Conference of the IAEA in 1997, Director General Hans Blix announced the U.S.-IAEA-Russia Trilateral Agreement, hyped as an important step towards the US and Russia meeting NPT nuke "disarmament obligations."

Misusing many hundreds of millions of dollars of Nunn-Lugar funds, each side would dispose of – under the watchful eyes of IAEA inspectors – 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, recovered from thousands of U.S. and Soviet dismantled nukes.

So Clinton was well on his way to transforming the NPT into a disarmament treaty and the IAEA into a disarmament agency.

Then Bush the Younger came to power, making John Bolton Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. Bolton apparently believes the United States – not the United Nations – is the presumptive world government for the 21st Century and has acted accordingly.

As Undersecretary, Bolton has aggressively and stridently attacked multilateral institutions and international treaties that the US cannot control – such as the IAEA and the NPT.

Now, Bush has nominated Bolton to be our Ambassador to the United Nations. Will he be at the 2005 NPT Review Conference? Stay tuned.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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