Prospects for the nuclear non-proliferation regime

26 September, 2015

Today we celebrate the United Nation’s International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which is recognised annually on the 26th September. Wilton Park will once again, in December, bring together an array of nuclear experts to discuss what is both feasible and necessary for the nuclear regime over the next five years towards the 2020 NPT review conference.

The UN has committed itself to this goal for 60 years, having established a ‘commission to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy’ at the First session of the General Assembly in 1946.

Bi-lateral, multilateral, and international treaties have endeavoured to prevent nuclear weapons and their technologies from spreading ever since. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) entered into force in 1970 and consists of three main components aiming to; prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology; to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which in 2016 is set to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Treaty opening for signature, bans the explosion of nuclear weapons anywhere, from the atmosphere, underground, underwater, and in space, by anyone. Although the Treaty has not yet entered into force the Preparatory Commission has made extensive technological advances that make identifying explosive occurrences a relatively straight forward process.

The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons brings the issue into the public sphere, whilst highlighting the fact that there is a long way to go before the ultimate goal is achieved. There are currently still almost 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world, all of which are possessed by just nine countries, with many more states either hosting weapons on behalf of another state, or belonging to nuclear alliances. Despite the various treaties, there has not been a resulting depletion in the amount of nuclear weapons, nor has there been any progress towards initiating negotiations to make such an ambition a reality.

With next year representing two decades of commitment to the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament by Wilton Park we are pleased to once again be convening our annual meeting on the subject this winter. In December Wilton Park will be bringing together an array of nuclear experts to discuss what is both feasible and necessary for the nuclear regime over the next five years towards the 2020 NPT review conference.

Held as an annual event in response to the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, this year’s conference, ‘Nuclear non-proliferation: planning for 2020’, is in association with Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. The event will assess challenges, opportunities and prospects for the nuclear non-proliferation regime over the 2020 cycle of the NPT, and will ask a number of questions, including what is both feasible and necessary for the nuclear regime over the next 5 years? The dialogue will also ask whether the is NPT well equipped or indeed configured for what will be required of it over the short and medium-run future, and how the security context for disarmament and non-proliferation can be expected to evolve during the current Review cycle. Additional questions will explore what the P5 and their allies can do to bridge the gap with the non-nuclear weapon states, as well as how effectively the different tracks on nuclear disarmament complement each other. This in turn will enable discussions on how to construct effective international non-proliferation policy, including the NSS, and in light of recent events the implications of the Iran deal and the wider issue of the Middle East WMD-Free Zone will also be considered.

In line with our defence and security programme, Wilton Park has previously considered other aspects of the nuclear impact on international security, most recently by hosting the regular ‘Rethinking deterrence and assurance’ conference in June. The event assessed a number of issues relating to the topic, including how NATO partners view the new threats after Ukraine and whether the Alliance is suited to meet them, as well as having discussed the likely trajectory of Russian force posture and conventional/nuclear strategy, and the balance between long running trends and new developments post Ukraine. Next year’s meeting is a work in progress, but will centre around discussions on the future trends of, and challenges for, deterrence and assurance strategies in the NATO area and beyond.

 

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