Statement of the Pugwash Council on the NPT Regime

For Immediate Release
19 June 2005

Statement of the Pugwash Council:
A Critical Moment for the Non-Proliferation Regime

 The Council of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs greatly deplores the recent failure of the Seventh Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), held in New York in May, to advance the cause of reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons, as called for when the NPT entered into force in 1970.

The potential collapse of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the weakening of the taboos in place since 1945 on the use of nuclear weapons, coupled with the very real dangers of a terrorist group manufacturing and detonating a nuclear explosive device, combine to produce a recipe for potential unmitigated disaster.

Despite the urgency of the threat and the gravity of the situation, the lack of political will of many NPT states parties to live up to their obligations under the Treaty produced little but deadlock and paralysis during the meetings in New York.  Despite the best efforts of the NPT Review Conference President, Amb. Sergio Duarte, and many others, the Seventh Review Conference actually represented a step back from progress made during the two previous review conferences in 1995 and 2000.

For their part, the original nuclear weapons states (US, Russia, UK, France and China) have not lived up to their obligations under Article VI of the NPT to move decisively toward the irreversible elimination of their nuclear arsenals.  Such inaction invites charges of hypocrisy when these same countries seek to deny access to nuclear technologies to non-nuclear weapons states, or – in the case of the United States – continue to profess interest in developing new nuclear weapons and possibly resume nuclear testing.

More broadly, the entire framework of nuclear weapons disarmament is in danger of being swept away.  Strategic arms control between the US and Russia is moribund, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not entered into force, and serious negotiations have not even started on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) to eliminate production of weapons-grade Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and plutonium.  Moreover, too little is being done to control and dispose of existing stockpiles of HEU that run the risk of falling into the hands of terrorist groups.  No attention is being paid to large numbers of tactical nuclear weapons that continue to exist in great numbers with no military rationale whatsoever, while the deployment of weapons in space moves closer to reality.

Elsewhere, fundamental challenges to the nuclear non-proliferation regime are posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, by the loopholes that exist which allow countries which develop full-cycle civilian nuclear activities to easily develop nuclear weapons (e.g., the debate over Iran), and by the continued presence and activities of three nuclear weapons-states that exist outside the NPT Treaty: India, Pakistan, and Israel.

Time is running out if a nuclear catastrophe is to be averted.  Political solutions are urgently needed to resolve those conflicts that either spawn international terrorism, or increase the risk of nuclear weapons use, or both.  Global security must be based on international institutions and the rule of law rather than on unilateral action and an excessive reliance on military force.

In the wake of the failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference, the Pugwash Council calls on national governments, multilateral institutions, and international NGOs to lead the international community away from a misplaced reliance on nuclear weapons and the catastrophic dangers that await us if clear progress is not made to decisively reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons.