New DOD Panel Report Thinks it’s Calling for Negotiation of a New NPTPosted: January 22, 2014
I debated whether or not to even mention this, but it has gotten some attention so I thought I’d address it, at least briefly.
Recently the Defense Science Board, an advisory committee to the US Department of Defense, released a report entitled “Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies.” What has people talking is one of the recommendations by the DSB in this report, as a part of its “4-phase approach for expanded cooperation.” The recommendation is for the:
Negotiation of a future Non‐Proliferation Treaty (NPT “X”) to bring in all nuclear weapon and material programs into a cooperative, multi‐lateral regime.
Some people see this recommendation as momentous, in that it is a rare, if not unprecedented, occasion of a highly regarded advisory committee to the US government, recognizing a need for re-negotiation of the NPT.
Having heard some of those thoughts from people, I was eager to read what the report had to say about this new NPT – oh, sorry, “NPT X” (they’re right, that is much cooler). I’ve now read it. And as we say in the South, I can’t make head nor tails of it.
It turns out the only text in the report that specifically relates to this recommendation is the following few paragraphs:
Phase 4. The Evolution from Bi‐lateral to Multilateral Implementation and a Prospective Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT‐x)
Several studies have concluded that it is premature to pursue negotiation of a follow‐on Non-Proliferation Treaty that would impose transparency on States possessing nuclear weapons and NNWS equally and add nuclear weapons disarmament transparency to the treaty. Completion of the three phases presented above, however, could set the stage for overcoming the current difficulties and be the basis for the trust and understanding needed to carry out both the periodic/continual monitoring of nuclear weapons worldwide, and the periodic/continual monitoring of SNM quantities of potential nuclear weapons materials worldwide.
The signatories of nuclear arms control or arms reductions agreements, joined by all of the nuclear weapons ‐ possessing nations, would collectively and mutually negotiate the procedures, frequencies, prohibitions, etc. for carrying out materials and weapons transparency measures/inspections protecting against the spread of nuclear weapons expertise to NNWS. The ideal outcome would be agreement that the results of these inspections would be delivered to the IAEA as part of its routine monitoring and shared with all nations worldwide.
The Task Force believes that progress through Phase 4 will have a positive effect on worldwide arms stability as well as strengthen non‐proliferation efforts. With everyone having a stake in the transparency processes coming into existence and successfully working, it might then be possible to require mandatory compliance for any holdout nations. The culmination of all of these efforts would be the achievement of a Cooperative Universal Transparency regime that would operate to ensure monitoring and verification of all nuclear weapons as well as inventories of SNM—over the whole world.
You know that old song about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses? Well, this DSB report would appear to see the world through transparency colored glasses – which I know is a bit oxymoronic – but then so is the idea of negotiating a replacement NPT just to achieve nuclear weapons stockpile transparency benefits. It’s like the authors don’t really know what’s in the current NPT, and have no appreciation of the incredible complexity of the notion of negotiating a replacement treaty balancing the peaceful and military uses of nuclear energy. To them it’s all about increasing nuclear weapons stockpile transparency – which isn’t even in the current NPT!
To paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.”
That’s why I said in the title of this post that the DSB thinks that they are proposing in this report the negotiation of a new NPT. But in reality, what they are proposing has nothing to do with the NPT, either current or future.
This recommendation in the report, and the accompanying text, are truly bizarre. I honestly can’t understand why they linked what they are talking about – nuclear weapons stockpile transparency – to the NPT. If anyone can explain better than the committee did what they are trying to say, and how it is relevant to the NPT, by all means please chime in in the comments.