Stability is Cracking: Interim Results of the NPT Review Conference

The Tenth NPT Review Conference is still ongoing, and this year the conference is taking place in very specific circumstances and in the context unprecedented tension between the nuclear weapons states since the end of the Cold War. Thus the statements made by the parties during the conference to some extent clarify the shape of current global security architecture.

There were moderate positive expectations about the conference in terms of the dialogue dedicated to the issues of nuclear arms control and disarmament. At the very beginning of the event, US president Joe Biden announced the US preparedness for further cooperation in the field of nuclear arms control. 

Today, my Administration is ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026. But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith.

At the same time, the US president called China to join the negotiations process and stated that "Russia's brutal and unprovoked aggression in Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and constitutes an attack on fundamental tenets of international order. In this context, Russia should demonstrate that it is ready to resume work on nuclear arms control with the United States". The latter statements probably changed the tone of the message, and the situation ended up with mutual criticism.

The reaction from Russian and Chinese counterparts followed the next day. The key argument was that the declaration of readiness is not the same as readiness itself, and there is no reason to suppose that the US position is solid. Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Igor Vishnevetsky noticed that "the positive achievements (of Strategic Dialogue between Russia and the US) were devalued by the U.S. policy of ignoring Russia's "red lines" in the field of security. Washington used our rebuff to this destructive approach as a pretext to "freeze" the strategic dialogue."

The speech probably became one of the triggers for the Russian exemption of the inspection activities within the New START framework. However, there is still no official American reaction to the statement. The UN urged the US and Russia to resolve all the New START issues and let allow inspectors to get back to their invaluable work of verifying this important treaty. 

"As the only remaining bilateral nuclear arms control agreement between the United States and Russian Federation, New START is an essential element of international peace and security, and the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime," said Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric.

The Chinese representative of the Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying stated that China is "ready for close contacts with all interested parties on issues in the field of strategic security," however, provided that the United States, which has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, "will be the first to comply with agreements on the limitation of strategic arms".

The participants also discussed the relevant issues of strategic stability, including the deployment of global ABM systems and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific Region and Europe. This position was shared by Russia and China. 

The problem of disarmament is also an object of discussion. Traditionally the P5 countries, mostly the US and Russia, were accused of a lack of activities devoted to nuclear disarmament. But they responded that their nuclear arsenals were reduced by 90% and 85% respectively, compared to 1967.

During the work of the First Main Committee, Russia and the United States also expressed support for further nuclear disarmament. American Special Representative Adam Sheinman noted the obvious achievements of the United States on the path of disarmament, such as a consistent reduction in the number of nuclear warheads or support for movements like Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament or the Stockholm Initiative. On August 5, the head of the National Nuclear Safety Administration at the US Department of Energy, Jill Hruby, speaking at an event within the framework of the NPT, also stated that the United States is not expanding its nuclear arsenal during modernization.

Thus, it can be concluded that the rows between the great powers, primarily the United States, China, and the Russian Federation, on disarmament and arms control issues, have a serious impact on the work of the X Review Conference. The statements of the parties are filled with a series of mutual accusations of the degradation of existing regimes and agreements, as well as the build-up of their nuclear capabilities, which, of course, does not contribute to a fruitful and constructive dialogue within the framework of the NPT.

Source: UN

Our partners