How to Lay the Groundwork For '95 Nonproliferation Talks

Seven steps could help build momentum toward indefinite extension of key nuclear treaty

THE Clinton administration has put the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction atop its list of international security concerns. Strategies and recommendations for combating proliferation are on their way, as agencies and departments throughout the government give increased attention to the problem.

As part of this effort, the administration is seeking the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the cornerstone of current nonproliferation. This is the administration's objective for the 1995 NPT Extensive Conference, where the future of that treaty will be decided by NPT signatories. The United States objective is a desirable contrast to modifying the NPT or seeking a shorter-term extension. Renegotiating the NPT could dilute its effectiveness. The treaty can be improved; but if opened to revision, it might become more difficult to reach international consensus on its objectives.

As nonproliferation strategies are formulated, it is apparent that short-term initiatives can significantly affect the success of the 1995 conference. But failing to act in a number of areas could hinder US objectives at that conference and undermine other long-term US goals. With this in mind, the US should:

Pursue a Comprehensive Test Ban (CBT): Congress has passed legislation that could lay the groundwork for this move. Although not perfect, it would provide a useful basis for the current moratorium on testing. Pursuit of a CTB would tell other states that we take NPT objectives seriously, enhancing US credibility going into the Extension Conference and providing a major incentive to other states considering NPT participation. The administration's "no first test" policy, barring testing through September 1 994 unless another state tests first, is a useful step.

Push hard for Ukranian ratification of START I and NPT adherence: If Ukraine is permitted to keep its nuclear weapons and fails to join the NPT as a nonnuclear state, other nations may decide that keeping or acquiring nuclear weapons is preferable to joining the NPT. On the other hand, if Ukraine relinquishes its nuclear weapons, their value may be further lessoned. Thus, Ukraine is a key "test case" of our ability to realize nonproliferation objectives.

Pressure North Korea: North Korea has suspended its threatened withdrawal from the NPT but is not yet allowing full inspections of its nuclear facilities. Such inspections are required of NPT signatories. The pattern of behaviour seriously undermines the NPT. Other states may come to view the NPT as an inconvenience at best, but useful to provide cover as nuclear programs are pursued. In contrast, bringing North Korea back into the NPT fold and reaching an agreement for full inspections make clear to the

international community that the NPT is highly valued and that NPT commitments are taken very seriously.

Prevent displacement of Russian/Ukranian nuclear scientists and technicians: Current legislation permits the establishment of science and technical centers for former Soviet nuclear scientists. It could be catastrophic if their services became widely available, particularly if they are engaged by states such as Libya or Iran. These highly-skilled scientists and technicians could be "technical advisers" to the NPT.

Assist Russian nuclear disarmament: Just as accommodations must be made to prevent a Russian "brain drain," so US assistance for Russian nuclear disarmament must be prioritized. To meet arms-control commitments, Russia will be dismantling thousands of nuclear systems. Keeping track of nuclear-weapons related materials - for which there appears to be a significant market - will be a major challenge. The risk of such materials falling into the hands of "rogue" states is great and would vastly complicate US

objectives for the 1995 conference.

Build on successes: China and South Africa recently signed the NPT, and South Africa has announced the dismantling of its nuclear arsenal. Brazil and Argentina have agreed to a bilateral safeguards regime. These are examples of nonproliferation successes and should be singled out to emphasize the benefits of denuclearization.

Strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency: IAEA inspections are critical to the NPT. Strengthening the IAEA - for example, by making available critical intelligence and supporting its right to conduct short-notice inspections - could enhance its capacity to act as an effective verification tool and alleviate concerns of states not yet fully committed to an indefinite extension.

None of these steps will, on their own, ensure success at the 1995 conference. But they can enhance prospects for realizing an indefinite NPT extension.

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.