In my last blog, I outlined the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the role of the Review Conferences. Here I will deal first with the evolution of the NPT Reviews and then with possible avenues for future action.
Every five years, the NPT Review Conferences provide an opportunity for governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to evaluate progress in disarmament among the nuclear-weapon States and to sound a warning about tension areas, such as the Middle East, the two Koreas, and India-Pakistan relations. The hope of governments participating in the Review is to seek consensus on a “Final Document” embodying agreed statements of policy and recommendations for action. It has also become practice to measure the success of each Review Conference according to whether or not it was able to reach agreement on such a final statement.
The First Review in 1975 had great difficulty in drafting a consensus statement. The drafting committee had failed to reach agreement, and the Review was “saved” by the last-day dynamic efforts of the President of the Conference, Inga Thorsson of Sweden, who largely wrote and then presented a “President's Statement” accepted by the reluctant participants.
In 1980, the Second Review Conference was unable to agree to a Final Document, despite three extra days and all-night meetings. From 1975 to 1980, negotiations on nuclear arms control between the US and the USSR had seen a lack of progress or results. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in the last days of December 1979 made any arms control agreement even less likely, especially on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was the focus of efforts at the time.