U.S.-Russia Frictions Mar NPT Review, Cloud Nuclear Horizon

U.S.-Russia Frictions Mar NPT Review, Cloud Nuclear Horizon
A view of the General Assembly Hall as Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson addresses the opening of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, United Nations, New York, April 27, 2015).

As expected, the recently completed Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was much more contentious than the previous five-year review held in 2010. At that time, the Obama administration’s push to re-energize bilateral arms control initiatives with Russia and shore up the global nonproliferation regime resulted in a generally successful 2010 conference. However, since then great power tensions have grown, and, besides the Iran nuclear talks, progress toward meeting the Action Plan adopted at the 2010 Review Conference has generally been seen as incomplete. As a result, at this year’s review, fundamental differences among the participants regarding the treaty’s three so-called pillars—nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy—proved too divisive to be overcome.

Several obstacles prevented the participants from agreeing on a final document, which must be adopted by consensus among the treaty’s 190 members. But the inadequate cooperation between Russia and the United States, whose collaboration is vital to the success of the NPT, was one of the most prominent of these impediments.

Many non-nuclear weapons states and disarmament advocates renewed their longstandingcriticism of both Russia and the United States for possessing more nuclear weapons than needed for minimal deterrence; failing to make deeper and more rapid cuts in their nuclear arsenals; adhering to strategies that could entail the first use of nuclear weapons; and resisting efforts to highlight the adverse humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.

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