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In Search of a New Framework for Nuclear Disarmament: 20 Years After the New Beginning

Seminar Report
Posted: 9 December 2011 · Updated: 17 January 2012

On December 7, 2011, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation (VCDNP) in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations and International Organizations in Vienna conducted a seminar entitled "In Search of a New Framework for Nuclear Disarmament: 20 Years after the New Beginning."


The event sought to launch a result-oriented discussion among various actors represented in Vienna—national governments, international organizations, academia, NGOs, and independent experts—on arms control and disarmament issues. To this end, speakers assessed progress in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War, offered their analysis of why progress over the last 20 years have fallen short of expectations, and suggested practical steps, both substantive and institutional, on accelerating movement toward complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The seminar consisted of two parts: the first looked at national and regional perspectives on nuclear disarmament while the second part concentrated on the role of international organizations and multilateral efforts.

Participants were greeted by Elena Sokova, Executive Director of VCDNP, and Przemyslaw Wyganowski, Ambassador ad personam, Charge d'Affairs a.i. for UN matters, Permanent Mission of Poland to UNO and International Organizations in Vienna.

Amb. Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) gave the keynote presentation. Amb. Tóth came to the seminar directly from his trip to Jakarta on the occasion of Indonesia's ratification of the CTBT. Seminar participants congratulated Indonesia and the CTBT on this important step in advancing the entry into force of the treaty.

Summary of Discussions

On December 7, 2011, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation (VCDNP) in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations and International Organizations in Vienna conducted a seminar entitled "In Search of a New Framework for Nuclear Disarmament: 20 Years after the New Beginning." The event sought to launch a result-oriented discussion among various actors represented in Vienna—national governments, international organizations, academia, NGOs, and independent experts—on arms control and disarmament issues. To this end, speakers assessed progress in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War, offered their analysis of why progress over the last 20 years has fallen short of expectations, and suggested practical steps, both substantive and institutional, on accelerating movement toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The seminar consisted of two parts: the first looked at national and regional perspectives on nuclear disarmament while the second part concentrated on the role of international organizations and on multilateral efforts.

Elena Sokova

Elena Sokova, Executive Director, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, said in her opening remarks that, although significant progress has been made in recent years, these achievements are only "baby steps" on the path to the abolition of nuclear weapons, an issue where there is still no consensus. Today's situation is fundamentally different from the one in 1946, when a ban on nuclear weapons was proposed for the first time under the Baruch Plan, or during the 1980s which saw an active nuclear freeze movement and a series of breakthrough treaties. Nuclear disarmament in the mid-2000s stopped being a domain of advocacy groups and became part of the mainstream international discourse. However, moving toward the goal of zero nuclear weapons will require sustained involvement by experts inside and outside governments. Ms Sokova emphasized in her remarks that engagement of the experts present in international organizations, diplomatic missions, and nongovernmental organizations in Vienna is crucial to a result-oriented discussion on issues of arms control and nuclear disarmament.

Ambassador Przemyslaw Wyganowski

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Przemyslaw Wyganowski, Ambassador ad personam, Chargé d'Affaires for UN matters, Permanent Mission of Poland to UNO and International Organizations in Vienna, said that both diplomats and politicians have an obligation to take the next steps on nuclear disarmament, particularly within the framework of UN disarmament machinery. The task, he emphasized, is not an easy one. He referred, in particular, to Poland's successful effort in 2006 to advance the Conference of Disarmament by creating the P6 Platform which helped the Conference adopt its work program in 2009.[1] Ambassador Wyganowski also noted that former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Adam Daniel Rotfeld, while he was Chair of the Secretary General Advisory Board on Disarmament, proposed "shock therapy" for the disarmament machinery, particularly the CD, which has been unable to make any serious achievements since the completion of CTBT negotiations a decade and a half ago.

Dr. Nikolai Sokov

Dr. Nikolai Sokov, Senior Fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation, discussed the U.S. and Russian perspectives on nuclear disarmament. He suggested that a close look reveals that achievements in the area of nuclear disarmament have been underestimated while impediments have been underestimated — the past 20 years have demonstrated that challenges are greater than we thought at the end of the Cold War.

Reductions have continued beyond what was mandated by the 1991 START I Treaty and even accelerated in spite of failures to conclude new verifiable treaties (the 2002 SORT — the only one concluded after START I — was largely unverifiable). The number of deployed strategic weapons has been reduced from more than 10,000 for each party to about 2,000. The reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) has proceeded without any treaties (they have only been subject to unilateral statements made in the fall of 1991 by presidents Bush and Gorbachev known as Presidential Nuclear Initiatives, or PNIs), but the United States has cut its NSNW arsenal by 90 percent, Russia by 75 percent, according to official statements, and probably even deeper.

As of the fall of 2009 the total U.S. stockpile (deployed and non-deployed, strategic and non-strategic weapons) was 5,113—compared to more than 22,000 at the end of the Cold War. Russia has not released data on its stockpile, but it is assessed to be around 7,000 compared to the estimated 30,000 at the end of the Cold War.

Both sides plan further reductions. The scale of potential reductions on the U.S. side could be gleaned from the FY 2011 Stockpile Management and Stewardship plan, which foresees an arsenal of 3,000-3,500 weapons, which is 1,500-2,000 fewer than the present-day stockpile. Russia has not detailed plans for further reductions, but there is a clear political commitment in place.

Both parties also significantly downsized their nuclear weapons complexes. It can be said that in the 1990s, the United States dismantled its nuclear weapons complex to the extent that it virtually lost the ability to produce nuclear weapons and could only refurbish old ones for limited time. The steps that are today often seen as contributing to an arms race are actually efforts to restore the ability to refurbish nuclear warheads to maintain the shrinking stockpile. Russia has also downsized its nuclear weapons complex, but perhaps not as deeply as the United States. One unintended consequence of the drawdown of the nuclear weapons complex is the reduced ability to dismantle nuclear weapons. The backlog is measured in thousands.

Dr. Sokov proposed that, paradoxically, nuclear disarmament has fallen victim to the simple fact that we do not fear nuclear war as much as we used to during the Cold War. As a result, domestic political pressures quite often prevails, and governments are less likely to make concessions necessary to conclude treaties. In fact, many believe treaties are not needed at all; this attitude is most visible in the United States.

One more challenge to nuclear disarmament has been nuclear proliferation. Three nuclear states have emerged since late 1990s and there is a risk that more might appear. While it is true, said Dr. Sokov, that disarmament is a key condition for the continuation of the nonproliferation regime, the opposite is true as well—nuclear disarmament is impossible without a strong and reliable nonproliferation regime.

One more challenge that is likely to emerge in the future is the need to involve other nuclear states in the disarmament process. Perhaps one more round of reductions is possible on the bilateral, U.S.-Russian basis, but after that, we will likely need to make the process multilateral; however, no one knows how to do that. In fact, resistance on the part of some nuclear weapons states to subjecting their arsenals to transparency, much less reduction, is quite significant.

There is no doubt, he concluded, that reduction of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons will continue. The greatest challenge is not ensuring continued reduction, but rather concluding treaties that would make them legally binding, irreversible, and verifiable. We must also begin seriously thinking about the involvement of other nuclear states in the process, investing more energy into strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and addressing the new security dilemmas. Overall, it can be said that 20 years ago we did not anticipate many new challenges to nuclear disarmament. This should not be a reason for pessimism, however, but rather an agenda for action.

Lukasz Kulesa

Lukasz Kulesa, Deputy Director, Strategic Analysis Department, National Security Bureau, Poland, proposed that while achievements of the past 20 years have been significant, they have fallen short of expectations. Today, as we contemplate whether the current push toward Global Zero and the disarmament agenda outlined by President Obama in Prague will continue or we return to business as usual, we need to realize that the next decade is likely to alter the way we think about disarmament. We will have to face three categories of challenges, which might potentially act as "game changers": terrorism and accidents involving nuclear weapons or nuclear materials; the risk of conflict escalation and perhaps even war between nuclear states; and possible breakouts from the NPT. Given these challenges and multiple uncertainties, he suggested, the preferred path is not a revolution and early disarmament, but rather continuation and redoubling of previous efforts.

Inter-European debates and differences on nuclear disarmament are a microcosm that reflects the broader situation in the international system. Europe has two nuclear states which have implemented reductions of weapons and delivery systems, dismantled elements of their nuclear infrastructure (this achievement has not been properly recognized so far), but they also continue to replace older systems with new ones and continue to rely on nuclear deterrence in their security strategies.

Non-nuclear weapon states in Europe are divided. One group, which could be characterized as "realist" (mostly located in the eastern part of Europe) believe that nuclear deterrence still matters and that NATO should continue to rely on nuclear sharing and the nuclear umbrella. The other group, mostly in the western part of Europe, could be called "idealist/progressive." These states see more urgency in nuclear disarmament and believe that the concept of nuclear deterrence needs rethinking. They support the Obama administration's Prague speech approach and believe that progress on disarmament is vital for strengthening the nonproliferation regime.

Similar differences exist among the public. In the countries belonging to the second group, the public has strongly supported Obama's Prague speech and concentrates, to a large extent, on the need to change the continued stationing of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. In the former group, however, the public has remained largely skeptical. Obama's vision has primarily enjoyed the support of concerned individuals, especially among former officials, while the public appears more concerned about the strength of NATO's Article V commitments.[2]

The following features will characterize the European contribution to furthering the nuclear disarmament agenda:

  • In most cases, Europe is not part of the problem (especially compared to other regions), but unfortunately in most cases it is also not part of the solution;
  • There is broad support for further cuts and enhanced transparency. This includes tactical nuclear weapons; policy on that issue is supposed to be set by NATO's Defense and Deterrence Policy Review (DDPR), but it is not likely that NATO will support withdrawal of U.S. NSNW from Europe without conditions attached;
  • Europe supports bilateral moves by the United States and Russia toward arms reductions and seeks ways to make Russia more likely to contemplate nuclear reductions in general, and reduce its tactical nuclear weapons in particular;
  • Europe strongly supports the CTBT as well as the start of FMCT negotiations and the evolution of the CD to make it more efficient;
  • Europe serves as a disarmament laboratory. The US-Norway initiative on verification of nuclear disarmament deserves special mention;
  • Europe supports and sponsors the process leading to the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East;
  • Europe should also seek to develop new ideas and approaches to solving nonproliferation crises, especially with regard to Iran, and develop approaches that would allow us to cope with NPT crises in the next 5-10 years; and
  • Finally, it is necessary to prepare for negative contingencies, such as breakouts from the NPT or theft (even worse, use) of nuclear weapons.

Dr. Heinz Gärtner

Dr. Heinz Gärtner, Professor at the Austrian Institute of International Affairs (OIIP), discussed the limitations and deficiencies of traditional nuclear deterrence. Deterrence was designed as war strategy: to be credible, nuclear weapons became smaller and more precise to limit damage. At the same time other weapons were supposed to inflict maximum damage to reduce the adversary's second strike capability (e. g. Multiple Independently targetable Reentry Vehicle — MIRVs). Each side strove for the last strike (escalation dominance) without ever achieving it. These processes led to an arms race with nuclear arsenals that could destroy the world 50 times over.

Deterrence has several deficiencies, however: we do not know, whether it works; it has a credibility problem; it does not prevent conventional wars (among or by nuclear powers); it works only with rational actors; it is useless against nuclear terrorists; it stimulates hostility and mistrust; it provokes an arms race and proliferation; it creates instability and precarious situations, it is immoral and unlawful; it is costly, and failure would be catastrophic.

Professor Gärtner noted that arms control and nuclear nonproliferation do not equal nuclear disarmament. They represent the management of a relationship based on nuclear deterrence and are commendable to the extent that they lead to greater stability. Progress toward disarmament requires steps that move beyond nuclear deterrence in state policies, for example:

  • reducing the number of targets;
  • reducing the number of missions;
  • reducing sweeping target categories and being more precise in what nuclear states intend to target;
  • introducing a genuine no-first-use policy;
  • adopting legally binding negative security assurances;
  • creating new nuclear-weapon-free zones;
  • reducing the number of countries that are regarded as hostile;
  • giving up counterforce strike planning;
  • giving up damage limitation options and expectations (what is the difference between rubble, gravel, or dust?); and
  • giving up high alert status of nuclear forces.

As a result, nuclear weapon states might be able step out of the deterrence relationship or at least mitigate the negative consequences of deterrence postures and create preconditions for nuclear disarmament.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy (United Kingdom), made a strong security and humanitarian case that the time has come for a group of states to initiate a process to ban nuclear weapons for everyone. While recognizing the propaganda value of slogans like "Global Zero" and the importance of the resumed U.S.-Russian arms control relationship epitomized by the 2010 New START, Dr. Johnson argued that step-by-step arms control and reductions have failed to take the world closer to genuine disarmament or make inroads on proliferation because they do not deal with the "voodoo" of deterrence, they reinforce the powerful military-industrial interests, and increase, rather than reduce, the value, status, and identity attached to nuclear weapons, which act as primary drivers of nuclear retention and proliferation.

She noted that as the current regime is failing to deliver on its core nonproliferation and nuclear security purpose, civil society and a growing number of non-nuclear weapons states are shifting their disarmament efforts towards building a new humanitarian approach aimed at achieving a treaty or framework to ban the use, possession, and deployment of nuclear weapons. This would then provide for the elimination of arsenals, as has been successfully done with chemical weapons, by also drawing on lessons learned from the multilateral processes that have prohibited landmines and cluster munitions. To illustrate the shift in attitudes underway, she highlighted the insistence by middle power non-nuclear-weapon states on including language in the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document recognizing: the "catastrophic humanitarian consequences" if nuclear weapons are used; the importance that all states must "comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law;" that "all States need to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons;" and referencing in this context the UN Secretary-General's five-point plan supporting a negotiated ban such as a "nuclear weapons convention. " She further drew attention to the resolution adopted on November 26, 2011 by the Council of Delegates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement on "Working towards the elimination of nuclear weapons," which is the first such intervention on nuclear weapons from the Red Cross since 1981.

In making the case for humanitarian disarmament, Dr. Johnson summarized new scientific research on the global impact if 0.4 percent of current nuclear arsenals were used in a "limited," regional war. With data from the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, she demonstrated that in addition to millions of immediate deaths, abrupt climate disruption would cause agricultural collapse and several years of nuclear-induced famine, potentially killing billions across the world. Recognizing that a mind shift is needed to take the process of disarmament beyond the fiefdom of the nuclear-armed states and the inadequate formal machinery on which current arms control relies, Dr. Johnson argued that change could be brought about if civil society and governments did more to:

  • raise awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and nuclear insecurity, with over 22,000 warheads in 9 nuclear-armed states, and a rise in nuclear-related problems, from proliferation to nuclear materials insecurity and terrorism;
  • reinforce international law, including international humanitarian law, and recognize that the use of nuclear weapons would constitute a crime against humanity; and
  • revive and strengthen tools for national and regional security and defense without relying on nuclear weapons for deterrence.

Key to new ways of dealing with nuclear threats is to change the security calculus for the nuclear-dependent states and potential proliferators. This requires a shift away from partial nonproliferation and arms control (in which the possessors are the high status actors) towards nuclear abolition, which provides a leadership role for non-nuclear weapons states and the important normative recognition that any use of nuclear weapons would constitute a crime against humanity. Although some of the NPT-recognized nuclear weapon states have reduced numbers in their arsenals or have marginally changed operational and declaratory policies, they still assert high value for the remaining weapons. The high value accorded to nuclear weapons by nuclear-armed states and also nuclear umbrella alliances like NATO, whether for strategic, deterrence or other regional or governmental reasons, is a significant proliferation driver that outweighs the marginal gains from post-Cold War arms control, which Dr. Johnson likened to "rearranging deckchairs" while the world steams towards an inevitable nuclear disaster unless the world changes course.

Despite decades of rhetorical commitments, it has become clear that genuine disarmament will be unachievable through incremental reductions unless nuclear weapons lose their assumed political and military value. As with chemical weapons, elimination of the physical arsenals will be implemented only after multilateral agreements banning the possession, deployment and use are concluded. In addition to building a normative process to stigmatize and outlaw the use of nuclear weapons, Dr. Johnson endorsed several objectives on the current agenda, including the need for existing treaties to be embedded and implemented as far as possible. She made clear that the humanitarian disarmament approach supported efforts to halt fissile materials production and nuclear modernization programs, and would require deep cuts in all arsenals. She also argued that these would become more practically achievable if a cross-regional group of non-nuclear armed states would take responsibility to lay the groundwork for a stronger treaty-based nuclear abolition regime.

Ambassador Rüdiger Lüdeking

Ambassador Rüdiger Lüdeking, Ambassador, Resident Representative to the IAEA, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Vienna, UNIDO and CTBTO, Germany, addressed the possible future role of the IAEA in nuclear disarmament. He focused on the key role that the IAEA should play in the field of verification. He emphasized that verification is an essential feature of arms control and disarmament agreements, without it there would be no possibility to make a judgment as to whether or not agreements in the sensitive field of security are complied with. He also explained that as we move toward progressively lower numbers of nuclear weapons, demands on verification regime will increase. In particular, at very low numbers the potential significance of breakout will be very large and thus it will be necessary to implement very intrusive and reliable verification procedures to reassure parties to these future agreements that breakout is ruled out.

So far, the verification of nuclear reductions has primarily been only bilateral, between the United States and Russia. These two countries also employ their own means and personnel for verification purposes. But in a multipolar world, a verification regime would need to be multilateral, the verification of a nuclear-weapon-free world must encompass all states, be they nuclear weapon or non-nuclear weapon states.

The IAEA, suggested Ambassador Lüdeking, is uniquely positioned to shoulder the task of verifying nuclear disarmament. The legal basis for IAEA involvement exists even today — noting articles III.B.1 and III.A.5 of the IAEA Statute as well as Article III.1 of the NPT. The IAEA already verifies compliance of the non-nuclear-weapon states with their obligations under the NPT. It would only seem logical that the IAEA mandate be extended to all nuclear-weapon states, as they are to fulfill their obligations under Article VI of the NPT.

The IAEA could also use some past practical experience that is applicable to the task of verifying nuclear disarmament. In particular, Ambassador Lüdeking noted the following cases:

  • denuclearization of South Africa, Libya, and Iraq;
  • the Trilateral Initiative (1996-2001);[3]
  • the IAEA safeguards activities in the DPRK, Iran and Syria; and
  • technical studies on verification of FMCT. (Experience with implementation of safeguards is directly transferrable to verification of FMCT because in principle these are very similar tasks. If FMCT is finally achieved, the IAEA will play a central role in verification of that agreement.)

The IAEA is experienced and well equipped to fulfill functions relevant for nuclear disarmament, emphasized Ambassador Lüdeking. We will, however, need to strengthen it further. It is also advisable to consider the adoption of the Additional Protocol as a standard, not as voluntary, measure. This would constitute an important step towards developing the stringent and intrusive verification system required to verify a nuclear-weapon-free world.

Ambassador Lüdeking also addressed the key role of the IAEA in the implementation of a potential FMCT. He suggested that the current safeguards regime be used as the basis for an FMCT verification mechanism. The non-nuclear weapon states already are subject to a prohibition of producing fissile material for weapons purposes, with this prohibition verified through the safeguards regime. In a way, an FMCT would extend the safeguards regime to nuclear weapon states. An FMCT based on a comprehensive approach could provide a baseline for nuclear disarmament, would need to apply to the entire declared fuel cycle, and be geared towards the detection of undeclared production facilities and nuclear materials. Ambassador Lüdeking also suggested that one of the ways to achieve movement on the issue of an FMCT is to call together a group of technical experts who would be able to lead the way by demonstrating technical feasibility of such a treaty, including a reliable verification regime.

Ambassador Alfredo Labbé

Ambassador Alfredo Labbé, Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, Chile, devoted his presentation to the reform of the Conference on Disarmament. The state of disarmament machinery, especially the CD, is inadequate, he said. Subsidiary bodies of the UN exist to serve the international community, he pointed out. Peace and disarmament are a public good, but the CD is not.

What we call disarmament machinery today was created at the UNGA Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD) 34 years ago. It consecrated the CD as the main negotiating forum and established the consensus rule that determines CD decision-making. At that time, the rule of consensus was intended to protect the interests of great powers, but lately some states have transformed it into the right of veto. Ambassador Labbé admitted that consensus might still be necessary for the final stage in negotiations, but should not be used to block the beginning of negotiations. In that case, it can lead to an abuse of rights which state participants enjoy in the CD.

Ambassador Labbé posited the need for finding a formula that would allow an audit of the CD. This could be done at the Fourth UNGA Special Session on Disarmament. Since the CD in its present form was created by a SSOD, a similar body could review its activities and reform it. This proposal, he pointed out, has the support of approximately half of the members of the UN, including the Non-Aligned Movement. The CD could be reformed, expanded, and democratized in order to become more efficient.

It is necessary to demystify the CD, remove the image of its irreplaceability. It is possible to refer to the example of the Ottawa Treaty on landmines, Ambassador Labbé noted. Had the issue remained in the CD, it would have remained in limbo, like a number of other issues on which the CD cannot move ahead.

A proposal to create a special joint IAEA-CTBTO forum on technical and scientific aspects of verification applied to nuclear weapons and materials was suggested during the discussion of the presentations. A possible format and other details of such a forum might become the subject of future meetings/discussions at the VCDNP.

Ambassador Florence Mangin

The statement of Ambassador Florence Mangin, Ambassador Resident Representative to the IAEA, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Vienna, UNIDO, and CTBTO was devoted to the role of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in the future of nuclear disarmament. She noted that 15 years after the adoption of the CTBT by the UN General Assembly, eight Annex II States have yet to ratify— after the ratification by Indonesia on December 6, 2011. These states must ratify —in order for the Treaty to enter into force. Nonetheless, the CTBT has already become an international norm and is one of the most comprehensive international regimes with 182 signatories and 156 ratifications up to this day.

Ambassador Mangin recalled that the CTBT is based upon the strong political ambition and commitment of state signatories, meaning that by signing and ratifying this text, states equivocally and in an irreversible manner renounced nuclear explosions. In that respect, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, the CTBT constitutes an effective measure furthering nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in all aspects. The vital importance of CTBT was clearly reaffirmed during the 2010 NPT Review Conference.

She emphasized that France, for its part, has gone one step further by dismantling all its test facilities in the Pacific following its 1996 decision to end nuclear tests. This dismantling was done in an open and transparent manner and today France is the only nuclear weapons state to have taken this irreversible step to no longer have any testing facilities.

Ambassador Mangin also emphasized that a robust verification regime, implemented by the CTBTO, is crucial to dissuade state signatories from conducting a nuclear explosion. She acknowledged the sophisticated verification system, which is already operational on a global scale and which represents an invaluable asset given the concerns about proliferating countries.

Finally, Ambassador Mangin stressed the urgent need of an early entry into force of the CTBT and cautioned against the intention of some states (as was mentioned by the General Secretary of the United Nations during the September 2011 Conference of Article XIV in New York) to wait for ratification by others.

The Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO should, in the meantime, continue to develop technical expertise and bolster its verification capabilities to further increase international confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the CTBT verification regime. The Integrated Field Exercise, which is scheduled for 2014, should take place under the best possible conditions and provide state parties with an adequate assessment of the on-site inspection regime.

Ambassador Alexander Kmentt

In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, Director for Disarmament, Arms Control and Nonproliferation, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, Austria, noted that the presentations and the engaged discussion at the seminar devoted to the future of nuclear disarmament demonstrated that Vienna is no longer a city focused only on technical issues. International organizations as well as Austrian and international experts residing in Vienna are increasingly engaged in discussing the most fundamental policy interests of the international community, including nuclear disarmament, which has long been of great interest for Austria.

Ambassador Jacek Bylica

Ambassador Jacek Bylica, Head of NATO's WMD Non-Proliferation Center, discussed the potential role of NATO in future nuclear disarmament. He started off by assessing the record of implementing the Prague nuclear disarmament agenda mixed so far. The Nuclear Summit in Washington was a great success and the effort should be maintained, but securing sensitive materials, important as it is for global security, is not what one usually considers nuclear disarmament. Negotiating and ratifying the New START Treaty proved to be longer and more costly than had been originally anticipated. For a number of reasons, including the on-going proliferation crisis regarding Iran and North Korea, scheduled presidential elections in three Nuclear Weapon States, and the economic crisis requiring top-level attention, the year 2012 is not likely to witness much progress in nuclear disarmament.

NATO Summit of November 2010 in Lisbon confirmed the Alliance's position that the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and their means of delivery, threatens incalculable consequences for global stability and prosperity. It assessed that during the next decade proliferation will be most acute in some of the world's most volatile regions. Furthermore, modern technology increases the threat and potential impact of terrorists attacks, in particular if terrorists were to acquire nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological (CBRN) capabilities.

As a result of this threat assessment, Heads of State and Government of NATO countries decided to:

  • continue to play part in reinforcing arms control and in promoting disarmament of both conventional weapons and WMD, as well as non-proliferation efforts, being resolved to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with the goals of the NPT;
  • develop the capability to defend NATO populations and territories against ballistic missile attack, while actively seeking cooperation on missile defence with Russia and other Euro-Atlantic partners;
  • further develop NATO's capacity to defend against CBRN threats;
  • continue the strategy of deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, declaring that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.

In order to determine this appropriate mix of capabilities, the Summit decided to begin a process of Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR), which is supposed to be completed in time for NATO's next Summit planned for May 2012 in Chicago. A special WMD Control and Disarmament Committee (WCDC) has been established to assist in the DDPR process. WCDC's future after the Chicago Summit is, however, not clear.

NATO has some experience of dealing with arms control and disarmament issues. In the WMD field, following the "dual track" decision of 1979 regarding nuclear missiles, a Special Consultative Group was established at NATO. Its activities in the 1980s played a role in supporting negotiations between Washington and Moscow leading to the Treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF), the only disarmament treaty in force in Europe banning an entire category of nuclear weapons. These precedents and experiences could be drawn upon in the future, if and when there is an Allied decision to involve NATO in any future disarmament initiatives.

In response to a question from the audience, Ambassador Bylica emphasized that missile defense capability NATO seeks to develop is intended to be limited and thus would be unable to undermine Russia's strategic nuclear deterrence. NATO-Russia dialogue on missile defence is on-going.




[1] The P6 platform refers the joint effort made by each year's six CD presidents put forward the Conference's Program of Work.

[2] Article V stipulates that states that NATO members must "consider" coming to the aid of another member if attacked, although it does not guarantee assistance.

[3] The Trilateral Initiative was aimed at developing verification system between the Russia, the United States and the IAEA that would allow the Agency to verify classified forms of weapons-origin materials.