Eliminating the Nuclear Threat

Event Report | September 23, 2009

On October 24, 2008 the EastWest Institute convened an international consultation on weapons of mass destruction at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The event drew experts and luminaries from around the world, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who delivered the keynote speech, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and leaders from other countries, including China, India, Japan and Pakistan.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered a five-point proposal, which included an enforceable international convention against nuclear weapons, for concrete measures to end the global logjam on weapons of mass destruction. In his proposal, which he has reiterated several times since then, Secretary General Ban urged:

  • All states to negotiate an international nuclear weapons convention, backed by a strong system of verification;
  • The U.N. Security Council to discuss security assurances with non-nuclear states;
  • The international community to pursue institutionalization of nuclear treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
  • Nuclear states to be more transparent about the sizes of their arsenals, stocks of fissile material and specific disarmament achievements;
  • All states to pursue complementary measures, including the elimination of other types of WMD.

The consultation generated a broad range of ideas to help reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons, which everyone agreed was an urgent priority. As Ban Ki-moon said, “A world free of nuclear weapons would be a global good of the highest order…when disarmament advances, the world advances.”

Complete transcripts of the plenary sessions are included in the full report. Below, a summary of the key ideas presented.

PLEASE NOTE: These proposals do not necessarily represent concensus views.

Proposals for all states:

  • Conduct a sober assessment of East-West differences and begin a dispassionate search for military and economic strategies towards disarmament that respects all parties’ need for security and development.
  • Outlaw nuclear weapons now and advocate for complete disarmament in the future. Such action will be a litmus test to demonstrate commitment to nuclear disarmament.
  • Stop any deployment of new anti-missile systems on borders of other countries and restore the understanding that ballistic missile defense destabilizes nuclear arms control.
  • Make proliferation to non-state actors an international crime.
  • Invest in nonproliferation education, as the U.S. has done with the National Nonproliferation Act and a National Nonproliferation Education Fund.

Proposals for the U.S., Russia, and NATO:

  • Conduct the bilateral relationship in a way that does not encourage proliferation. Reduce nuclear forces as a first step towards disarmament.
  • Replace treaties due to expire in 2009 and 2012 by conducting fresh negotiations for deep cuts in the near future.
  • Withdraw NATO nuclear weapons from European states and withdraw Russian nuclear weapons deeper into Russia to contribute to lowering of East-West tension.
  • Address imbalances in conventional weapons and expansion of military blocs.
  • Expand the ambit of the U.S.-Russia joint initiative to combat nuclear terrorism

Proposals for all nuclear-weapon states:

  • Do not wait for a Russian-American agreement before beginning to act on zero nuclear.
  • Begin exchanging ideas to determine intermediate targets towards eventual disarmament.
  • Unambiguously display political will to eliminate nuclear weapons, as Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev did in Reykjavík in October 1986.
  • Introduce much more restraint and responsibility in nuclear policies and practices, especially nuclear doctrines.
  • Keep nuclear and conventional doctrines separate. Define as clearly as possible the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.
  • Ratify all protocols to any relevant regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.
  • Pledge to a no-first-use policy to build confidence with non-nuclear-weapon states.
  • Agree not to use nuclear weapons against each other under any circumstances.
  • Begin negotiations for an agreement on non-deployment of weapons on foreign lands.
  • Send unclassified material to the U.N. Secretariat and publish more information about nuclear arsenals, stocks of fissile material and specific disarmament achievements.
  • Show greater transparency on:
    • Reductions in nuclear stockpiles
    • Reductions of nuclear warheads and delivery systems
    • The number of dismantled nuclear warheads and delivery systems
    • The pace of dismantlement, including the types of dismantled nuclear warheads and delivery systems
    • Total numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery systems and/or the number of deployed weapons
    • Reductions in nuclear weapons complexes
    • The years in which countries stop producing fissile material for nuclear weapons
    • Disposal of excess fissile material
    • Efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines
    • Plans or intentions for further nuclear disarmament
  • The U.K. should revisit its decision on the Trident submarines.

Proposals for Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty states:

  • Fulfill all obligations under the treaty to negotiate on effective measures leading to nuclear disarmament.
  • Implement the thirteen steps that formed part of the consensus of 2000 NPT Review Conference in a way that promotes international stability and is based on undiminished security for all.
  • Create strong institutional backing for the NPT, including a standing secretariat.
  • Find a diplomatic and a political solution to the question of Iran’s nuclear program within the ambit of the NPT
  • Conclude safeguards agreements with the IAEA, and voluntarily adopt the strengthened safeguards under the Additional Protocol.

Proposals for the United Nations and other multilateral institutions:

  • Strengthen the IAEA as a focal point of a reinvigorated global nuclear order allowing for safe and secure expansion of nuclear energy.
  • Establish a commission of strategic force commanders to analyze the military utility of nuclear weapons in the current and future geopolitical and geostrategic environments.
  • Engage with regional adversaries to resolve outstanding disputes, reduce the dependence on nuclear deterrence and, in some cases, diminish the sense of nuclear vulnerability.
  • Preclude the possibility of regional nuclear competitions by ensuring that a new East-West consensus on weapons of mass destruction is based on principles of universality and non-discrimination.
  • Renew efforts to bring the CTBT into force.
  • Bring into force Central Asian and African nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.
  • Establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
  • Encourage the Conference on Disarmament to begin negotiations on a fissile material treaty immediately and without preconditions.
  • Make the Proliferation Security Initiative treaty based and universally implemented.
  • Convene a summit on nuclear disarmament that enables new leaders in key countries to commit to concrete steps for disarmament, peaceful settlement of disputes and an active role for the United Nations.
  • End Security Council paralysis on proliferation issues by developing a collective nuclear security system that people can rely on. Ensure a Security Council that can work in a systematic way in cases of non-compliance.
  • The U.N. Security Council should begin discussions, perhaps in its Military Staff Committee, on security issues in the nuclear disarmament process.
  • The Security Council should unambiguously assure non-nuclear-weapon states that they will not be threatened with nuclear weapons.

Proposals for the International Atomic Energy Agency:

  • To ensure effective verification, the IAEA needs the authority, resources, satellite imagery, and capability to do environmental sampling.
  • Do more to control and protect nuclear material.
  • Start work towards multi-national regulation of and cooperation on production and supply on nuclear fuel.
  • Address the demands for access to civil nuclear fuel cycle and agree upon a multinational approach to the fuel cycle that is equitable and fair.