January 12, 1995


"Non-Proliferation: Points of View of Latin America and the Caribbean"

I want to talk today about my ideas on the role of nuclear and non-nuclear states in nuclear disarmament programs, and I want to present my ideas in the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the NPT. I have chosen to do so for several reasons. First, the NPT is immensely important to the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. Second, the NPT itself helps to define specific responsibilities of the nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states. Third, it is one of the structures within which this general issue is debated.

Article VI of the NPT obligates all of the parties "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Article VI clearly places primary responsibility on the nuclear weapon states for negotiations on nuclear disarmament. By means of the balance of obligations incorporated in the NPT, the non-nuclear weapon states also have important Treaty responsibilities in this process. I will address those responsibilities later in my talk.

I think that it is important to make clear at the outset why there is a nuclear disarmament process. In brief, why would nuclear weapon states want to reduce their nuclear weapons?

Nuclear weapon states reduce their nuclear armaments principally because it is directly in their interest to do so. The significance of Article VI is not that it compels nuclear weapon states to reduce their armaments but that it explicitly acknowledges the interest of all NPT parties in nuclear arms reductions and makes the nuclear weapon states accountable to the other NPT parties for undertaking these negotiations.

Accountability is exercised through NPT review conferences, which have been held every five years and which will continue as long as the NPT itself.

It is also important to realize that when international realities change, as they have so sharply just within the last four years, the changes are likely to affect the specific priorities of the arms control agenda. Regrettably, none of us is clairvoyant, and so it is unwise to attempt to predict with any degree of precision the future international reality and, consequently, the complete arms control agenda. Who can say what the specific priorities will be ten or fifteen years from now? Looking at the past, though, we can see clearly how changed circumstances have influenced the nuclear weapon states in their approach to nuclear arms control.

The United States and the Soviet Union began the long journey of strategic arms control negotiations in 1969, just the year before the NPT entered into force. These negotiations were known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, or SALT. At that time the United States and the Soviet Union were each other's principal adversary Each targeted the other with thousands of nuclear weapons. Our alliances confronted each other in Europe in what must surely be in history the densest concentration of opposing forces in peacetime. Yet we began to negotiate. Why?

Both we and the Soviets realized that it was in our mutual interest to preserve stability, to avoid deployments of weapons systems that could threaten stable relations, especially in a time of potential crisis. The outcome of these negotiations in 1972, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Interim Agreement on Offensive Weapons, resolved the major threats of that time. Neither agreement could be called a disarmament agreement because there were no provisions for overall reductions, but they were both important arms control measures that contributed to strategic stability.

Building on our experience of negotiating these two agreements, we and the Soviets continued our negotiations, this time with an expanded agenda and somewhat more ambitious objectives. Where-as the Interim Agreement of 1972 dealt with limitations on deploying Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMS) and Submarine Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), the new negotiations, SALT II, included heavy bombers and also attempted to restrict deployment of MIRVed warheads. The SALT II agreement, concluded in 1979, never actually entered into force. Yet both the United States and the Soviet Union generally observed the limitations specified in the agreement for the period of its intended duration.

Negotiations resumed in 1982 with an even more ambitious goal, deep verifiable reductions of strategic nuclear weapons. We were also concerned at that time with intermediate and shorter range weapons. In 1987 we agreed to eliminate all intermediate and shorter-range missile delivery systems. In 1991 we reached agreement on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that will enable us to reduce our total active nuclear arsenal by about 59 percent from its Cold War high.

By that time the international reality was no longer what it had been in 1969. The confrontation, known generally as the Cold War, was over. The 1991 START Treaty was then swiftly followed by unilateral measures, first by the United States and then by Russia, to withdraw and deactivate many non-strategic nuclear weapons and, in 1993, by an agreement on further strategic reductions, START II. With the full implementation of START II in 2003 the US total active nuclear stockpile will be reduced by about 79 percent from the Cold War high.

Our priorities in 1994 for nuclear arms control are very different from those in 1969. The cessation of the arms race, mentioned in Article VI of the NPT, has been achieved. Now we are disarming. Whereas in 1969 we were principally concerned with negotiations to reach agreement on measures to prevent a destabilizing nuclear arms race, our chief concern now is to reduce nuclear armaments safely and securely. In 1972 we agreed to specific limits on future deployment of delivery systems. Now we are destroying the delivery systems themselves. In addition, both sides are destroying the warheads.

None of these negotiations has been easy. In each case we have navigated in uncharted waters, and almost by definition this will remain true as long as we are engaged in arms control negotiations. Prudence and mutual confidence are qualities essential to the process. The responsibility of nuclear weapon states is to press forward with an ever changing agenda in such a way that future progress and security is not jeopardized.

Although Article VI may not itself have driven the arms control process I have just reviewed, it is nonetheless significant because it defines another responsibility of the nuclear weapon states, their accountability to the other Treaty parties for carrying out their commitment to undertake in good faith nuclear arms control negotiations. The Treaty required that one review conference be held five years after the Treaty entered into force, but it also allows for subsequent review conferences every five years if requested by a majority of the parties, and four review conferences have been held.

The Treaty will next be reviewed in only four months, and I have no doubt that Article VI will receive considerable attention, as it always has.

We should understand that concluded agreements are not the same thing as negotiations in good faith. As I mentioned earlier, circumstances affect what concrete accomplishments can be achieved. Negotiations undertaken in good faith do not always yield quick results. In fact, as I think my review has shown, results usually come with some difficulty. On the other hand, without such negotiations undertaken in good faith results are simply not possible. I believe that the unprecedented results over the past five years will support the conclusion that the nuclear weapon states have acted in conformity with Article VI.

Article VI, however, is only one element in the process of negotiating limitations and reductions of nuclear weapons. The NPT is related to nuclear arms control in a second way, a way that also defines the important role and responsibility of non-nuclear weapon states.

It is hard to believe that the major agreements we have concluded in the last 25 years would have been possible without the NPT. A strong nonproliferation regime is an essential condition for nuclear arms control. As nuclear weapon states negotiate reductions and other limitations of nuclear armaments it is important for them to know that the commitments they make are made in an environment not threatened by nuclear proliferation.

The commitment of the NPT non-nuclear weapon states to support the Treaty is crucial to the continuing process of arms control. The foundation of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime is the NPT. Were that foundation to be shaken arms control negotiations would become much more difficult. The irony would then be that nuclear weapon states wanting to reduce their weapons would find themselves obstructed from doing so. This is not to say that attempts would cease, simply that the efforts would have to be greater, the length of time needed to conclude agreements longer, and, perhaps, the results more modest than would be the case with a robust and durable nonproliferation regime.

We have come a long way from our early nuclear arms control negotiations, and there is more to do -- a comprehensive test ban treaty, a fissile material production cutoff treaty, further reductions of nuclear weapons, continuing dismantlement of existing weapons under START I and then START II. Beyond the nuclear area, we look forward to eliminating chemical weapons and strengthening efforts to prevent production of biological weapons. The list of current agenda items could be extended, and, as I said earlier, there will be new items in the future.

In April the parties to the NPT will convene in New York to decide on the duration of the Treaty. The best way to guarantee that the momentum we now have going on negotiating nuclear arms control will continue is to extend the NPT indefinitely and unconditionally. This will ensure that the nonproliferation regime will remain strong and dependable, which is an essential condition for effective arms control. Indefinite and unconditional extension will have an additional benefit that directly affects all NPT parties: continued accountability and review.