Since its entry into force in 1970, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has served as the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, helping prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, advancing nuclear disarmament, and expanding access to the many benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, science, and technology. The NPT is, and will remain, absolutely critical to international security and the maintenance of the rules-based order. That is why the United States, working closely with our allies and partners, will spare no effort to not only preserve but also strengthen this treaty, including at its historic Tenth Review Conference this August.
In just a few weeks, the United States will join States Parties from across the globe in New York for this important meeting. Together, we must use this as an opportunity to address today’s most pressing nuclear challenges, further new opportunities to expand the treaty’s benefits, and reaffirm our commitment to advancing nuclear disarmament in line with our Article VI obligations. The United States will work with all our partners to achieve a final document that strengthens the NPT and all three of its pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses.
All NPT States Parties must act together to strengthen the existing nuclear nonproliferation regime. This Review Conference is our best opportunity to do just that.
In particular, the United States will use this forum to call on all States Parties to join us in supporting the professionalism, objectivity, and independence of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The United States provides robust support to such IAEA efforts to provide international assurance that nuclear material in non-nuclear-weapon States is not diverted to weapons purposes. This objective is served through the implementation of comprehensive safeguards agreements, Additional Protocols, and, where applicable, modified Small Quantities Protocols. The combination of these agreements has become the de facto standard for achieving the NPT’s safeguards objectives.
In addition, the United States will call on all States Parties to reduce the risks of nuclear war, avoid arms races, and advance the NPT as the framework for the pursuit of further nuclear disarmament. For more than 50 years, the United States has led disarmament efforts by reducing the size of its nuclear arsenal by more than 88 percent from its peak in 1967. As the United States, along with the United Kingdom and France, demonstrates transparency about our stockpiles, we will call on other nuclear-weapon States to do the same.
The United States has also developed new international disarmament-related initiatives, including Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) and the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV), which directly address underlying security issues and identify solutions to the complex challenges involved in the advancement and verification of nuclear disarmament. These dialogues are key to creating a security environment conducive to both nonproliferation and disarmament.
Finally, the United States plans to work with other States Parties to expand access to peaceful uses applications. The peaceful uses pillar of the NPT is an under-appreciated benefit, and remains as important as nonproliferation and disarmament to the strength of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. The United States is by far the largest contributor to the IAEA’s peaceful uses programs, and during the Review Conference we plan to promote new ways to safely and securely expand access to peaceful uses, particularly for developing countries, and in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. To that end, we have been working with likeminded partners and the IAEA to implement an exciting new initiative called the “Sustained Dialogue on Peaceful Uses,” which will help States Parties work together to expand access to peaceful uses to those who need it most.
The urgency of these efforts cannot be overstated. In January 2022, all five NPT nuclear-weapon States issued affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine, dangerous actions, and escalatory nuclear rhetoric seriously call into question its commitment to that January joint statement. All NPT States Parties must act together to strengthen the existing nuclear nonproliferation regime. This Review Conference is our best opportunity to do just that. By working together to find new ways to revitalize the NPT, we can take practical steps to continue furthering arms control and disarmament without undermining international security or reducing access to the benefits of peaceful uses.
The United States remains unwavering in our support for the NPT. However, the treaty’s future success will depend on collective and sustained efforts by all States Parties. We encourage all parties to focus on our common interests in the treaty, and to support each of the three pillars as mutually reinforcing and essential to international peace and security. The United States stands ready to work with all partners to ensure a safer and more prosperous world for everyone – none of us can afford to do any less.
About the Author: Ambassador Adam Scheinman is the Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation.