After a full month of largely productive, if not optimistic discussions, the tenth Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon) concluded without a consensus statement, as Russia blocked approval for the final document over its “grave concern for the military activities conducted near or at” the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
While this RevCon faced long odds to begin with, it has now become the second such conference to end without a consensus treaty, raising concerns about the future of arms control and nonproliferation under the broader NPT framework.
Here, CSR nuclear weapons experts react to the disappointing conclusion of this year’s RevCon, and look to what may yet be accomplished before the next one:
Christine Parthemore, Chief Executive Officer
“The NPT Review Conference showed that there are many viable ways for countries to reduce nuclear risks together, even in an extremely strained security environment. It is now crucial that all nations unite to find similar common ground for the forthcoming Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Review Conference that starts in late November—and work together to bring Russia along to compromise in setting a productive path.”
John Gower, Senior Advisor
“While the refusal of Russia to sanction the draft final document is intensely regrettable, the document achieved consensus-minus-one. For NGOs, the text of the draft document contains some clear signposts which reinforce the work CSR is already progressing at pace. In particular, the draft document recognises that the world is at a place at least as dangerous as the height of the Cold War and the trajectory is currently bleak.
For the first time, a RevCon document (draft or otherwise) has recognized the urgent need for work to reduce the risk of nuclear weapon employment, particularly through misinterpretation and miscalculation. It charges the 5 NWS in particular to accelerate activity and progress in their previous intent (from P5 meetings in Beijing, London and Paris between 2019 and 2021) to restore trust, improve transparency and reduce the temperature in their relations. Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine has made this more difficult, but also more imperative.
CSR is working on concrete programs and initiatives to support these “point of spear” recommendations in risk reduction in an increasingly complex and entangled environment, improve nuclear strategic stability and move nuclear armed state trajectories in a positive direction.”
Natasha Bajema, Director, Converging Risks Lab
“As more countries move toward implementing a nuclear risk reduction framework, there is much promising work that can be achieved to mitigate the risks posed by emerging and disruptive technologies such as social media, deep fakes, cyber weapons, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems. Nuclear-armed states have a mutual interest in ensuring that nuclear weapons are not used and preventing inadvertent and accidental escalation that might increase the risk of nuclear war. This is a potentially fruitful area for further exploration.”
John Moulton, Senior Fellow
“While the 10th Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference did not end with its hoped for outcome of a signed consensus-based document, it is significant that the vast majority of states-parties insisted on not disregarding recent actions which contradict the overall goals of the NPT.
By not yielding on language expressing “grave concern” about the “military activities” occurring near nuclear power plants in Ukraine, the participants at the review conference have shown that they see greater value in calling attention to activities which contract the values behind the NPT rather than overlooking them to achieve consensus for a watered-down document.
Taking these concerns further, fifty-five nations and the European Union came together in a joint statement to condemn Russia’s “betrayal of the security assurances… [it] provided to Ukraine under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the NPT.” Through these actions, these states-parties show a renewed dedication to the principles behind the NPT and that they will not sacrifice them to placate those whose actions undermine it.”
Andrew Facini, Fellow & Director of Communications
“While it is disappointing that Russia blocked the passage of a final document at RevCon, there was much good work already done which should be built upon. From the pre-conference working papers architecting a new framework based on risk reduction to the myriad conversations held on topics like transparency, trust, and viable paths to slowing the arms race, the conference as a whole provided much-needed traction toward progress on important arms control fundamentals.
A unanimous final statement would have been welcome, but the (very near-unanimous) draft was bold, principled, and spoke to the NPT’s enduring value. There are yet many paths forward from this RevCon as we set our sights on the next in a condensed timeline.”
As the world mourns the loss of Mikhail Gorbachev this week, CSR will continue to reflect on the important discussions and frameworks developed at this RevCon in order to support and uphold the strong arms control architecture he and others stood for. We affirm his and Ronald Reagan’s famous statement: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Please direct interview requests for these experts to Andrew Facini at firstname.lastname@example.org