The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the Relationship

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the most important international security arrangement that we have that is protecting the world community and this has been true for many years. But it did not happen by accident, it is a strategic bargain in which 184 states gave up the right forever to acquire the most powerful weapon ever created in exchange for a commitment from the five states allowed to keep nuclear weapons under the NPT (U.S., U.K., Russia, France and China), to share peaceful nuclear technology and to engage in disarmament negotiations aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear stockpiles. The most important part of this is the comprehensive nuclear test ban (CTBT); the thinking by the 184 NPT non-nuclear weapon states was and is that they understand that the elimination of nuclear weapon stockpiles is a long way off, but at least the NPT nuclear weapon states could stop testing the weapons. The CTBT has been ratified by 161 states but by its terms it can only come into force if 44 nuclear potential states ratify; 36 have of the 44 have ratified it, the remaining eight include the United States and seven others, most of whom are in effect waiting for the United States. No state has tested a nuclear weapon-except for complete outlier North Korea-in 15 years. There appears to be no chance that the U.S. Senate will approve the CTBT for ratification in the foreseeable future, but the NPT may not survive without it. Perhaps it is time to consider an interim measure, for the UN Security Council to declare that any future nuclear weapon test any time, anywhere is a "threat to peace and security", in effect a violation of international law, which in today's world it clearly would be.


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Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr. served for nearly three decades at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, including a decade and a half as general counsel as well as Acting Director of the agency for most of 1993. In 1993 he led the effort to establish a long-term moratorium on the conduct of nuclear weapons tests. From 1994 to 1996, he was a principal figure in the worldwide effort to successfully support the conclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations. In 1994 President Clinton appointed Thomas Graham as his special representative for arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament, with the rank of Ambassador. From 1993 to 1995 Ambassador Graham led the successful U.S. government effort to indefinitely extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He has taught at—among others—Stanford University, University of Virginia, Georgetown University, University of Washington and Oregon State University.