OPINION | Multilateral Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts
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OPINION | Multilateral Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts

By Shermineh Esmati
Analyst on Iran's Geopolitical and Security Affairs

OPINION | Multilateral Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts

Image Attribute: "Ivy Mike" atmospheric nuclear test - November 1952  The Official CTBTO 
Source : Wikipedia

The international communities’ efforts to end the threat of nuclear proliferation through multilateral means began in the 1950s. The United States President has always been a key fixture in global efforts to end the threat of nuclear war.[1] In 1953, then United States President Eisenhower spoke at the United Nations General Assembly, discussing Atoms for Peace. His speech led to the creation of the International Atomic Energy Association on July 29 1957, designed to share nuclear information with other countries while maintaining peaceful relations.[2] In 1968 the Non-proliferation Treaty was formed to give the IAEA authority for policing nuclear activities by its members. In the early nineties while countries were signing to the NPT, the UNSC adopted Resolution 687 requiring Iraq to eliminate its secret nuclear weapons program leading to strengthened IAEA safeguards.[3] Today the greatest challenges to the multilateral efforts against nuclear warfare is with North Korea and a volatile Middle East.

More generally when studying the chronology of events we observe the arrangement of meetings or dates that might have led to historical shifts. In this case, international engagements against nuclear warfare have chronologically shown little historical shifts in multilateral peace building. Within scholarly arguments, there is concern as to whether there has been significant development over years of numerous multilateral events meant to encourage peaceful nuclear proliferation. Over time there has been distinct events causing political division in geographic regions entailing nonproliferation treaty members. As well, legitimate criticism has been made regarding the structure of these global organizations unable to hold countries accountable. Nevertheless, when observing analysis on chronological changes in nuclear nonproliferation, since the 1950s the problem remains the same structurally and political for multilateral organizations.

1950 – 1970


On March 21st 1963 in a press meeting, United States President John F. Kennedy warned of his fear that the world was becoming increasingly weaponized for non-peaceful purposes, “I see the possibility in the 1970s of a President of the United States having to face a world in which 20 or 25 nations may have nuclear weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard.”[4]

The President’s foreshadowing was supported by a memorandum the Department of Defense provided to him in secret, explaining that the future costs of nuclear weapons programs would diminish. Former President Kennedy, was correct to fear for his countries future since cheaper costs in producing weapons would lead to a free for all with unrestricted testing. Had members of the United Nations Security Council taken more serious steps to legitimize the IAEA, the United States would not have as much fear towards dictatorships bent on attaining regional power.

Political Division:

Mohamed ElBadari former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote in the Economist an important point to remind multilateral organizations that we have not reached the goals of the mid 1960’s.[5] Appropriately, ElBadari emphasized the need for stronger leadership which he worried might not arise. He emphasized the real danger of nuclear attacks as seen in Japan that must not be forgotten,

“The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have begun to fade. I worry about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists or ruthless dictators.”[6]

He rightfully fears of the possibility of great harm with the existence of nuclear arms even in the arsenal of democracies in the west. With better leadership by key decision makers in the NPT, the disarmament of all countries can only result in immunity from security anxieties. Leaders in the nuclear nonproliferation organizations must develop policies that meet to protect populations that politicians in the 1960s did not seriously confront.

1970- 1990


Concerning structure, National Security Professor Rizwana Abbasi in her article titled “Why the NPT Needs a Makeover” brought necessary attention to the lack of formal structure in the NPT when compared to the institutional stature of the IAEA.[9] Abbasi brought much needed attention to the weak structure in the nonproliferation treaty that has caused greater challenges for the international community to ensure members and non-members do not take on nuclear tests. Focusing on Pakistan, abiding to the NPT has been challenging considering their testy Indian relations. In 1974 Pakistan had proposed to establish nuclear weapons free zone in South Asia.[10] In 1978 Pakistan remarkably proposed to India a joint Indo-Pakistan declaration to renounce acquisition, manufacture of nuclear weapons and acceptance of IAEA safeguards. Professor Abbasi made a good point, recognizing that all these hopeful initiatives were rejected by India. Ultimately, leaving Pakistan in a security conundrum since the international community has done little to guarantee their safety despite honest efforts.

Political Division:

As well, Professor ElBaradei emphasized the poor relations among members of the NPT, where the five countries permitted nukes, had an indifference to the organizations serious obligation to world peace. He argued that the in the 1970s the treaty was less than optimal since it abided to the old saying “The early bird gets the nuke.”[7] The Professor made a legitimate point since the option of choosing the loophole permitted India, Pakistan and Israel to own nuclear weapons. A new approach must be made since non-member states find little reason to join the organization. Political division is made evident when nuclearized countries push states not to pursue nuclear proliferation. Elbaradei argued the danger of division is also evident in the fact that member states operate very close to weapons capacity.[8] By assuming that non-member states did not have the knowledge of nuclear weapons building, it was a dangerous elitist assumption. In order to overcome political division security concerns of all parties should be heard and weighed.

1990- Present


Professor Rizwana Abbasi has also exposed the weakness in the NPT during the 1990s. Where a missile race between Pakistan and India forced the Muslim nation to take on nuclear weapons, changing its militaries once cautious and restrained policy.[12] Abbasi states that the current technique in the nonproliferation treaty has kept Pakistan on guard and within reason,

“Pakistan considers its nukes as a national security life line and strategic asset.”[13] 

Though Pakistan has defensive intentions against India's conventional warfare capabilities, thus threats from India makes its adherence to codes of conduct a difficulty, as seen in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, CSI, IAEA and Illicit Trafficking Database.

Her analyzes was correct to emphasize the need to bridge the gaps and structural flaws in the NPT. With the diminishing quantity of oil reserved for future generations, our growing populations are in urgent need of a well-structured NPT system that provides real benefits to signatories. By confronting the challenges facing nuclear nonproliferation, the multilateral organizations must keep in mind the imminent threat greenhouse gases has brought to an ever growing world population.  

Nevertheless the nature of multilateral cooperation has altered very little over time, legitimizing concerns voiced by scholars on the threat of nuclear weapons. Generally, the problems facing structure and political division within nuclear nonproliferation multilateral organizations, have not changed since a solution always depends on the will of key decisions makers. With more effort to remind leaders of the devastating impact nuclear warfare has caused, there is hope multilateral organizations will unify towards achieving world peace.

Political Division:

As argued by George Bunn Director of the Arms Control Association, in his article “The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: History and Current Problems,” he argued that the United States created political division by not cooperating with the rules required by all NPT member states. In 1995 the United States won the agreement of the non-nuclear weapon states to extend the NPT indefinitely by promising to negotiate a test ban treaty.[11] He brought much needed attention to this abuse of power since under the Bush administration, treaties and regimes were downgraded in importance to upgrade unilateral efforts including the use of force against Iraq. Bunn’s analysis laid out the Bush administrations abuse of influence in the NPT, by creating new types of nuclear weapons that required testing, a military exercise that other countries were not allowed. As a result, the double standard created by the Bush administration, has threatened the unity and motivation for member states to work together.

About The Author:

Shermineh Esmati (C-7295-2016is an independent analyst on Iran's Geopolitical and Security Affairs.  Shermineh obtained her Bachelor’s Degree (Honors) in Political Science and History Minor (2012) from University of Toronto  and pursuing her Master’s Degree in International Relations and National Security Studies (2017) from Harvard University. She can be reached at her twitter handle @Shermineh2

Cite This Article:

Esmati, S.S "OPINION | Multilateral Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts" IndraStra Global 002, no. 03 (2016): 0062. http://www.indrastra.com/2016/02/OPINION-Multilateral-Nuclear-Nonproliferation-Efforts-002-03-2016-0062.html 

| ISSN 2381-3652, http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.3113176
Works Cited
Author Unknown, “Timeline of the NPT.” Arms Control.            https://www.armscontrol.org/system/files/NPT_Timeline.pdf

Abbasi, Rizwana. “Why the NPT Needs a Makeover.” Dawn. June 14 2015.            http://www.dawn.com/news/1187551

Bunn George, “The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: History and Current Problems.” Arms Control            Association. December 1 2003.https://www.armscontrol.org/system/files/NPT_Timeline.pdf 

Elbadarei, Mohamed. “Towards a Safer World.” The Economist. October 16 2003. Vienna            http://www.economist.com/node/2137602

AIDN0020320160062 / INDRASTRA.COM / ISSN 2381-3652


[1] Author Unknown, “Timeline of the NPT.” Arms Control. https://www.armscontrol.org/system/files/NPT_Timeline.pdf
[2] Bunn George, “The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: History and Current Problems.” Arms Control Association. December 1 2003.https://www.armscontrol.org/system/files/NPT_Timeline.pdf 
[3] Ibid.pp 5
[4]Ibid. pp2
[5] Elbadarei, Mohamed. “Towards a Safer World.” The Economist. October 16 2003. Vienna http://www.economist.com/node/2137602
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Abbasi, Rizwana. “Why the NPT Needs a Makeover.” Dawn. June 14 2015. http://www.dawn.com/news/1187551
[10] Ibid.
[11] Bunn, Arms Control Association.
[12] Abbasi, NPT Makeover.
[13] Ibid.