The independent resource on global security

12. Nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control

Contents

Overview, Tariq Rauf and Shannon N. Kile

I. Russian–US nuclear arms control and disarmament, Shannon N. Kile

II. International cooperation to enhance nuclear security, Shannon N. Kile

III. Initiatives and multilateral treaties on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, Tariq Rauf

IV. Implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Iran, Tariq Rauf

Towards a new legally binding instrument on nuclear disarmament

In 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution mandating negotiations in 2017 leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. This followed earlier intensive discussions in the Open-ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament, which met in Geneva to complete its report to the UN General Assembly. The report included a recommendation to convene in 2017 an international conference open to all states to begin negotiations on a legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons, leading towards their elimination.

The UN General Assembly and the First Committee also voted to establish a high-level preparatory group to meet in Geneva for two sessions of two weeks each, the first in 2017 and the second in 2018, to consider and make recommendations on substantial elements of a future non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

However, the Conference on Disarmament, the world’s sole multilateral forum for negotiating arms control and disarmament agreements, was yet again unable to agree on a programme of work in 2016 and thus was unable to commence negotiations on any item on its agenda.

US–Russian nuclear arms control

In 2016 US–Russian nuclear arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation efforts remained stalled by the broader deterioration in political relations between the two countries. The United States and Russia continued to implement the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START). However, the prospects for the two sides agreeing to make deeper cuts in their strategic nuclear forces appeared increasingly remote. No progress was made towards resolving the impasse over the USA’s allegation that Russia had violated an important cold war-era arms control treaty limiting intermediate-range nuclear forces (1987 Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, INF Treaty). Russia rejected the charge and countered with its own treaty compliance concerns. The year also saw the suspension by Russia of the implementation of a bilateral agreement with the USA to irreversibly eliminate plutonium from dismantled nuclear warheads declared to be in excess of defence needs.

Nuclear Security Summit

The fourth and final meeting in a series of Nuclear Security Summits was held in Washington, DC, on 31 March–1 April 2016. One of the main objectives of the meeting was to find ways to sustain the political momentum created by the previous summits to support the work of states and international organizations to strengthen the global nuclear security system beyond 2016.

The Iran nuclear deal

Iran continued to implement the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) covering limitations on its nuclear programme. The JCPOA deal, which was facilitated by the European Union (EU), was signed in July 2015 by Iran and the E3/EU+3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom plus China, Russia and the USA). The International Atomic Energy Agency monitors and verifies that Iran is in compliance with its JCPOA obligations. 

English