The independent resource on global security

8. Nuclear arms control and non-proliferation


I. Introduction

II. Russian–US strategic nuclear arms control

III. International cooperation to enhance nuclear security

IV. The 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

V. Iran and nuclear proliferation concerns

VI. North Korea’s nuclear programme

VII. Conclusions

Table 8.1. Summary of Russian–US nuclear arms reduction treaties’ force limits


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The year 2010 saw advances in bilateral and multilateral initiatives to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. On 8 April 2010 Russia and the United States signed the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START), mandating further reductions in their deployed strategic nuclear forces. The treaty preserves the main elements of the expired 1991 START’s comprehensive verification regime, the principal means by which Russia and the USA monitored each other’s strategic nuclear forces. In the wake of New START’s entry into force on 5 February 2011, there appeared to be few near-term prospects for negotiating deeper reductions of Russian–US nuclear forces.


In May the eighth five-yearly Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference was widely hailed as a success when the participating states parties adopted by consensus a final document. The document contained recommendations for advancing the treaty’s principles and objectives, including steps towards establishing a weapon of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East. However, the discussions during the conference revealed continuing deep divisions among the states parties—especially between the nuclear weapon ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’—over the basic aims and goals of the NPT. These divisions cast doubt on the prospects for making progress in implementing even the modest steps endorsed in the final document.


Also during 2010 the USA hosted a Nuclear Security Summit meeting that brought together heads of state and government to consider how to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and to increase the security of nuclear materials and facilities. While the meeting did not lead to new joint initiatives, a number of participating states announced steps to adopt or implement a number of existing conventions, agreements and measures for enhancing nuclear security and combating illicit trafficking in nuclear materials.


In 2010 little progress was made towards resolving the long-running controversies over the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, which have been the focus of international concerns. These concerns were heightened when North Korea revealed that it had constructed a previously undeclared uranium enrichment plant. In Iran, the IAEA remained unable to resolve questions about nuclear activities with possible military dimensions, while Iran experienced technical problems with its uranium enrichment programme.



Shannon N. Kile (United States) is a Senior Researcher and Head of the Nuclear Weapons Project of the SIPRI Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme. 

Shannon N. Kile