Today is the 35th anniversary of the the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT, at its most basic, requires states without nuclear weapons to not acquire them, and those states with weapons to commit to eventual disarmament. Article VI of the treaty sensibly calls for a “cessation of the nuclear arms race.” Described as “the cornerstone of global efforts” to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, it has been signed by 188 countries (though North Korea withdrew in 2003) and will undergo a five-year review this May. While the Treaty is in need of a review and some strengthening, a good start would be simply to have the United States comply more fully.
In its 2001 Nuclear Posture Review — the core document for official U.S. nuclear strategy — the Administration emphasizes the importance of coming up with new, more “usable” nuclear weapons such as a nuclear “bunker-buster.” It strongly supports research into this weapon, and is poised to battle Congress over getting funding for nuclear bunker-buster research back into the federal budget. This research makes U.S. calls for strengthened global nonproliferation measures seem hypocritical, and dramatically undermines America’s capacity to exercise essential leadership on combating nuclear threats.