385. Intelligence Assessment Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

PA 80–10355

The NPT Review Conference: A Preview (U)

Key Judgments

The second nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference will open on 11 August in Geneva. The prospects for formal reaffirmation of the value of the treaty are clouded by a number of recent international developments:

The interruption in progress toward major arms control agreements because of the sharp increase in East-West tensions.

The aggravation of the controversy over assured access to nuclear material and technology for peaceful purposes, which has resulted from the efforts of the United States and other major nuclear suppliers to establish more rigorous export criteria.

The success of some nonnuclear weapons states (such as Pakistan and South Africa) in acquiring or developing militarily sensitive nuclear technology free of international controls. (U)

These and other related developments, such as renewed concern about India’s nuclear intentions, will be cited by many NPT signatories at Geneva as evidence that the delicate balance that the treaty seeks to establish between the rights and obligations of nuclear and nonnuclear weapons states is deteriorating. Most criticism of the nuclear weapons states will focus on their failure to live up to their obligations under Article VI2 to halt and reverse the nuclear arms race, and under Article IV3 to facilitate, together with other major nuclear suppliers, the fullest possible exchange of nuclear materials and technology for peaceful purposes. (U)

All the nuclear weapons states party to the treaty—the United States, the USSR, and Great Britain—are vulnerable to criticism on the first count. The Soviets, however, have sought to maneuver themselves into a position of comparative advantage with respect to each of the major security issues that are likely to be raised: SALT II, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the question of negative security assur[Page 985]ances (guarantees that the nuclear powers will not use or threaten to use their nuclear arsenals against nonnuclear weapons states). (C NF)

In part because of the controversial Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, the United States is uniquely vulnerable to criticism on issues relating to the Third World’s demand for ready access to nuclear fuel and technology under the provisions of Article IV. Of all other suppliers, only Canada has been nearly as active in attempting to slow the spread of advanced nuclear technology. The Soviets, as members of the London Suppliers Group, have been quietly supportive of these efforts. But because their role as a nuclear supplier outside the Warsaw Pact area has so far been limited, they are in a far less exposed position than the United States. (C NF)

Moscow will be tempted to exploit these differences to its political advantage. Because it still has a strong stake in the survival and effectiveness of the global NPT regime, however, its actual efforts to this end will probably be relatively restrained. The fact that the Soviets can count on the United States bearing the brunt of Third World criticism in any event makes such restraint all the more likely. (C NF)

The importance attached to the review conference and the issues that will be aired there has been demonstrated by the attention that has been given to preparing for the meeting by both the developing and industrialized nations in recent months. It has also been reflected in the failure of most NPT signatories to agree on who should preside over the meeting. The choice could be critical to the outcome of the conference, for it was only through the strong personal intervention of the president of the first NPT review conference, Inga Thorsson of Sweden, that that meeting managed to produce a final declaration five years ago. (U)

Not surprisingly, most industrialized nations favor reappointment of Thorsson, but her candidacy has been challenged in recent weeks by a number of developing countries who support selection of an Iraqi diplomat for the post. The issue seems unlikely to be resolved before the conference opens. (U)

Although the portents are even less auspicious than they were in 1975, the serious approach to the meeting evinced by most likely participants is reassuring. So too is the fact that none of the countries most likely to participate has demonstrated a specific intent to disrupt the meeting. In view of what appears to be a continued broad consensus on the basic value of the NPT (whatever specific flaws may be perceived), there is about an even chance that the conference participants will be able to produce some sort of final declaration. But there also is a good chance that the developing nations will insist that the text of the document contain language more explicitly critical of the performance of the [Page 986] nuclear weapons states—particularly with respect to Article VI—than was the case in 1975. (C NF)

If agreement cannot be reached on a final declaration, most nations involved will consider the conference a failure. The possibility of actual or threatened defections—perhaps tied, in the latter case, to deadlines for the conclusion of major arms control agreements—would increase, and the prospects of attracting new adherents to the NPT would decline. Even under such circumstances, the major nuclear suppliers could probably preserve the basic features of the existing global nonproliferation regime for some time to come if they acted in concert. Nonetheless, the moral force behind this regime would have been largely dissipated. (C NF)

[Omitted here is the body of the assessment.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files, Box 116, SCC 137, 9/4/80, TNF and NPT. Secret; Noforn; NoContract; Orcon.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 211.
  3. See Document 318.